Letting Go of The Person You Used to Be

Discussion Facilitator: Rosemary Brown. June 29, 2019.

Excerpt from Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be by Lama Surya Das.

My friend Sarah is living in a house that is much too big and costly for her to manage now that her children are grown. If she moved someplace smaller, she would be less financially stressed; she could cut back the number of hours she works. Sarah knows that she should move. and she says she wants to move. but she says the primary reason why she stays there is that she doesn't know what to do about her books. Throughout her life, Sarah has never recycled any books or magazines. She has shelves and shelves of old tattered and torn mysteries, for example. She has no plans to read any of them again. Nonetheless. each one of them tells her a story, and it's not about the author's fiction. "See this mystery," she says. "I think it was terrible, and I don't remember the plot. What I do remember is reading it lying on the couch in front of the fire while a blizzard stormed out doors. I was so cozy and happy. I didn't even get out of my flannel pajamas that day. Halfway through the book, the dog needed to go out. I remember putting on all my outdoor clothes and boots over my pajamas, and the dog and I tried to take a walk. We didn't get much farther than the end of the driveway, but it was snowing so hard that both the dog and I had a hard time getting back to the door. In front of the door. he was covered with so much snow that I couldn't even see his face. He didn't shake himself off until he got back inside and then it was like a cartoon creature. He was so funny. That sweet dog has since died. but when I see that book on my shelves. that's what I remember about it. How can I throw it away?

"Sometimes I try to discard books. I take a stack and put them in the hall so that I can donate or discard them. Then I look at the spaces in the bookcase where the books used to be and I get scared. I can't let go of them. So I trudge down the hall and bring them back. Even when they can't be read because they are falling apart. I hang on."

We can certainly all sympathize with Sarah's memories of her beloved dog and her tendency to treasure her belongings as well as her loving associations. But it's easy to see that Sarah's need to hang on to dusty books symbolizes her reluctance to change and move on with her life. Maybe she would be better off with a new way of life in harmony with who she is now.[1]

[1] Das, Surya Lama. Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss and Spiritual Transformation. Bantam, 2012.

Bruce Cantwell