I'm currently reading Jon Kabat Zinn's "Full Catastrophe Living," a book he wrote about mindfulness. In it, he outlines the mindfulness-based training schedule that he helped to develop at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts.
Yesterday, I found an especially poignant passage about letting go of one's thoughts. Here it is:
"They say in India there is a particularly clever way of catching monkeys. As the story goes, hunters will cut a hole in a coconut that is just big enough for a monkey to put its hand through. Then they will drill two smaller holes in the other end, pass a wire through, and secure the coconut to the base of a tree. Then they put a banana inside the coconut and hide. The monkey comes down, puts his hand in and takes hold of the banana. The hole is crafted so that the open hand can go in but the fist cannot get out. All the monkey has to do to be free is to let go of the banana. But it seems most monkeys don't do that.
"Often our minds get us caught in very much the same way in spite of all our intelligence. For this reason, cultivating the attitude of letting go, or non-attachment, is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness."
Letting go of our thoughts that make us anxious is difficult at the best of times. When one's OCD is kicked into overdrive, it sometimes feels as if it's impossible, as if there is no way one can simply feel the fear of the obsession and let it go. I speak only for myself when I say this but it is not impossible. When my OCD is really bad, sometimes I can't just let go of a thought or an image or a feeling but I can always observe the thought.
When you observe your thoughts instead of getting involved in them (especially trying to control them or solve them) you are more in touch with who you are at the present moment (the only moment you ever really have!). When I persevere, am patient with myself, trust myself and work hard at observing my obsessions, the negative, intrusive thoughts gradually decrease in intensity, making them far easier to observe. The key is to not give in to ignoring and/or pushing away the thoughts.
Good luck with letting go of the banana. Please remember we're in this together, people, so never be afraid to ask for someone's help with letting go of the banana or simply for some words of encouragement so that you may have the courage and motivation to let go. You just may be surprised at the patience and compassion of some people.
Thanks for the info. I think many of us can relate to being the monkey.
The trouble for me is to figure out what problems are valid and what ones should be let go, and I just don't know who to reach out to in order to figure it out. any Ideas on when to keep a thought and when to try to let it go?
In terms of mindfulness meditation, the key is to let all thoughts go while meditating. One is to acknowledge a thought for what it is–a thought–no matter how good or bad the thought is and then focus back on one's breath (which acts as an anchor for the meditation). I really recommend anything by Jon Kabat Zinn on mindfulness meditation. There are a few great Youtube vids of his talks as well as books that he has written that are widely available.
The problem with knowing whether or not things are a valid concern is that there will always be an infinitesimal chance that what you're worrying about could come to fruition (unless it's completely illogical or imaginary). Personally, I would say that you should try to teach yourself to accept all of the hazards that are inherently part of every day life rather than trying to figure out what could be dangerous (since most things have at least the potential to be dangerous if used in the wrong way). All of these every day hazards are ever-present but so is the potential for good things ((re)growth, joy, love). If you're really unsure, though, talk over the specifics of a problem with someone (or even two or three people) you really trust and feel is a good judge of things.