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Letting Go

by Sam Langley: Human beings are industrious creatures. “How are you? Busy? That’s good…”


Is It? What is so inherently good about busyness? Obviously, a certain amount of vigilance is required to survive but once your basic needs are met why continue running about like a headless chicken? If there’s a problem we tend to think we need to always ‘DO’ something to fix it. Work, work, work, do, do, do, no wonder everyone’s stressed out.

So if you are stressed out, anxious and restless what can be done?

How about nothing? I mean absolutely nothing or as close as you can get.

Linguistically speaking, you can’t DO nothing, after all, nothing suggests an absence of doing. So what I mean is, try practicing NOT doing.

 The closest you’ll get to not doing is meditating.

Of course, once you try to sit there and do nothing you find it’s impossible! You try to calm your mind and it gets busier… stop trying and just relax. This is isn’t that easy. How many people do you know that are capable of sitting on a train without looking at their phone? Imagine how it would feel to be happy just sitting there unoccupied.

In Chen style Tai Chi we practice standing meditation or Zhan Zhuang which translates as ‘standing like a tree’. When I practice standing, my mind is focused in my body. It is an experience of letting go. I find there’s a small amount of tension in my hip and I let go, my mind is full of intrusive thoughts and I let go of that too.

As you practice letting go of physical tension you are increasingly able to let go of unhelpful emotions and you can stop trying to control everything around you. As far as happiness goes it might be the only sensible thing that can be done or rather, not done.

There is a concept in Taoism called Wu wei which translates literally as ‘Without action’ and is commonly understood as the art of not doing or as the philosopher Alan Watts suggests ‘Not forcing’.

As Tai Chi has Taoist roots it is a very good way of exploring Wu wei. We don’t force things and we try to be as natural as possible.

As I write this I realise it all sounds contradictory. I have a theory that anyone attempting to make a particular argument will eventually contradict themselves and that’s fine with me. Writing articles is a good way to practice letting go. One could easily cringe at the babblings of their former self but really ……what does it matter? So it could have been written better, I choose to let it go.

Personally, I think we’d all be better off if we stopped trying so hard, to be good, nice, successful or happy. I have whittled my own philosophy down to one word which is simply….relax. If you can do that it’s quite likely that everything else will come to you a lot easier.

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