Insight Meditation for Letting Go

Arianna Weisman and Jean Smith, the authors of Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation, write in a delightful style in which they occasionally personify temptation in order to scold it. In Chapter 3, for example, they talk about ways to stop clinging to sensual desires:

When we experience desire as just another passing experience, we can acknowledge it with words such as "Desire, welcome. I see you have come to visit. I know you well. You are a frequent guest. But I am not entering into a conversation with you or getting involved in any of your stories. So you are free to leave at any time." There is no need to struggle.

In Chapter 6 they discuss obsessive negative thoughts and how to let go of them:

We can spend hours in our thoughts because we want pleasant experiences or less unpleasant ones. Ironically, our thoughts take us away from the real pleasure in the moment. See if it is possible to catch yourself in one of these cycles of thinking. When you are walking or driving and find yourself lost in thinking, trying to solve some problem, see if you can come back to walking or driving. Returning to the body is a safe refuge. After letting go of your thoughts, notice what you are doing: sitting, holding the steering wheel, pressing on the accelerator, feeling that pressure there. Or become aware of the movement in the body that arises from walking. See if you can stay present with your experiences by noticing what is happening in your body.

Renunciation is an effective way to break the "top ten tapes" we play in our heads over and over again. We know most of our thoughts well because we have thought the same thoughts repeatedly. Have you noticed that after a while they do not contribute anything to your understanding or well-being? When was the last time you had an original thought? It is a wonderful practice to renounce a thought after having it more than two or three times.


Some habitual thought patterns are so strong that renouncing them requires the energy of a spiritual warrior. We can call on this energy just as the Buddha called on the earth as his witness when he was sitting under the bodhi tree [...] . We can even say out loud, "No! No! I will not go with you. I call on all my powers of strength, love, and wisdom to resist this thought." Some of our negative thought patterns have been repeated so often they "feel true." It is their familiarity that creates this illusion. There are absolutely no negative thought patterns that are true. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to renounce negative patterns of thought.

^z - 2011-08-16