The Art of Letting Go
It's the law of the universe. But somehow, unlike anything else in our world, we humans seem to struggle with that concept. Instead of surrendering to the fluidity of life, we aim to make sense of it all and exert control over the sequence and outcomes of our lives. We look for pattern, predictability and certainty everywhere we turn and despair when we don't find it. We hold on to things, people and thoughts as if we have the authority to subject reality to our needs and desires.
Everything from the cells in our bodies to the distant stars in galaxies far far away constantly undergo cycles of transformation. Sprouting to life, blooming, maturing, aging and dying are woven into the fabric of our being. Yet we expect to be dealt selected cards by nature, only the ones that guarantee to us control and allow us to predict and posses.
We got it so wrong.
In order for life to unfold, we are required to let go of our attachments and master the art of doing so. Letting go is a process that's assured to be asked of us again and again and again. That's the only thing that's guaranteed.
Letting go never came easy to me. I found it hard to let go of blaming myself for mistakes I've made in the past. To allow people who were not meant to stay in my life go on their merry way. I've battled with letting go of an image of success that was for as long as I was aware of life, imprinted in my mind. My victim identity for what I labeled as wrongs done to me was one of the hardest to put behind me. Recently, I've found it crucial to let go of a sense of control I felt towards a loved one whose life I mistakenly took as my duty to fix.
I know I'm not alone. A lot of us struggle with surrendering and letting go. Many live holding tight to an image of what life should or shouldn't be like. Many have a list of stories they attach themselves to and hold on for dear life to because nothing would make sense without those narratives they put on repeat in their minds. Many are in relationships, friendships, careers and emotional trajectories that are dead ends and are vividly so. They would rather stick to what could've been than shed off a layer that has once served but does so no longer. Can you imagine if our skin held on to it's layer of dead cells or if trees refused to let go of their decaying leaves in autumn?
I'm not talking about giving up. Giving up is the result of fear based limitations that keep us stuck from making leaps in the right direction. Letting go has nothing to do with withholding the virtue of dedication and hard work, but rather the acceptance of exhausted effort, a past identity, things you have no control over,
Inspired by a recent Facebook live discussion I had with a dear friend and fellow personal development fanatic, I decided to write a step by step guide to letting go. You can use this guide to discover, acknowledge and release anything in your life that's dead or dying.
1) Ask honest questions
How many times do you review the state of your relationships and asses the health or lack of it? How often do you check in with your plans to see if they are aligned with your purposeful design or if you are stubbornly beating a dead horse in something that's not working for you?
Step away from the fixation of needing things and people to be a certain way in order to feel in control and step into your boots of realism. Then go hunting.
What is the dead thing you are holding on to? Is it an idea or an image of success that you are finding out was never yours to begin with? A victim mentality that has you regurgitating painful experience in the past and the perpetrator of it? Is a certain relationship serving you well or rather draining you and holding you back? Is it adding joy to your existence, motivating you to be a better version of yourself as time lapses? Or are you repeating the same old patterns that keep you where you've been just so you can remain uniform with your surroundings?
This step should lead to bringing you face to face with areas in need of peaceful release. Be very thorough with your questions and spare no attachment.
2) You guessed it, give honest answers
Asking and assessing isn't enough if you leave it there. Dare to confront the answers and follow them to the discomfort they may lead to. And trust me, they do tend to uncover some painful realizations about ourselves.
There will need to be a lot of acceptance practiced here. You ought to find out what it was about you that made surrender impossible until now. There is always an underlying reason, room for healing.
Maybe its that part of you hell bent on pleasing others and remained dependent on their approval to feel worthy of their affection and it has been hoarding diseased friendships and relationships as a result. There's no easy way of rumbling with and admitting that part of your wounded ego. Maybe it's the you who fought tooth and nail to manifest the ideal marriage which in reality was about using control and manipulation because you were more concerned about how it looked more than how it truly felt. Maybe it's about realizing that the career you have built was really about title and money when who you truly are is most fulfilled and of better service to the world through a completely different field of contribution. It's not easy to detect a need of a major overhaul requiring deep detachments and finding your own unconsciousness at their bedrock. You may uncover fear based beliefs and unhealthy programming. Be meticulous, compassionate and present with yourself. You are on a rewarding journey.
3) Set an intention
Why are you letting go? What do you wish to see manifested in your life and what would you like to make more room for instead?
We may let go of toxic relationships and walk straight into another if we aren't intentional about what we wish to fill the void it will leave behind. Careful not to numb the pain of withdrawal with shallow escapes but rather engage yourself in constructive behaviors that reduce the risk of repeated patterns. Aim to form meaningful relationships based on what you have learned about yourself, pick up a hobby or a creative outlet to help you transition into the next phase of your life, start journaling to document the journey you are on, learn a new skill, change your perception. Don't remain, intend to grow.
Intentions are powerful. Know your purpose for releasing that which you wish to set free.
4) Forgive. Yourself and others
Every individual acts in the best possible way they know how to act given their programming, experiences and awareness at a specific moment of action. That includes yourself. Be compassionate towards faults that you may have made. Chances are you have already suffered the consequences of your mistakes so spare yourself the suffering that comes from replaying that tape over and over again. Forgive others who may have hurt you, weather or not they are asking for your forgiveness. People do bad things because of their own unconsciousness and seldom because they set out to personally hurt you. Taking it personally means you are suffering the pain more and for longer. Often times, we are passing along the baton of pain because we were never taught how to 'deal with it' by transmuting it into something good ourselves. "Hurt people hurt people" works every time. It helps us understand better the anatomy of pain. That if we don't cut the cord, we will only assist in passing it around.
Now that you know better, you will do better and you can only hope that others do too. Forgiving is in you best interest if you wish to let go.
5) Be in a space of gratitude
No matter how destructive or painful they may have been, your ordeals have left you crumbs of priceless lessons. No matter the grinding halt your relationship is facing, there once was a season of vibrancy you enjoyed because of it.
There is always a reason for the kind of people we attract during different phases of our lives. I find myself looking back and blessing people whom I was hurt by because I owe specific muscles of wisdom I got to strengthen through their actions. I am a firm believer in the idea that we attract our customized spiritual teachers when forming relationships.
When we need to be taught to discover our reserve of courage, we are met with people and circumstances that challenge us in such a way that we are stripped off of all else but the instinct to be fearless. When we need to learn to trust ourselves, we encounter opportunities and personalities that put to the test our trust in them in such a way that we are led inwards to find ours. We can only be taught to embrace uncertainty through people that use our vulnerability to shake our world. Every individual and every circumstance adds a layer of wisdom to our souls.
When we see our relationships and life experiences this way, It's easier to be grateful for folks who may have hurt us. Making the process of letting go not only possible but dare I say a joyous ordeal.
6) Surrender to uncertainty
This step helps you maintain the art of letting go as an ongoing practice. We do our best and yet have little to no control over some aspects in life, none over other people. We may be able to apply predictions, educated guesses and tried out cause and effect knowledge to obtain desired outcomes but still need to leave room for the potential of things not going our way or folks not meeting us where we desire. Surrender helps us concentrate our focus on things within our control instead of living in fear, anxiety and worry while attached to a specific outcome. I'm not asking you to resign but to know that in surrendering to what is, it is possible find your way through anything. Let things and people come and go as we live in compassion and consciousness. It will all be well.
7) The present is all you have
If you really grasp this truth, letting go will not be something you will resist. What has already happened is simply out of the realm of possibilities as the past has well gone by and the identity you get through ruminating it nothing more than an illusion. All you have is this very moment and the more you stay present with each moment, the deeper you will feel this magnificent rapture of life.