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The Practice of Letting Go of Mental Constructs

Everything we believe about ourselves and others is an idea, an image constructed in our heads. And these mental constructs can be some of our biggest obstacles and struggles.

Letting go of our mental constructs—our ideas about ourselves and others—can be most liberating.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have mental constructs. We can’t help it—it’s human and often necessary for whatever we’re doing. But they can also be obstacles that cause pain.

So, let’s look at what it would be like to let go of these mental constructs, and then how to practice.

Some Concrete Examples

We need concepts and mental constructs to relate to the world, but they can also be highly problematic. Let’s look at what happens if we can let go of them.

  • You’re stressed about an upcoming meeting or social event. You have all kinds of worries, such as, “What if I look stupid and people judge me?” These seemingly reasonable worries can cause a lot of anguish. If you realize that the idea of looking stupid and being judged is just in your head, you can let it go. You can return to the present moment and relax. Or you can choose to be with the sensation of fear in your body and let it be there—without steering you toward specific actions or thoughts.
  • You’re frustrated because someone has complained about you. You get caught up in thoughts about why they’re wrong, or how they’re always complaining, or maybe how you can never do anything right. Maybe you start thinking about how you should just leave this job and be done with all of hassle. But if you take a deeper look, maybe you can see that these thoughts are made up in your mind—they’re not objective reality. In reality, you’re just feeling an emotion, a set of sensations in the body. The work is to become present and aware of your emotions and the resulting sensations in your body—and thus be freed of all of the extra narratives feeding resentment.
  • You feel resistance to a task and want to procrastinate. There’s an idea in your mind about how hard this task will be, how overwhelming it feels, or how it’s too much right now. From these feelings and thoughts, you decide to do it later. But the feelings of difficulty and being overwhelmed just get delayed. They don’t go away, and in fact, things might only become worse when the deadline for the task looms closer or the consequences of inaction grow steeper. So what if you let go of the ideas about how it’s “too hard” and simply become present to the sensations of resistance and fear that are occurring in the moment? When you get present to these sensations, you develop the capacity to be with your experience and learn that it’s not so difficult—that it’s just an idea, after all. And then you can turn toward the task and take a small action.

These are a few examples, but you can see that letting go of “ideas” can be freeing.

We start to realize that we can access a wider view of each moment by letting go. Our vision becomes broad instead of narrow and tight. We can access an open, fresh perspective in the midst of any struggle. We start to have a more relaxed way of being with life and can access freedom, peace, and presence in any moment.

How to Practice

So how do we practice letting go of our mental constructs?

First, start by noticing what ideas you have about the world, yourself, and other people in various moments. What are your ideas about the situation that is annoying you? What ideas do you have about yourself in that situation? How is everything you believe about someone or some situation just a set of ideas or mental constructs?

That doesn’t mean it’s bad to have ideas, but recognizing that they’re ideas we’ve created is a powerful step in moving beyond the hold they can have on us.

Second, contemplate what this moment would be if you were free of these notions. Imagine that the blackboard of your mind were wiped clean of the narrative and ideas about the thing you’re thinking about.

Imagine a moment that’s free of these ideas. Feel the wider perspective of the moment that becomes accessible when you let go of the ideas. Feel how open, free, and light you become.

Third, once you’ve accessed this, you might let yourself become present to the sensations in your body. Catalog any feelings—such as tightness, heaviness, tension, fear, and anxiety—that are residing in your stomach, shoulders, heart, head, or elsewhere. Ignore any ideas about these sensations—just note the experience of the sensations. What does it feel like? Could you relax with the sensations in the present moment, or even feel the freedom of being in the midst of the experience?

Finally, ask yourself if you can take a small action. Wash a dish. Write a sentence in that email you’ve been avoiding. Speak to the person in front of you with an open heart. You don’t need to do anything—experiencing the freedom of the present moment is enough. But freed of your ideas, there might be something you feel called to do—a single, helpful step you can take.

Are you up for practicing letting go of ideas and experiencing the freedom available in each moment?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Epoch Health welcomes professional discussion and friendly debate. To submit an opinion piece, please follow these guidelines and submit through our form here.

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