Frequently we hear the notion that letting go is “required to reduce stress,” “necessary to experience true joy,” “a key to enlightenment,” or some other enticing idea filled with importance. What does it really mean to let go? What is missing for us if we cannot let go? Trust? Faith? Confidence? Acceptance? Perhaps it’s all of these. Perhaps it’s none of these. What does letting go really look like?
In my own experience, I have found that letting go is something that always seems important and/or necessary, but is never easy to do in practice. For a while, I felt that letting go meant accepting what is. I came to learn that there is a fine line between being in acceptance and being in either resignation or tolerance. I find that many of us like to say we’re “fine,” while at our core we are anything but fine. What I experienced in this definition of letting go was that it is possible for resentment to quickly follow, particularly if acceptance is something we “try” to do rather than truly experience.
I have had times in my life where letting go meant being detached from whatever I was trying to let go of. This led to a sense of separation, and even at times the notion of superiority in the form of the idea that I, in some way, was better than that which I wanted to let go of. From this place, it was easy to go to a false sense of self that was rather inflated, and even sometimes go into denial that I even had something to let go of at all.
At other times, the idea of letting go meant having courage. If I could just muster up enough courage to be without this thing, I can let it go! Sometimes the desire for courage became so strong that I convinced myself I had it while I clearly didn’t. This showed up in statements like, “Oh, I’m completely fine letting go as long as I can see what happens next.” Then there were the various bargaining conversations I had between myself and Spirit. “If You can just show me what’s coming next, I’ll let go of this thing, because then I’ll know for sure if I don’t need it anymore.”
There have been the times when I thought, ok, I can do this. I can let go of everything that I don’t need and just be. Well, then a whole new conversation showed up around what is really necessary and what is not, and whether or not it was ok to have desires and preferences as I walked this path of “enlightenment seeking.” After all, everyone knows that the only way to enlightenment is to let go, right? But maybe there’s a way to let go and still keep a few things I like, yes?
How many of us have these kinds of conversations with ourselves? We push, effort, bargain, plead, etc. and yet letting go seems to get no easier. I’m not saying that acceptance, detachment, courage, etc. cannot be a part of letting go, but so often in our desperate desire to let go, we miss the true definition of these concepts and they become a shadow of what they really are. What if we just gave up? What if we stopped trying to figure it out and just said to hell with it all? Well, this is the very place I came to, and miraculously, I finally got a sense of what letting go really tastes like. And it was oh so delicious!
Since that first taste, I’ve begun to have a better understanding of letting go. There is a deep sense of peace, and in that peace there is acceptance, contentment and detachment. There is also an amazing sense of awe and wonder and gratitude. Most importantly, there is no effort. For me, it is simply a state of being with what is. There’s no figuring it out, no analyzing, no criticizing. It’s just being with what is, noticing it, and acknowledging it.
The experience of acceptance and contentment made sense to me, but I found myself surprised by the wonder and gratitude that showed up when I tasted the fullness of letting go. I began this process by accident through “giving up” and surrendering myself to whatever was happening. At first, I felt some fear, but I was so tired of the process that I couldn’t even engage in that anymore. From that place of surrender, I began to feel calmer, less stressed, and more relaxed. I wasn’t swimming around in my head trying to find answers and solutions. I was able to simply notice what was happening and how it was affecting me. I noticed the emotions, the body sensations, and the stories that came up for me. Having “given up,” I didn’t do anything with them. I just let them show up. I noticed. I gave them acknowledgement.
The more I allowed things to be, and chose to be with what is, the more I began to not only acknowledge them, but also to embrace them. I began to see how in one way or another, whatever I wanted to let go of had served me in some way. I began to see the gifts that came from those things I had so desperately been trying to get rid of. Amazingly, gratitude showed up for those things. I found myself in awe and wonder of how those things had shaped me and how they had served me when I needed them. I befriended the very things I wanted to denigrate, destroy, or exile. I found compassion and love for them, and ultimately for myself.
I found it incredibly ironic that all this effort to let go had ultimately gotten me to a place of taking in the very things I wanted to get rid of. Once I found myself in this peaceful place of acceptance, awe and gratitude, I was able to allow those things I wanted to let go of to become a valid and valuable part of me. I included them in who I was. I spoke to them, thanked them for serving me, and gently let them know that I needed to move on to other things that served me more at this point in my life. They became my teachers, and helped me to see what I need to open up to and take hold of.
In these times of intensity, chaos and tremendous uncertainty, we are being asked to let go on a global scale. Most of us are clear that the old ways are no longer working or serving us, and many of us end up opposing them in some way, fighting against them, running from them or even denying them all together. Others of us feel so threatened by the idea of losing the old ways, not wanting experience the discomfort of allowing the old to dissolve and the new to emerge, that we struggle to hold onto them at any cost. I wonder what the world would look like if we could honor the old for how it has served us, be in gratitude and awe for it, and then begin to experience it as our guide to inform our choices for the future? Could it be that acknowledging and embracing what is would allow for a greater sense of soul in the world? The world is crying to be seen and the future is crying to become manifest, and yet the incapacity to let go keeps us from hearing either of them. We all have a choice to keep holding on and continue to experience more dissatisfaction, disenchantment and disconnection, or to let go and embrace what is, allowing new potentials to unfold and a new paradigm to manifest.
Who knew that letting go could be all about embracing and taking in? What I see is that we don’t really let go of anything. We simply stop trying so hard to get rid of it. This in turn creates space and quiet with which we can notice and acknowledge it. Soon, we can allow it to be a part of ourselves and work with us to open to the next thing we need in our lives. Spirit is constantly using all kinds of methods to show us who we are and what we need. Who are we to dismiss any of it? So, here’s to embracing and taking in the fullness of life, including those aspects we didn’t think we wanted! May this give us the capacity to find the peace within necessary to meet the calling of our soul.