Letting Go and Holding On

I was thinking of attending a meditation class on Monday – with  the theme Letting Go of Holding On.

My life has felt very chaotic lately. I moved to London about a year ago, and still haven’t quite got used to how hectic big city life can be. I’ve lived in lots of places but those places were always quite small, and it was easy to establish a solid group of friends and a comfortable (if a little boring) daily routine early on. But the multitude of opportunities in a big city has overwhelmed me, and I’m trying to try everything, go everywhere and make friends with everyone I meet, and there simply isn’t enough hours in the day or energy in me to do all that. So I figured it would do me good to empty my mind in guided meditation and start letting go of some of the extra things that are eating up all my energy.

But I ended up cancelling that plan when a friend texted me saying she had some leftover chocolate cake and asked if she could come over. Forget meditation class – there’s nothing I’d turn chocolate cake down for.  I also realised it was actually the best thing for me to do to skip this meditation. Oriental philosophy and yogic practice can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of detachment, and I can see why these kinds of guided meditations are necessary. People these days – especially in places like London, but increasingly everywhere else as well – tend to be quite caught up with material pursuits and holding on to their dream of a house in Chelsea and a big car. Detachment from material possessions is great.

But I’m already really good at letting go. I left my family at the age of 17 and went to live in a different country, and barely looked back. I donated virtually everything I owned to a Red Cross charity shop before moving to London. There are about a hundred people living in various places around the world who once meant a lot to me, maybe were my closest friend in the world for a short period of time, but with whom I’ve fallen out of touch with because of physical distance and time zone differences. I’m quite sure I could literally lose absolutely everything and be upset for a while, but then start building my life again from the rubble and move on with a smile on my face, a small spark of excitement about a fresh start keeping me going.

It’s holding on that I need practice with.

As much as any meditation teacher might glorify detachment, there is a middle path that’s probably the best way to go (as with pretty much in all areas of life.) Being an expert of letting go is liberating and adventurous, but it’s also rather lonely to always be a detached third-person narrator of your own life story, afraid to become emotionally involved. As a crazy, stupidly fearless, freedom-obsessed 17-year-old I swore I would never need anyone or even trust anyone but myself. Maybe I’m getting old now, but detachment is starting to lose its charm. Maybe I had enough of it in my teens; I’ll dedicate my 20s to optimising the balance between freedom and security. If I decide what’s important in my life and hold onto that (like lovely people who come to visit with chocolate cake), the rest will take care of itself, and what is not important will fall out on its own accord.