Peter Russell on the Healing Power of Letting Go
by Linda Sechrist
In Letting Go of Nothing: Relax Your Mind and Discover the Wonder of Your True Nature, Peter Russell reminds readers what lies at the heart of all spiritual traditions. Based on his half-century of practicing Transcendental Meditation and applying the lessons of ancient and contemporary spiritual teachers, he offers a new perspective on the age-old practice of letting go, which involves not being attached to outcomes, surrendering desires, accepting the present, opening to a higher power, relinquishing the ego and practicing forgiveness. He traces the seeds of many ideas in the book to his time in India studying with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, as well as immersing in A Course in Miracles and the writings of contemporary teachers including Eckhart Tolle and Ram Dass.
What exactly do you advise us to let go of?
While the thought-provoking title suggests that individuals might be asked to let go of a situation, possessions or a relationship, the fundamental theme running through the book is not the letting go of things themselves, but rather letting go the things that only exist in the mind—thoughts, interpretations, fixed beliefs, points of view, expectations of the future, attachments to possessions and relationships, judgements, grievances, assumptions about how things should or should not be. These things in the mind are the lens through which the things of the world are experienced. For example, looking at things through blue-tinted spectacles gives everything a blueish tinge. But the lens itself is not part of the world you see. In a similar way, the lens through which we see our world is not another thing we see. In this sense, we are letting go of the “non-things” that color our view of the world.
What led to your understanding of this?
The questions “Is there another way of seeing this?” and “Could there, just possibly, be another way of seeing this?” occurred spontaneously, without an effort on my part. With an open, curious attitude and without trying to find an answer or even assuming there was one, my inner knowing was able to shine through and reveal another more helpful way of seeing things.
What benefits have you experienced from letting go?
I’m more in touch with my intuition and my feelings and less consumed by my thoughts. I feel better, experience more peace and am content. Discontent is largely self-created by thinking how things should or should not be. When discontent drops away, contentment becomes more prevalent. No one walks around wonderfully enlightened all the time. Letting go is a lifetime process. Noticing where I get caught up, pausing, coming back to the present, to what is, has a feeling of “Ahhh.” It’s a sense of coming home to my inner home.
The world pulls us outward, taking us out of ourselves. When we step back from it and let go for a while, it’s like coming home to our self.
How can we better savor each moment?
In just pausing and noticing what is in the present moment of experience, you’ll simply be stopping and withdrawing your interest from the thoughts that showed up when you paused. If you notice that your attention relaxes and if there is a sense of ease, a gentle sense of happiness or joy or a quality of spaciousness and clarity, savor it. Later, when it occurs to you, pause again and again. But don’t let the practice of pausing become routine or a ritual. Instead, make each pause a fresh inquiry into the moment and be curious about what it feels like, as if it were the first time, because it is the first and only time you will savor “this” moment.
Linda Sechrist is the Natural Awakenings senior staff writer. Connect at LindaSechrist.com.