Day 21: Letting Go

You want to hold on to what you have, and that’s normal. This moment, this thing, and this person are familiar and safe. They may not be perfect, but better the devil you know right?

You like it the way it is and so you hold on, you linger, and you delay. Or maybe you don’t like it but you stay with this way of being because the next thing is too scary.

But the next thing comes anyway and then the next, and the next, and the next. It comes and drags you away, even though you’re still holding on.

Except the thing you thought you were holding is gone. And the only thing left is an idea, a mirage, or a ghost. But still you hold on tight hoping that if you grip hard enough, you can make it reappear.


We Hold On

This is how we are. We want to be happy, so we seek something that makes us feel good, maybe it’s a new car, or a handsome man, or a beautiful woman, or a nice pair of shoes, or a vacation in the sun and when we find it it’s so wonderful we try to hold onto it.

But no matter what it is, it fades, and the harder you grasp on the faster it goes.

Most people think they aren’t happy because they can’t to hold on to what they want. The cars, the houses, the love, and the friends. They think if they were only richer, smarter, better looking, and more powerful then they could hold on to these things forever. But no matter how rich, smart, or powerful you are, holding on is futile. Because everything and I mean everything fades.

Which is why if you’re going to be happy, truly happy, you must learn to let go.

How to Let Go –

Letting go is a life-long practice and a challenging one. Sometimes it’s the simple matter of accepting an off-hand comment that hurt your feelings. And sometimes it’s the hard work of saying goodbye to a cherished time or beloved friend. But big or small there are a few things that help you learn the art of letting go. Here are the some of the things I try to remember when I practice letting go.

  1. Accept that it’s hard.
    It would be nice if letting go was easy, but it’s not. So forgive yourself for having a hard time, for crying, and for struggling with your feelings. Instead, remember that letting go is hard and be patient with yourself.
  2. Feel It Fully
    When you feel something, feel it fully, let it wash over you, and then notice your desire to return to it. Joy is like a warm bed that calls for you to hit the snooze button. And pain is like a sore in your mouth you can’t stop flicking. But whether it’s pleasure or pain notice your desire to keep going back. This is where letting go begins, by learning to notice this desire, without taking action.
  3. Letting go is not pushing away.
    When something is hard you might want to push it away. But when you push something away, you never really deal with it, and so it’s always there, lurking underneath the surface. So instead of pushing just open your hands and gently let it go.
  4. Do it again and again.
    Letting go doesn’t happen in a straight line. It’s more like a falling tide, the waves may rise and fall, but over time the tide slowly drops. Letting go is like this. You must feel each wave of emotion and then try to let it go. If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere that’s ok. Don’t get stuck on how you think it should feel. Just feel it and do your best to let it go.
  5. It’s okay if it aches.
    Sometimes letting go will fill your heart with longing. But that’s normal. Don’t push away this feeling. It may be uncomfortable, but that’s ok. The aching is a sign that you are truly letting it go.

Remember that letting go is an art, not a science. There is no perfect way to do it. Much like falling in love is subtle and mysterious, letting go is the same way. So don’t force it, just let your heart guide you as you practice letting go.

OK now for the challenge.

Challenge #21 – Letting Go

1. Practice:

Choose something you’d like to let go of. Ideally this would be something on the mild to medium side of letting go.

Once you’ve chosen something, sit down and bring it to mind. Let all the emotions about it arise. Let yourself be angry, upset, and disappointed. If you need to cry, then cry. Feel the grief, the frustration, and the hopelessness fully. Let it all in.

But don’t stay there.  When you notice it start to ebb, begin to let it go. Imagine it’s like a light leaving your body and fading into blackness. Take 3 deep breaths and let it go more. Do this again and again. Feel the energy of it drain from your body. Feel how tired and empty you are and you gently, softly, let it go.

2. Reflect:

Once you’ve tried the practice, reflect on your experience.

  • How did it feel to let something so powerful in?
  • How did it feel to let it go?
  • Were you tempted to push it away? Could you tell the difference between letting go and pushing?
  • Are you willing to accept that this takes time?
  • Are you willing to practice this again whenever these sticky parts of your life arise?

3. Share: Finally share in one or more of the following ways

  • Blog – Write a post about what you want to let go of or what letting go felt like. Be sure to include anything that was really hard for you.
  • Share – Using #30dayhappy or posting in the Facebook group share what you want to let go of and how you plan to do it. Or share a challenge you faced as you practiced letting go.
  • Comment – Think there’s something you shouldn’t let go of? Confused by the challenge? Let me know by posting in the comments below.