“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.” ~Ajahn
Wouldn’t it be nice if we let go like trees? In fall they simply turn gorgeous colors and drop their leaves. There’s no fear, agony, embarrassment or angst as the foliage that fed them turns into mulch. Bare and naked they stand strong and ready for winter clothed in complete acceptance.
For us letting go is a completely different story. We’re human! We hold onto everything: Anger at those who’ve hurt us, discouragement for setbacks, frustration for failures; and anxiety over EVERYTHING and anything that isn’t working in our lives. To make matters worse, as I discussed in a recent blog post we ruminate chewing over in our minds what we’re holding on to.
Whether it’s a small snafu (S&*^, I made a stupid mistake that thousands of my followers saw!), a major tragedy that defines you or a flaw in yourself or another, letting go takes intention, attention and practice. It’s one of the major challenges we all face. However, while our problems and pain give us a sense of identity the negativity we hold on to shapes our actions in the present. We have two choices: Hold on and remain powerless and stuck or release our unhealthy attachments and move on.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” ―Ann Landers
One of the hardest things to let go of is anger. For example, recently my husband and I had a nasty fight. And then we repeated the exact same fight one week later! The details aren’t important. Our fights are always about the same thing—the pain of disconnection, which occurs when fear or anxiety in one of us sets off a sense of lack in the other.
In Chinese astrology, I’m a tiger and my husband’s a monkey, and our fights can get ugly. What Eckhart Tolle refers to as the ‘pain-body‘ got triggered. I felt possessed like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. All our old stuff surfaced: Anger, frustration and hate followed by an overwhelming cloud of shame, blame, sorrow, despair, sadness and despondency. I said and did things I regretted, and later wondered: How could I feel such intense hatred towards someone I love so much?
Fortunately, I reined in my ‘Shadow Self’, the dark part of my psyche in need of healing that ironically wanted to keep fighting. While it was hard to accept and let go of the ugliness I’d created, I realized holding on to anger is dangerous. Anger is like a hot coal we pick up to throw at another person. As Buddha put it, “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
At the heart of ‘letting go’ is resistance, the wish that our moment-to-moment experience was different than it is. Our inability to let go causes tremendous suffering. Pain is inevitable, but holding on to pain creates misery. Fortunately, there are powerful practices that can help you let go so you can move on.
Here are some suggestions:
- Set an intention
Make a firm decision to let go of the people, places, things, events, pain, resentment… that you’ve been holding on to. As Wayne Dyer explains, intention is a force in the universe that allows the act of creation to take place. In the case of my fight with my husband, healing could only start once I decided to stop squabbling.
- Create space for healing
Time outs aren’t just for children. Adults need them too especially when we’re letting go of tough emotions. Asking for forgiveness is great, but before you start the mea culpas give yourself space and compassion so that you can meet some of your unmet needs. Ask yourself: What do I need physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to heal? Then give yourself what you need.
- Open to the pain
You can’t practice forgiveness without opening to pain and validating it. Allow yourself to experience how hurt you feel. This is where self-compassion, treating yourself like you would a good friend, really counts. Try practicing hand-on-heart and let yourself cry. Tears help wash away pain.
Emotions are experienced as physical sensations, so try to locate where in your body you’re feeling the pain. Once you locate the pain see if you can soften and then soothe that area of your body. Then just allow the physical sensation associated with the emotion to be.
Once you’ve contacted the pain you’re feeling and started to heal you can forgive yourself and others. Try to understand what made the other person act so badly. Was he or she feeling run down or under a lot of stress? Recognize that everyone makes mistakes it’s part of being human.
- Get spiritual
Pray, meditate, draw tarot cards, dance under the stars, walk in the woods. Do something that grounds you and connects you with your soul. Getting in touch with who you are on the deepest level makes it much easier to let go and find peace and contentment.
Why let go? When you hold on to pain and stale feelings and beliefs about the past you limit your effectiveness and happiness in the present. The good news is that every moment is an opportunity to let go.
Feeling stuck in the past? Schedule a free Compass session and let go of what’s limiting you. Click HERE to learn more and book your session today.