Experiment: Letting Go

Background: What question or issue motivates this experiment?

This is copied from Piet's chapter 18.

Total abandonment can become a way of life. As children, we were able to loose ourselves into play. As adults, our tendency to calculate and estimate and check out everything puts up many barriers on the road toward abandonment. But instead of clinging to our frameworks, we can learn to let go of them, becoming unconcerned. We can regain an innocence, free from applications or goals. Life can become pure adventure.

Description: What should experimenters do?

(Also copied from Piet's chapter 18)

Take a single simple object. A rock will do, or a leaf, or a piece of wood. You can also take a wall in front of you, but in that case it would be best to deal with a small part of it, straight in front of you. A small object, like a blade of grass, or a large object, such as a whole wall, are less suitable, since watching them is more likely to strain or distribute your attention.

For a while, just watch the object. Then try to become aware of all the frames of references that are involved in the whole situation of you-watching-the-object. In part 1 we have experimented extensively with the subject-object relationship, a fundamental part of the conventional framework within which we interpret all that appears. However, there are many more frames involved that all can be noted, scrutinized, played with, loosened up and discarded.

There is the notion that you and the object have a past and a future. There is the felt sense that object and you are both real and existent. Earlier in part 2 we have experimented with those, but you can see whether you can continue that type of experimentation in new ways. You may be convinced that you have various problems to deal with, whereas the object may not have any problems. You could view the object and you as given as a dance of molecules, or you can view the object within various cultural or artistic or utilitarian frames of reference.

Then, after a sufficient time, try to let go of all frameworks of any kind. Spot anything that frames you and object and surrounding world, and drop that. Any concepts that form, no matter how tentatively, let go of them. Let go also of notions of dropping and letting go. Convinced that you can't do that? Aha, a subtle framework: just let go of that one, too. Just keep going, letting go.

Lab reports

This is another one of those exercises that I dislike from the beginning. Yet again sitting down in front of an object! But that is already the first thing to drop. I decide to just do the exercise. I can acknowledge my dislike for it but that does not have to affect my willingness to try it. I pick a white cardboard box, put it on the bed and sit in front of it. The first thing I remember about the box is that something was shipped to me in it. I don’t remember what it was (actually, as I write this, I do remember that it was ink for the printer, but when I did the exercise that didn’t come to mind). What would it mean to drop this partial remembering of the box’s original purpose? I don’t know but I don’t linger. My mind is wandering somewhere else anyway. I am now reading the purple numbers that are printed on the box: 7 x 5 1/2 x 4. Can I drop my idea that these numbers represent the size of the box? What would it be like if I couldn’t read? What if the numbers are not accurate? Does “dropping” mean to allow the possibility that the numbers signify something other than I think, including the possibility that they signify nothing at all? I let these questions come and pass by. I decide there is no need to hold on to them. What comes next into my mind is memories of what it feels like to touch cardboard with your hands, and what it tastes like to touch cardboard with your tongue. But I am not now touching and tasting the cardboard. And for all I know, this box might be different from any other cardboard that I have encountered before. And anyway, why am I thinking this thing in front of me belongs into the same category with other things I call boxes, and with other things that are made out of a material I call cardboard? I can let go of my conviction that I know from prior experiences what this thing in front of me feels and taste like. Likewise, I can let go of the desire to actually touch it right now. But why am I sitting in front of this box at all? I am just trying to follow Piet’s instructions, but why not drop the urge to do what Piet suggests? Definitely, it would be more comfortable to lie down instead of sitting up, and I am free to break out of the framework of the exercise. So I lie down. But that is just following a different framework: I am now doing what is most comfortable. Yet, there is not need to follow that either, so why not sit up straight again? I sit up straight again. But I keep wiggling and squirming. After a few moments I stop the exercise. So much freedom is difficult to deal with: I am free to sit up straight or not, with or without justification. I can drop layer after layer of framework and still sit up straight. The exercise continues only as long as I choose every moment to continue with it, while almost every other moment, I have doubts whether I want to continue. I am not yet ready to make a free choice about the exercise: If I stop the exercise, it is out of dislike for it. If I continue with it, it is out of a sense of duty towards the lab. Gaining a piece of freedom would entail: My sense of duty does not dictate what I do, and my dislikes do not dictate what I give up.

-- LW – August 23, 2004

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