ARTICLE: Just Letting Go

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“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?” – The Buddha

letting goIsn’t it funny how it is possible to think back to a younger version of you and feel as though that was a completely different person?

You might remember some of the thoughts or opinions you used to vigorously uphold that are polar opposites of what you believe in now.

Perhaps this is because of the real life experiences you’ve since been through; or you’ve learned something more truthful; or maybe you’ve just changed your mind about certain things in life (that’s ok, you’re allowed!!). But whatever it means to you, this fascinating ability we all have for re-inventing the base from which we think is fundamental to our potential for growth and development.

I wonder what you will believe in five years time that is different to what you believe today!

Just knowing that what we are thinking now may not be what we think later opens up a space to be curious about what is currently driving our thoughts (and therefore our emotional wellbeing), and just how important – or not – that really is. After all, what was once very important to you might now be just an insignificant detail. So it stands to reason that what seems to be of great importance now may not matter nearly as much to you in the future.

In my adolescence I was an expert grudge holder (now that does feel like a completely different person!). If I found something upsetting, confusing or difficult, my immediate reaction would be to look for whatever was outside of me to blame. If someone had done wrong by me, either in reality or in my imagination, I was pretty adept at over inflating my negative emotions towards them and feeling victimised by their obvious vendetta to make me feel worthless!

As I got older though it dawned on me, partly through education and partly through self-realisation, that whenever I found myself in a low mood, the cause of that was far less to do with what was actually going on and far more to do with the quality of the thoughts I was having about what was going on.

One of the most powerful principles of thought I have ever learnt is the idea that we don’t have to find all the answers before deciding to drop our obsession with the question. This is particularly useful when answers are hard to come by.

Whenever we find ourselves caught up in negative emotional thinking about an event (or another person), we generally have three options:

* Suffer in silence
* Do or say something in an attempt to resolve the pain
* Just drop it!

While suffering in silence might give you a strange sense of satisfaction for a while, I’m going to suggest that it is not a great long term strategy!

Doing or saying something with the intention of resolving a grievance is usually the best way forward, provided there is another party available for you to reason with.

But what about those situations when you just feel bad about the way things are and there isn’t anything obvious or solid to push against? Maybe it is unfinished business from the distant past, or “the youth of today”, or some political injustice, or how unlucky you have been, or the rain at your summer BBQ…

For those times when you just feel negatively about something, towards which you have little or no control, I invite you to consider:

What is the worst that could possibly happen if you were to finally just let go of it?

Literally – As if that issue were a pebble in your tightly clenched fist. Would it be ok with you to relax your fingers, open your palm and just let that pebble fall from your hand and out of your life?

In the same way that a hand will feel beautifully light and relaxed after a long period of holding on tight, it is amazing what can happen to our emotional wellbeing when we are willing and ready to simply draw a line in the sand of our own dead end thinking.

But of course, there is a big difference between saying you are going to let go of something and actually letting go of it emotionally.

Here are some questions you might want to consider to test your readiness:

“Am I willing to let go of….

…. needing someone or something to blame for this?”
…. having to understand why this bad thing happened?”
…. someone else’s opinion of me?”
…. my difficult past?”
…. trying to control the uncontrollable?”
…. what I’m afraid it might mean about me if I were to let go of this?”
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HOMEWORK
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Your emotional wellbeing loves a good metaphor, especially a visual one, so I have created a little thought experiment for you to play around with. For this to be most effective, find some space where you can be comfortably relaxed and undisturbed for about 10 to 20 minutes. Here are the steps:

1 – Pick something in your life that you are now willing to finally just let go of. You might want to start off by practicing with relatively minor issue at first (e.g. annoyance at the inclement weather) before working on any significant issues (e.g. emotionally charged memories from the past).

2 – Get yourself into a nice relaxed state where you can begin to let your imagination take over. A lot of people find this easier with their eyes closed.

3 – As you begin to think about that issue, recall the negative emotion you have been associating with it. Don’t try to sensor yourself; just go with an honest acceptance of the feeling that accompanies the thought.

4 – If you had to assign a shape to that issue and its corresponding emotion, what shape feels like a good fit? Imagine that shape as a large 3D object floating there in front of you, representing the whole subject.

5 – Decide what colour you think represents that issue and make the large 3D object that same colour? What would the texture be?

6 – Looking at that coloured, textured, 3D shape in front of you, imagine that you are now transmitting all of the negative thought and emotion related to the issue so that it leaves your body and is captured by the shape.

7 – When you get a sense that the transmission is complete and that you feel kind of ‘neutral’, focus on the 3D object and make it shrink right down in size so that it fits snugly in the palm of your hand (actually hold your hand out for it). Spend a moment to feel the texture of it, and the weight of all those old thoughts and emotions.

8 – Now, importantly, as a way of bidding farewell (no hard feelings!!), thank the object for all of the positive lessons it has taught you, even if some of those lessons are yet to be realised consciously.

9 – Finally, with a smile of relief, tip your hand, let the object fall from your palm and watch it as it disintegrates into cloud of coloured dust as it hits the floor…. and then there is nothing.
As you get on with the rest of your day pay attention to how much freer you feel having just let go.

 

Take great care. Namaste.

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