Two travelling monks came upon a stream swollen and roiling due to the recent rains. A woman in distress asked if they could help her. “I must get across the stream to my family,” she said, “but I’m afraid to wade into such turbulent water.”

One of the monks picked her up, carried her safely across to the other side, and set her down. The two companions then continued on their journey. After several miles the second monk said, “I can’t believe you did that, knowing as you do that it is against the rules of our order to look at a woman, much less touch her.”

The first monk smiled and replied, “Brother, brother, I set her down on the other side of the stream an hour ago, but you’ve been carrying her for all these miles.”

Many of us suffer from the second monk syndrome — we carry a negative mental dialogue about something we should have set down long ago. It might be the memory of some long-ago hurt or a time we felt betrayed. Or it might be something more recent, an argument or a nagging worry. Whatever the root cause of the negative mental loop, it creates unhappiness.

But how can we set it down? Here is a short phrase, a kind of modern mantra, that will help:

Let it Go.

three words can change your life

Every time you discover your mind caught in the negative loop, mentally repeat, “Let it Go, Let it Go.” After a time—two weeks according to neuroscientists — you will have created a new neural pathway. Now, when something triggers your negative pattern, you can choose to Let it Go.

Paramhansa Yogananda called these neural pathways “brain grooves.” He explained, “Attention is the needle that forms the grooves of mental good or bad habits. It is by deep attention to an evil experience or a good experience that a bad or good habit is formed in the brain.” At another time he said, “Bad karmic tendencies cannot be overcome by concentrating on them, but by developing their opposite good tendencies.”

This technique, of replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones, works in nearly all circumstances of daily life. For devotees, however, its real power comes in meditation. If you find restless thoughts or worries disrupting your concentration, immediately repeat your modern mantra, “Let it Go.” Do it with power: The deeper your intention, the quicker you will see results.

Stopping negative patterns is only half the battle—we need also to create a positive flow. For this, a second phrase is helpful. I suggest “I am Free.” We can think of it this way: We can use Let it Go to stop the unwanted train of thought and put our mental gears in neutral. Now we can move forward by repeating, “I am Free.” Let this phrase continue until it fills your thoughts and you feel a deep sense non-attachment spreading in your consciousness.

Paramhansa ends his magnificent poem, “Samadhi,” with these words.

Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.
Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.
Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.
A tiny bubble of laughter, I
Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.

With a bubble of laughter,

Nayaswami Jyotish