Letting go….the Zen key to holding on to Confidence

Letting go....the Zen key to holding on to Confidence

Letting go….the Zen key to holding on to your confidence

This article is written in a particular way – to help you achieve the letting go rather than just read about it – just thought I would warn you…

Letting go:

“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place…” Lao Tzu

I have recently heard two interesting ways of looking at the word FEAR:

FEAR = Future Events Appear Real

FEAR = False Expectations Appear Real

Both of these work for people I know:  and the answer to resolving this fear and creating a situation where the unconscious allows the person to do things is in Letting Go.

Sounds simple – but it’s not easy.

Recently I had the great pleasure of participating in a clinic held by Craig Stevens on Classical groundwork – Mediterranean horsemanship.  You can find information on that here:


The reason I mention it is that the main theme of the whole weekend was letting go

When I first wrote this post, I had a list of the things we let go of –it became more of a mantra.  Here it is.  Read it and allow yourself to feel it resonate inside you….

Letting go:

Letting go of  goals

Letting go of  fears

Letting go of preconceptions

Letting go of comparisons with others

Letting go of  “shoulds”

Letting go of  expectations

Letting go of “supposed to be”

Letting go of worry

Letting go of judgement

Letting go of right

Letting go of wrong

Letting go of time

Letting go of ego

Letting go of the past

Letting go of the future

Letting go of what we know

Letting go of what we want

Letting go of me

Letting go of you

Being in the moment, in this moment….that is all there is…..

What is a mantra?  A mantra is a saying you repeat when meditating to help achieve the meditative state.

Interestingly, when we meditate, our brainwaves actually change.  The usual waves that are active in our brain in daily life are replaced with the waves more associated with deep restful sleep or deep creative thought. Delta waves.

The word Delta also means change.

Isn’t that interesting?

Simply by reading a rhythmical set of lines like the one above, with the repetition – we can change how our brain is working.

This is part of letting go.

When we let go, we open ourselves up.

Holding on to things means our hands are tight around an idea, a thought, a goal, an expectation.

Humans are  primates – who are very good at grasping things.  We all have experience of holding onto things so tightly we can no longer really feel them – -both literally and metaphorically.

Letting go opens up those hands

It opens up our mind.

Now I have previously written a bit about the Buddhist concept of Bardo, the space between.

Ready for a bit more Buddhism?

Here we can think of three key principles of Zen:

1) “Empty Your Cup”
To empty your cup means to empty your mind of past knowledge to be open to the new. Bruce Lee tells of a story of his old Japanese Zen master who was being questioned by a professor, on the topic of Zen. Clearly uninterested in learning Zen and full of intellectual opinion, the professor ranted on to the Zen master. The professor continued until he noticed the Zen master was overfilling his tea. The Zen master stopped and said: like this cup you’re full of your own opinion and speculations, how can I show you Zen unless you empty your cup.

Letting go creates space on our heart and mind, so now we can hear what our horse is saying, feel what our horse is feeling – and start communicating instead of just telling.

2) “Give Time”

Patience is the capacity of calm endurance.  To “give time” means to actively work without setting a limit on how long you will work. To work without pressure and to focus on the process rather than the product.  Focusing on what is happening, how it is happening – vs why it is not yet the perfect outcome.  When we do this, and we let go of the goal, then instead of comparing ourselves to the perfect end point, which we won’t achieve for a while and so constantly fail to achieve – we can simply notice the process and enjoy where we are.  How much does THAT build our confidence?

3) “Live in the Present”

In therapy and counselling it is said that humans experience anxiety when they constantly live in the future (“what if?”)  and depression when they live in the past (“if only….”).

Horses live in the now – and that is one of the things we experience when we are with them  That grounding effect of being in the moment.  How often have you been with your horse and suddenly realised hours have passed?  You have been in the moment with your horse.

Living in the present, putting the future and past away while we are with our horses creates a connection:  both of us are in the moment.  Both of us can be in harmony now we are both in the now.  Letting go of the future and the past allows me to experience my horse’s reality, and that is powerful.  When I experience my horse’s reality, then I can connect with my horse and communicate – and we can work together.

When you are in the same time zone as your horse, you notice things, you read your horse, your horse reads you – and the connection builds true confidence.

Here’s something to do:  get a metronome – -or a metronome app on your phone.  Set it to 38 beats per minute.  That’s the resting heart rate of your horse.

Now set it to 70 — that’s you.  Your resting heart rate.

See how important being in the moment is?  we are already disconnected from our horses unless we do something to change ourselves….

Ajahn Chah said:“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.”

So when you are with your horse, can you be in meditation: practicing letting go. Be with your horse in the stable, in the field.  Simply be with your horse.  Breath by breath.  Moment by moment.  Again and again.

As you practice letting go, you will notice your observation skills increase, your space between grows longer and you have more time to notice and choose things.  You will  observe the places where you get caught, where we get stuck, the places where we get tight, the places where we separate ourselves from the moment with thoughts about how the moment ought to be.  And we breathe.  And we let go, loosen, and unfold.  And so does our horse.

Yours, in confidence



11 thoughts on “Letting go….the Zen key to holding on to Confidence

  1. Such a difficult thing to achieve but ‘just being’ and breathing with them with no expectations is one of the nicest things to do, thanks Cathy.


    • yes — I said it was simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to actually do!

      One thing to do is stand with your horse, and go through the mantra in the post — and whenever you notice yoruself leaving the moment, just go “interesting” and allow that thought to pass through and leave…. do this for a minute first, then two then three — build it up!

      oh and if you have a metronome with the horse’s heart beat, or better still a real horse heart beat to feel — then that makes it much easier



  2. Remembering to breathe and learning to let go 🙂 Plenty to be going on with – also watching closely and communicating clearly – only works if the cup is not full – I like the cup concept 🙂

  3. Pingback: Quotes for Your Arsenal | Artwork and Musings by Angie Kidd

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