Letting Go
August 2013
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balloon illustration
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Last month, I went to visit my mother-in-law in France. She had read my previous blogs and was surprised at the personal nature of what I write and share about my life. This conversation got me to thinking about a wonderful Danish teacher named Ole, who talked many years ago about what it would be like to live in such a way that should the most private aspects about my life be published in a national newspaper, I would not be perturbed. How amazingly freeing it would be to ‘let go’ of the embarrassment or fear about who I am, no matter who I meet along the street?

What does it really mean when someone says ‘Let Go’? I often say this to my clients during massage, when they are unconsciously holding their muscles tight and rigid, instead of letting them relax; frequently a physical manifestation of tension and stress. Most of us, if we are willing to look, know what we hold on to that creates stress —for example, worrying about work, reiterating bad habits, magnifying negative emotions, rehashing past experiences— that argument or conversation with a sibling or parent when we wish we had not said some hurtful things, and somehow several years have passed and it has still not been resolved, but resides somewhere at the back of the mind.

So what does it mean to let go?

In my own experience, I see that the ‘holding onto’ is about clinging to my view being ‘right’ and that it is the other person who needs to apologise to me. I know that all it takes is to say three words, I am sorry, and I make a huge leap towards getting back in communication with someone I love. Letting go is to let go of my mind's certainty that I am right.

My biggest fear is worrying about what people think of me. When I send my newsletter every month, I am terrified that people will feel hassled, or fed-up with ‘yet one more email’ in their Inbox, or totally bored with what I write about, and on and on and on… the nervousness doesn't abate with each passing month. The creative child in me fears never being good enough; she hungers for love and acceptance, while still thinking she takes up too much space. Being ‘right’ in this context does not help me!

During meditation, I notice that when my mind latches onto a thought and follows it, my attention goes off for long periods of time into a whole detailed scenario with various people playing their roles ‘perfectly.’ I know exactly what my sister will say, how my mother will react, and so forth… Even with my eyes wide open, as a writer, I can do this indefinitely with the characters of my story. Then I wake up (usually to stop myself from falling over) and my jaw and back and shoulders are tense. My body and mind are clinging to a thought that is not real. So I take a deep breath and unhinge my attention from the one thought and open my mind to a bigger perspective… until the next thought comes along, which hooks me in. At times, I do ‘get it’ —I am making the story up all the time, in reality as well as in my dreams!

So how do I let go?

Letting go is surrendering to the here and now, to what I see, hear, smell, taste and touch; being willing to embrace ‘uncertainty’ with wholesomeness and without doubt. This sounds like a conundrum. I think life is like this… because to surrender does not mean to lose myself (whoever I might figure this to be); it means to engage in the world as an intrepid explorer, both nervous and excited about the discoveries I will make along the way. Letting go is accepting that I cannot force change on anyone else; I can change only me.

And even as an explorer, I know I can say the ‘right’ words, sound like I understand how to let go. To actually ‘let go’ however, is a continuous discipline. Just because I don't need to hold onto experiences, thoughts, arguments, criticisms, or even insights, this does not always mean I can easily let go. There is no perfect solution to stress and tension; in fact, it may simply be part of human evolution. The journey is to wake up each day and make a choice.