All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on
– Havelock Ellis
A professor came to class with a glass of water.
“Is it heavy?” the professor asked.
“No, not at all”, said the students.
“What if I lift the glass and hold it in front of me?” the professor continued.
“It will be the same weight,” the students said.
“What if I hold it in this position for an hour?” asked the professor, still holding the glass of water in his hand.
“Your hand will start hurting”, said one of the students.
“Right. And what if I hold it like this the whole day?”
“Your hand will start shaking”, someone said.
“It will put huge pressure on your muscles. You might have to be hospitalized because of the pain”, one of the students said.
“And during all that time, will there be any difference in the weight of the glass?” asked the professor.
“So what caused the pain and the pressure?” asked the Professor.
The students looked at him confused.
“What do I need to do to stop it?” he asks his students.
“Put down the glass and let go of it”, his students said.
We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies
– Etty Hillesum
You see, life is a lot like holding a glass of water. As light as things may be, if you carry them for a long time, they hurt you and cause you stress.
Challenges in life tend to feel heavier as time goes on, so we need to find opportunities to “let go of the glass”.
People carry all sorts of “glasses”. Some are heavier than others, but over time, even the lightest ones create stress. If we want to live a happy life, we need to find ways to put them down, even for a short time or better.
To understand the need to let go or at least put down some of your glasses, look at kids. Sometimes, their hands are full and when you hand them something else, they become confused. Grown ups are just like kids. Their hands are full with so many things to do, think and feel that they are afraid to let go of some of these and to clear their minds for new ones. Remember, you have only two hands.
Letting go of things can be temporary or permanent. Sometimes, letting go just for a little while can work miracles, because this is an opportunity for your mind to relax and function better.
Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open
– Thomas Dewar
When I worked with young kids, I found out that if I taught them something very complicated and then sent them away to do other things (usually to play), the next time when I asked them to try the activity, they somehow found a way of knowing how to do it. Time is a valuable tool when learning to put the glass down. It seems that in the time between one attempt and the next, the brain (with its spare energy) keeps working in the background and refreshes the thinking. It is almost like “rebooting” the brain.
It is good to remember that at any given time, we hold glasses, even when we sleep. We hold thoughts in our mind until our body finally takes us to this “unconscious” state of sleep when we are no longer aware of the glasses we hold or of their content.
Recognizing what we are holding can be a first step to choosing the right thing to do with your glass.
If the thoughts you carry with you are happy thoughts – drink plenty of that glass and make sure floods of that drink will keep coming to you by the gallon.
If the thoughts you carry with you are heavy and poisonous – examine these thoughts and feelings. If they create anxiety or make you stressed and unhappy and you think you do not want to drink them even once, then throw them away. Remember, you are not an octopus with many hands. If you clear one hand, you may then have a spare hand for a greater, happy glass.
Confusion and worry are things we need to put down and allow the mind to find some clarity and peace. In our house, we say many times, “Tomorrow, things will look better”, and sure enough, on the following day, the perspective changes and we think much more clearly.
6 ways to let go of the glass
Sleeping is one of the best ways to let go of the glass. Every night when you go to sleep, you naturally leave all the troubles behind and get a new opportunity to get up fresh and strong with much more motivation to handle the new challenges of the day.
Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.
– Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD)
Have a place in your house that is your “tranquility space“. Put in there the things you love and that will give you a wonderful feeling the minute you get there. It can be flowers, candles or anything that makes you happy and gives you the opportunity to let go of the glass and rest from holding it for too long.
Be with people you love and who love you and try to focus in their presence on the good things you have in your life. Spend time with your friends and family members you love doing different things rather than talking about the same glasses. Talk about new experiences, about dreams and about fun and exciting things. Notice that the glass becomes heavy only when you hold it for too long.
Find time to play. Fun seems to be one of the greatest ways to let go of “glasses”. Fun times take most of your energy to focus on the pleasure. No worries or any glass can interfere with it. Dedicate sections each day to fun. Fun is not just for the weekends or holidays. When you find yourself saying, “I will rest when I have the time”, realize it works in the opposite way: you will have time only AFTER you rest.
I have said many times that Meditation is a wonderful way to allow yourself to put down your glass(es) or even let go of some of them completely. Find a form of mediation that you feel comfortable with and practice it at least once a day. 10 minutes of meditation a day can keep many doctors away, especially mind doctors.
My favorite way of putting down all glasses (OK, most of them) is taking a Holiday. Even in the bible, God took a day off after creating the world and in doing so, He started a huge movement of people believing in a day off once a week. Holidays are not a luxury, they are essential. From time to time, we all need to stop cooking, washing and the cleaning, stop learning and working, stop watching the same TV programs or eating the same kind of food. From time to time, we all need a change in the way we dress, the climate, the landscape and the people around us.
This month, our family is doing all of the above to charge our batteries for a long time. After many months of going to sleep late and getting up early in the morning (mostly to take the kids to their activities), we are now on a holiday without an alarm clock and it feels awesome.
At the beginning of the holiday, we visited one of what we call our “tranquility places” of the world – Thailand – the place we called home for over a year and a half. This place holds many of our wonderful memories and we cannot wait to go there again (we will visit there again soon, on our way back to Australia).
We are surrounded by so many people we love and who love us and whom we have not seen for many years and we are full of excitement.
We are in “play mode” all the time. Every minute here is fun and, let me tell you, fun is addictive – it is an addiction you want to have forever.
We have plenty of time to meditate (especially when we want to squeeze the most out of every second of the day and see so many people). Each meditation gives us about 2 extra hours a day of focus. By the way, flights are great opportunities to meditate.
And we are on a long, long holiday. We take the kids to see wonderful places and there is a change in every aspect of our daily life, which is great and fulfilling.
So raise your glass to good life, say “Cheers” and then remember to put it down before it gets too heavy.
All the best,