There is a bridge near my apartment across which I cycle most days. It has a slalom element at each end which makes it fun to negotiate, especially when the bridge is empty. Every time I cycle towards it, I want a clear path. I want it to be easy, smooth and enjoyable. But the path isn’t always clear because half the time there are people on it. Some are tourists taking photos, some are locals going about their day, and others are just like me: people on their bikes hoping for a clear run. Over the past few weeks that bridge has become the place where I practise letting go.
It’s an easy place to practise because my irritation, when it arises, is too obvious and immediate to overlook. My desire for an empty bridge creates an expectation which, as always, comes with the option of disappointment. The disappointment is triggered by the sight of foot traffic, and before I know it frustration has taken over. Compounded by people’s expected and (therefore) demonstrated lack of bridge etiquette, my frustration finally morphs effortlessly into annoyance.
Now when I approach the bridge I have a different mind set. Now it’s all about accepting the scene in front of me – whatever it is – and developing a curiosity about how it will play itself out. This turns the whole experience into one of fun and fascination; but it was only when I read a line from a short piece on the judgement of others by Ram Dass that I realised how useful this practice will turn out to be:
‘When somebody provokes your anger, the only reason you get angry is because you’re holding on to how you think something is supposed to be.’
If I let go of my insistence that life should be a certain way, I can enjoy the perfection of it all without expectation or judgement. Sometimes the bridge is up and everyone has to wait, which is an ideal opportunity for extended practice. Eventually, the discipline will become a habit, and one day I might even observe myself, naturally and without any prompting, just letting go.