What does it mean to “let go”?
The Buddha taught us to observe how we constantly create suffering for ourselves by grasping onto the body and its senses, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, emotions as being “me” or “mine”.
Learning how to abandon that habit is learning how to “let go”.
It is not possible through an act of will. Letting go occurs naturally when the trained mind is keen enough to perceive that there is nothing to be found in our direct experience which corresponds to the concept of “me” and “mine”.
“Me” and “mine” are not, however, mere illusions; they are extremely useful social conventions, and the Buddha taught that they should be respected as such. Although the body, for example, is strictly speaking “not mine”, that does not mean that it should be neglected.
Letting go of the body does not mean giving up on exercise, bathing and a healthy diet. It means not allowing one’s life to be defined in terms of the body. It means freeing oneself from all the anxiety, insecurity and vanity, and all the fear of aging, sickness and death that accompanies an unwise relationship to the body.
“Letting go” is also an idiom used for intelligent effort.
Knowing that no effort we make exists in a vacuum, that it will always be affected to some degree by conditions over which we have no control, we let go of our demands and expectations for the future. We create the best possible conditions for reaching our goals, and then let go of the results.
From Without and Within by Ajahn Jayasaro