The Tao of Dropping

In Zen circles it’s often encouraged to “Drop it” when it comes to those annoying clinging thoughts that can create so much suffering. Just “Let it go” and we all nod wisely as though we know what that means or how to accomplish that.

I never have figured out what it means to drop some thought or obsessive story floating in and out of awareness. I do know I get some relief because even if it’s an obsessive thought my mind will still wander off as time goes on. I’m sure there are those who for whatever reason simply stay obsessed, but I can’t address that from a Taoist or Zen view. Most of us have what is called “monkey mind” that keeps bouncing around from one thing to another, what I call scanning. It’s just our operating system. We evolved with that system; it works.

A lot of the Buddhist formulas address ways to redirect attention. No matter what the formula, it’s still basically changing the focus of attention onto something else, for a while, until the thought resurfaces. But that’s not dropping it is it? Because we can’t throw anything out of the system once it’s noticed, we can’t unremember one thing or just replace it. And this all becomes even more difficult when the obsessive thoughts are based out of intense emotional structure. The best we can do is to temporarily divert our direct attention, and while doing so allow our entire body/emotions/cognitive structure to keep evolving until we are no longer seeing the object of obsession the same way. I think changing focus helps move the natural process along. So almost any formula, Buddhist or otherwise, works. (Like your friend worrying about your obsession and taking you out for a good time!)

Remember your first love? How intense that was? How you were going to die from the feelings? How you felt so committed and sure? They were the only one for you! And how, when it fell apart, how devastated and horrible it was, along with more obsessions about the breakup. Notice that no matter now that felt, it all resolved itself. And I think that may be the most helpful insight of all, nothing lasts. All is in a state of continual change. We don’t have to drop or let go, we can redirect if thoughts become too painful, but sooner or later the thoughts, feelings, and mood will change.

I believe it’s a matter of patience and learning to trust your own operating process, your entire process will evolve and move away from those thoughts that less than helpful. Of course, that’s just until the next set of thoughts that need to be dropped appear. Sigh. Being human is challenging but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Take care of you,

Bryan Wagner

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