Letting Go to Hold On
A personal take on a Taoist principle.
The above video by YouTube channel Einzelgänger is about the Taoist perspective on letting go. Being in a flow state is mentioned many times throughout Taoist teachings and it's something I struggle with. There's a part in the video discussing how an archer who is fixated on a material prize will not shoot as well as he truly can because the focus is on the future rather than the present. As a future thinker myself, that really hit me.
In the past, I have burdened myself with future outcomes, whether they're hypothetical or have a high probability of happening and this has only brought distress in my life. It became so apparent that I think like this that other people exploited it to have me do what they wanted rather than have my best interest at heart. It's heartbreaking to me how competitive our society can be. It's admirable to have resilience and enough self-control to reach achievements and all, but it should be pointed out more often that our need for validation from others or the things we have is basically asking them to manhandle us with puppet strings. What's even worse is that this kind of behavior is reinforced constantly, encouraging us to let shallow outsiders or materialistic means determine our worth.
When thinking about letting go of something, someone, or anything, fear drives a hole in my stomach. Yes, I could go on and on about how I was raised to be this way and it's all a conspiracy for control. That's not necessarily "wrong", but at the end of the day, that just feeds the fear. I'm currently working towards reconditioning myself to acknowledge my inner strength, to let go of the codependency that comes with being used to satisfy the demands from other people. The video from Einzelgänger is very encouraging, but it's not always so easy to let go if you don't know what you're holding onto.
For many of us, we're holding onto the hope to avoid rejection, abandonment, and punishment. Since we were more encouraged to trust authority figures or whoever wanted to manipulate us at the time, we think we're avoiding punishment by being obedient and thus are conditioned not to trust ourselves. It's a painful pill to swallow, but it's such an important truth to face. The word "consequence" comes with negative connotations because it's coated in fear. Consequences are really just lessons, moments of experience. We experience this every single day, whether it be ordering something to eat and realizing we don't like it or trying to cook something with our amateur cooking experience and then realizing that we can cook very well! Our world of capability and our understanding of flow state in Taoism could expand tremendously if we neutralize our view of consequence. It's definitely a step-by-step experience, but it's worth it if it leads to the end of this self-crippling nightmare.
Letting go also reinforces one's ability to be an autonomous force. Autonomy doesn't necessarily mean you're alone, but rather that you live an interdependent life as an individual. That flow state, that effortless being, is simply just living as you are while knowing when or when not to do something. What attributes to this is self-reflection and self-control, but also the consequences of past actions that you learned from. I used to be afraid to set boundaries with others or unsubscribe to a commitment. When I eventually made those choices, I learned that setting boundaries and standing up for myself wouldn't lead to a catastrophic event; unsubscribing to a commitment taught me not to make promises I can't keep and fully understand any situation I decide to invest my time in. If you suffer from anxiety like I do, you understand that the core of those lessons will sink in once the inner storm passes. Those of us who are hypersensitive have to learn how to deescalate that storm so we don't have a horrible mental breakdown, which I wrote about here. Truly, I think the core of anxiety comes from a lack of an autonomy and that's all the more reason to practice the art of letting go to hold onto your true self.