I can get pretty stubborn when I think I’m right. I can get attached to an idea and be impervious to any other viewpoint that is contrary to what I believe. When I was on a low carb diet for years I would scoff at bakeries and ice cream shops. When I was a drinker, I would think that those who were sober were strange and uptight. When I was single without children, I could not understand how a parent could lose their cool with their child or not be able to control them at any moment. Now I have been on both sides of the fence, I realize that I was clinging to a belief. That clinging was fixed and judgmental. I’ve learned overtime to ease up, to let go and that I am always a work in progress.
As Leo Babauta wrote these are the ways that we hold onto our beliefs:
- I am right, the other person is wrong
- That person is living their life in the wrong way, they should change
- My preference is the best way, others are wrong
- This is the thing I want, I don’t want anything else
- I really don’t like that, it sucks
- I should have that person in my life, loving me
- I shouldn’t be alone, shouldn’t be overweight, shouldn’t be however I am, shouldn’t have this life
In all these beliefs, we want reality to change. We get fixed on our perspective and are attached. As Babauta wrote, “It leads to stress. Unhappiness. Anger. Righteousness. Being judgmental. Distancing ourselves from others. Closed-offedness.”
Here are 6 secrets to letting go:
Get silent. I find it easy to run from contradicting information or ignore signs that I am wedded to an idea. Getting silent creates the space to reflect. As Katarzyna Portia wrote, “You need to quiet your mind to go honestly within. To take a look at your feelings which will come up. Silence your phone. Close the door. Make room for your emotions.” When I race through life juggling multiple balls and projects, I can ignore the signs that I have become attached. I need to get silent so that I can investigate what I am attached to.
Feel the feels. I like to think of the Robert Frost quote “The best way out is always through.” To me this is to experience the anger, hurt, jealousy, boredom or regret. To sense where it lies in your body. Most likely in my shoulders or the pit of my stomach. I try not to run from it but to “be” with the feeling. I was taught from a young age to not be so emotional. I spend a good deal of my life to trying not to feel the feels and it’s caused me to either try to escape it or numb out. Now I try to pay attention to the feelings as they rise up.
Label and let go. Once I have acknowledged the feeling and experience clenched shoulders, or stomach cramps, I label it and let it go. So, my shoulders are clenched and my stomach is tight, this is anger and stress. Once I’ve labeled it, I find it easier to let go. It’s as if the feeling wanted to be noticed and attract attention; now I can ease off into the ether.
Open awareness. As Babauta exposed, “Open your awareness from just your own body and your self-concern, to the world around you. Become aware of the space around you, the people and objects, the light and sound. Open your awareness to the neighborhood around you.” It’s like moving from the mirror to looking out the window. This is more than just about me.
There is beauty. I try and find the present moment. I can’t be angry about the derisive comment from a co-worker or family member when I am aware of the goldfinch on my bird feeder, or the feel of the cool wood of my desk or the warmth and scent of my tea. How incredibly marvelous to be here right now with a laptop, lamp, heat and my snuggly dog asleep on the floor. It’s it all just so beautiful.
Not knowing. Step into the abyss of unknowing. As Babauta posited, “From this place of relaxing your fixed mind, of opening up … take the next step with a stance of not-knowing. You don’t know how things should be, let’s find out! You don’t know if you’re right or wrong, let’s explore! You don’t know the answers, you just hold the questions in your heart, and move into open possibilities.” Embrace the unknown and uncertainty with curiosity and openness.
I think it’s the parable of the monkey trap. The monkey has a prize in a bottle and he won’t let go of the prize so that he can remove his hand and figure out another way to get the prize. Letting go isn’t the only solution but sometimes the most obvious solution, to let go, can be the one thing that we can’t comprehend. How do you let go?