In Revenge of the Sith, Yoda tells Anakin to deal with his fear by saying, “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
In some ways, Yoda is correct, that fear and attachment are often tangled up together. When we are afraid we cling to what we know, whether or not that idea or person is healthy for us. We stay in relationships that are not happy because we fear being alone. We cling to the idea that no one likes us despite evidence to the contrary, because our fear of change is greater than our desire to work towards it. We become angry or close-minded because we are afraid of being wrong. But how do you learn to ‘let go’ of your fears, and maintain a flexible grasp on the people we love and the ideas we care about? (Total non-attachment is not healthy for any human, let alone Jedi.)
The first step is identification. This process of self knowledge (as discussed in a previous meditation, Know Thyself) is key to the Jedi Path, but also to a stable and content understanding of yourself. Are you reacting strongly to a statement, idea, person? Are you experiencing social anxiety, or feeling pressured to act a certain way? Focus on that feeling, and begin to trace it back to it’s source. It might take time, meditation, or even assistance (discussing this stuff with a trusted friend or a therapist is often an excellent way to dig deeply into how you really feel about something). Why are you afraid, and what are you clinging to?
There is a moment in I, Jedi, where the protagonist Corran Horn realizes that it’s not something external or some genetic flaw that is blocking his access to the force, but his own image of himself, and who he thinks he should be. That image is based in reality: he’s a hero, a fighter, someone with lots of training and years of identity and growth. But by clinging so tightly to that image of himself, he was blocking his own ability to grow and change. By relaxing his mental grip on that image, by remaining present and taking his self and training moment by moment, he was suddenly able to feel the Force and progress on his Jedi Path.
The next step is accepting the reality and letting go. When you identify a fear of yours, or a way in which you’ve been clinging to some false idea or concept, or holding on to a person in a way that is unhealthy, it’s easy as Jedi to immediately fall into judgement of yourself. We expect a great deal from ourselves, and often these fears and attachments have been influencing us negatively for a long time, possibly leading you to notice mistakes or realize you haven’t been behaving like the Jedi you thought you were. When you discover these places of mental rigidity, fear, or unhealthy attachment, accept them. Look them straight in the eye (methaphorically speaking) and understand that they are real and need to be dealt with. Don’t be angry with yourself, or give up on your path, for that too would indicate an attachment to the idea of yourself as some perfect Jedi. There is no such thing as a perfect Jedi. Breathe, accept your fear, mistakes, and attachments as fact, and then release that. You now see the problem clearly. It can no longer hide from you, which means you can begin to change that part of yourself, and bring your self and world view closer to reality and to your goals.
How you begin to deal with your fear and attachment will depend on the specific issue: if you’re having social anxiety, perhaps you can respond to those voices of fear in your head with solid facts or evidence, or remind yourself that you and your goals are more important than the perceptions of society. Maybe if you’re holding yourself to unrealistic standards you can remind yourself to practice better self-care, and give yourself a break when it’s appropriate. Meditate on whatever issue you are wrestling with, and little by little, start to unwind the knots of tension and fear created by unhealthy attachment.
The final step is practice. This process of identification, acceptance, and release is not a one-and-done experience. Often our fears and problems are buried deep in our psyche, or the false ideas we cling to are the foundation for much of our identity or experience. These things do not change overnight or through a single session of meditation. We chip away at our fears and biases bit by bit, and slowly relax our grip on incorrect or unhealthy assumptions and attachments. The Jedi Path holds us to high standards, but one does not reach those standards overnight, and the process of combing through our minds and hearts and finding inconsistencies or troubles is ongoing. Be patient, forgive yourself when you fail or falter, and be persistent.