About 20 years back, some of us from the family went for a dance program organized by the Kalakshetra Academy in Chennai. We were introduced to the choreographer with a request to drop her on our way back. She was middle aged and pleasant. While in the car, after the initial pleasantries and a little talk on dance, the conversation turned to her personal background. She asked, “Do you recollect the Kanishka aircraft accident?” After a second's pause she added, “My husband and two daughters were in it.” There was a stunned silence in the car. Then we mumbled our regrets and returned to normalcy. She mentioned that she had taken to dance and had decided to spend her life teaching the art. She was neither self-sympathetic nor bitter. She seemed to have come to terms with her life and move on.

The brief conversation with her made it clear that one needn't walk away from life or escape from worldly activities to be ‘serene'. From a cozy and blessed life in Canada, she had to start afresh with the Kanishka accident playing spoilsport. She continues to remain in my mind as a perfect living example of the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and importantly, the wisdom to know the difference.”

While reading the serenity prayer for the first time in an executive waiting lounge, it seemed an esoteric sentence with little practical application. After having heard this lady, it suddenly seemed to make immense sense. The power of ‘let go' was clear. She had a choice to be miserable and make everyone around her feel wretched or pick up the pieces and put her life together again. In good wisdom, she had chosen the latter. She must have had to ‘let go' of her dreams and subsequent disappointments. She must have had to ‘let go' of memories and the associated scars. She chose to hold on to her ‘art' as a way of life, an art that she loved and fortunately had not lost.

At a personal level, each of us has our share of unhappy memories. Frustrating disappointments on the path not taken and bitter disillusionments in the path chosen are all too common. Worse are the smoldering insults and burning grievances that we nurse in our mind.

To first become aware of all that hurts us and then consciously drop them would see a heavy peel being removed off us. That would make us light and affable. On the other hand, clinging on to regrets can be burdensome, making us fret and fume and cynically watch life pass by.

“Letting go” is important with regard to relationships too. Many a relationship would blossom better at least in subsequent generations if the past was forgotten and forgiven. Many a bond would strengthen better if intention was understood more than nitpicking words or action. Many a friendship would deepen if there is a ‘let go' of misunderstandings and a resolution to ‘start afresh'. But then one should let dead dogs lie… Repetitive misinterpretations in relationships can translate into frustration within, if unexpressed and into bruised relationships, if expressed.

“Letting go” is very relevant as we flow with life's experiences too. We can learn with humility from success and with grace from failure and become richer with either. The learning from an experience can be selectively held on to, while ‘letting go' the success or failure itself. There is a possibility to get carried away with success and become vain or proud.

Alternatively, one can get bogged down by failure and become scornful or bitter. Neither helps. Knowing that ‘this shall also pass', be it success or failure, we should move on with life, doing our best in all circumstances. Then, being composed and poised in moments of recognition and triumph would be as natural as accepting and coping calmly with defeats and disenchantments.

This approach is both philosophical and pragmatic. It leads to an inner balance, freedom from perturbation and hence, serenity.

If we practise this art of selective ‘let go', the possibility of a serene smile wouldn't be limited to a painted Mona Lisa or a liberated Buddha. It would be equally feasible for us now and here.

Keywords: human interest