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Let go of…. 手放すこと

One morning in March, after a zen sitting at North Shore Zendo, I had an interesting conversation with two other women. One of them was talking about the 10 day retreat she participated last month at the monastery in Oregon.  According to her, since February is the month Buddha died, the Dharma talk (sermon) for the retreat was focused on death and dying.  What is death? It is the letting go of life, being free from living, departing from life, ending the will to live, bidding farewell to life….


She said, the Dhama talk then diverged to “what is it to be living” and to “how should we live our lives”. 


Going back to death, what does it mean to “let go of life” when you are not actually dying at this moment? Would that be like letting go of your past, ties, career, or relationship? Do not cling to your past, live your life now and move forward? 

She said she goes to this 10 day retreat at the monastery every year in February and Dharma talks are always very interesting.  

Sounds good…I thought…. I wish I was there….. 

Somehow, the three mature women’s chat of “letting go of life” has shifted to “letting go of stuff”.  There is a book written by a young Japanese woman that has become a bestseller in many countries including Canada. She talks about decision criteria of what stuff to keep and what to throw away.  She calls it “danshari” which literally means “letting go”.  She suggests that you hold a thing in your hand and listen to yourself. Do you feel delightful? If yes, put it in the “keep” pile, and if no, put it in the “throw” pile. OK…..  I agree that letting go of something can mean letting go of your past, but…. I don’t understand the part about “feeling delightful.”  I can’t see the relevance between not feeling delightful and therefore letting go of that object or that part of your life.  I felt a bit turned off by this argument……  I don’t think life is that simple.

For example, I have a box full of materials/resources for teaching Japanese, stored unopened for perhaps 25 years now.  These are the materials I created myself when I was teaching Japanese from 1989 to 1992. If you ask me if this box full of materials delights me, I have to say they don’t delight me any more.  Since I have long moved on to something else, and now into a different stage in life, I would probably never teach Japanese again.  However, the 3 years was an integral part of my life. It was a start of my new era. Because I taught Japanese for 3 years, I was able to meet many interesting people, made good friends, was led to some unexpected paths, and my life has opened up in the directions I have never imagined.  30 years later, here I am.  I am who I am, where I am, what I am, because of the three years. The box is perhaps a reminder of my gratitude.  I was certainly led, guided and protected by a Huge Love (God) throughout my life, and I am so grateful. So the box does not delight me, and no longer useful, but I just cannot throw it away.

“Letting go” is not the same as “getting rid”, or “throwing away”.  In the same way, “feeling gratitude” does not result in “holding onto your past”.  

Then, what should I do with my box?……I don’t know.

“That’s why your house is such full of stuff!”….I can hear somebody’s voice…..