"Suffering is like rope burn. We need to let go." writes Jack Kornfield. Jack is a really good mindfulness teacher as well as a therapist. He continually has a well-seasoned and wise perspective on healthy, constructive practice. All the quotes below are from his book, The Wise Heart.
There is a sacred quality to the witnessing of our suffering that is different from suppression or repression. This witnessing is an essential part of meditation, an attentive and compassionate awareness. Sometimes witnessing is all we have to do. At other times after witnessing, a strong response is necessary.
Loni, a 38 year old woman, came to a weeklong retreat the year after her diagnosis with AIDS. In the months since her diagnosis, she had become lost in confusion and fear. On the retreat, she began to see how much suffering she was creating for herself. As she relaxed and became more mindful she discovered the fear was worse than her bodily pains. Loni began to work on releasing the fear each time the thoughts and feelings arose. At first they were tenacious, sticky, and she would soften and let go each time. After several days of this, her body relaxed, her mind eased, and she was filled with a healing love and grace she wouldn’t have thought possible. Letting go was key.
Another practitioner, Steve, came on retreat in the middle of a conflict with his grown children. When he sat in meditation he saw that he was full of blame, fear, and confusion, that he was grasping at everything they did. Then he noticed that there were moments when his fear would subside and his heart would open. Instead of holding tightly to “How it should be,” he could look from the perspective of “What’s best for everyone at this point?” When he let go even a little, his caring started to return.
Pillar was full of blame and anger. She had recently lost her job in a company restructuring. She believed this was because her patriarchal boss did not like to promote women. She was so angry she thought about revenge. She wanted to file a lawsuit against her unjust dismissal. In her meditation, she could feel how much pain she was in. She was encouraged to study the causes of her suffering. She realized that if she acted primarily from grasping and anger she would suffer. She still thought the lawsuit was necessary, but she realized she could do it differently. If she acted from compassion and care for herself and those who might follow her, she could choose the same action with much less suffering.
Be patient with the process of letting go. Sometimes it seems as though nothing is happening. This is hard for Westerners who want quick results. We need to learn to observe the tiny openings along the way. With practice we can let go and relax into any moments of stillness and compassion. We can begin to trust the moments of well-being. ...Eventually, even in great pain and difficulty, we will have learned to let go.
(Excerpted from Jack Kornfield’s The Wise Heart)