When we want to make a change we usually think in terms of something we have to do. We make lists, we connect with others, we set things in motion.
Less frequently do we think about what we need to let go of in order to make space for change. Even if the change is a new awareness, we usually have to relinquish the old belief that sits between us and the new one. Sometimes the "space" we need is actually more time. We once asked a friend what he was going to give up when his firstborn arrived. He looked at us curiously not really comprehending he was going to have to forgo a few of the hundreds of things he did a day when he became a father.
While letting go is an action of sorts, it's different than scaling a mountain or applying for a job. Most of letting go is internal to us and lies like an iceberg submerged beneath the surface. It entails a shift in how we hold things in our mind and body. This is true whether we're liberating ourselves from grandma's antiques, being perfect, or nachos for breakfast.
To begin the process, figure out exactly what you need or want to shed, which may include any of the following:
Start by asking the question, "What's in my highest and best interest to let go of now?" Once you've inquired you may notice how answers begin to pop into your awareness. You'll hear a story about a friend finally clearing out their book collection, and then someone will ask you if you have any books to donate. Or you'll talk to someone who is lamenting a break-up and that will spark thoughts of your own.
Sometimes when you've figured out what it is you want to let go of—sugar, the wrong job, plush toys, sarcasm—you are able to do it in a flash and—BOOM!—you're free. More often it requires time and involves some trial and error. Have you ever had a tense muscle and tried to relax it? It can be tricky to figure out how to feel in to that particular spot in your body. You try different things until—Bingo!—you can access it. Even so, with letting go you may need to touch in with the issue periodically until it's truly gone.
When it comes to unchaining yourself from feelings and thoughts, you may want to find some way to make the process more tangible. For example imagine whatever it is melting or dissolving in some way. Another approach is to write what you want to release on a paper and burn it or allow it to float away. If you realize that something you are holding on to isn't yours, you can envision handing it back to the person it belongs to. This is particularly useful for anything you have taken on from your family. Always approach these gestures with respect and gratitude for what you've gotten, but no longer need.
Another common pattern is to slough off what is past in layers. You jettison a little bit—your Danny Kaye records—and then a few weeks or months later, you are ready to let go of the Henry Mancini collection.
Once you've finally let go of something, you will feel differently. You might experience lightness, relief, or perhaps grief and sadness. If you try to circumvent the feelings that come up, it short circuits the process. Best to ride the wave of each emotion as it arises, seeking the support you need until you are ready to move on.
This may sound paradoxical, but you should be careful not to focus too hard on what you are releasing such that you become even more attached to it. Better to put your attention on the benefits of giving up the old—the new found freedom and opportunities, and the positive changes you want to attract—and to approach the whole matter with tenderness and curiosity.
The good news is the more you experience letting go, the easier it gets generally. (Of course in some areas, it is never easy.) Ultimately developing our ability to let go leads to an increased capacity for flow and flexibility as we gracefully bid adieu to what no longer serves us, and open our minds and hearts to the new.
One of the best ways to discover our hidden strengths and abilities is to recall how we have done something successfully in the past. Write, discuss, or contemplate your thoughts on the following: "Times I have let go, and the good things that followed."
Each day for a week, practice letting go of something. This can include activities, thoughts, and things. (Perhaps you let someone else make the decision, thereby letting go of your agenda for a moment.) Notice what comes up for you and what happens as a result of exercising the quick release.
Wishing you the spaciousness that comes from letting go,
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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