Letting go is a lesson and practice we live through over and over again.
Life continues to present us with new opportunities to let go and sometimes we have such a tight grip on things, it takes several attempts to fully release.
I love this quote from Ahjan Chah:
“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.”
Letting go of things like pain, control, resentment, regret, hurt, guilt, shame, the past, plans and dreams that no longer light us up or serve us, people who bring us down, expectations that are not right for us and beliefs and behaviours that are holding us back can help us move forward. Letting go creates space for new and better things to enter our lives.
I’ve been learning this lesson for a long time. Every time I come through it, I feel like I get it. But yet, there is always more to learn. More letting go. Deeper work. More to release. More freedom and peace to discover.
A year of letting go
2020 has been quite the surprise and for many it has felt completely out of control. I’ve been reflecting on the year and one of the themes that stands out for me personally is letting go.
Before I continue, I want to mention that my intentions here are to share my personal experiences and reflections on my year. I do this with the utmost respect for the challenges that people all over the world have faced and I am aware that we have been very fortunate to not have lost any loved ones, jobs, or suffered any other major set backs. My heart goes out to those who have and are suffering this year. With that said, let me share with you how 2020 has challenged me to let go.
As I mentioned, there are always opportunities to let things go and the pandemic provided some additional opportunities. I let go of many things, including:
- Some of my work plans – in person workshops, more working hours, setting up my office properly (my husband is using it as his work space while working from home).
- The time I was expecting to have to myself in my son’s first year of school and my plans for that time.
- A family holiday to one of our favourite places and the adventures and memories we were dreaming of.
- Having our immediate family together. We really missed our adult children and grandchildren who don’t live with us.
- Busyness, rushing and the constant drive to do things and be in action. This energy is great for getting things done, but we can’t sustain it all the time. I have learned this on a much deeper level this year. Earlier in the year I experienced a wave of intense frustration and impatience around things I wanted to accomplish but again I was reminded of how much I need to have rest and space, without guilt, even when there are things left undone. I also now believe that life doesn’t have to feel so intensely pressured to be progressing and achieving great things. We can have ease and spaciousness and still do amazing things.
- The mental load that gets in the way of me really switching off or being present. Letting go of the things that are worrying me, that I’m trying to remember or anticipate. I’m pretty good at this with family, but the area I tackled this year was my own self-care time. I found it harder to totally switch off for myself but now have strategies to help with this.
- False deadlines. By this I mean the deadlines that I create, but there’s no really important reason for the date chosen. I can give myself grace and reduce the pressure.
- My commitment to travel to see my parents every school holidays. This was a hard one for me, as I know it is for many, and I felt a lot of grief before coming to acceptance.
- My standards of tidiness. With everyone at home all the time, it was increasingly difficult to maintain the level of tidiness I prefer.
There was also letting go unrelated to the pandemic. I let go of:
- My expectations and desire for a smooth start to school for my son. After loving kindergarten (pre-school) he struggled with significant anxiety in the first term of school. This took us completely by surprise and we had our most challenging year with him yet.
- The season of staying at home with my son before he started school. I was feeling very sad about this season ending but then lockdown blessed us with all the extra time. Even though it was very challenging at times, we created lots of great memories and I can see how it has helped his emotional wellbeing enormously as he returned to school much happier and calmer at the end of the year.
- My habit of only partially recharging. Sometimes we need to push through, but if we never allow ourselves to really replenish our energy, we eventually become burned out.
- The fear of being seen. This was showing up for me in a particular area of my life with particular people. I realised that it was holding me back in a way I had never understood. No more.
- Head led decision making and the belief that the answers are outside of me. I have learned this personally in previous years, but this year I truly embraced it in my work. Of course, research and learning is important, but my heart and intuition know what is true for me. I can trust them.
- The pressure to be consistent every day. We’re taught that daily consistency is one of the keys to success but as women we are not the same every day. We don’t have the same level of motivation, we’re not drawn to the same things, and our bodies and emotions don’t feel the same every day. I used to think there was something wrong with me when I was up and down and “all over the place” but now I realise that the feminine energy is naturally in motion and always changing and this is how I am meant to be. It’s a huge relief to know that I can embrace and leverage this.
Supporting yourself through the process of letting go
Letting go is certainly not always easy. Facing and accepting reality, embracing uncertainty, finding hope and trust for the future no matter the current circumstance and leaving things behind take a whole lot of courage, strength, grit and faith. Sometimes there is real grief in letting go.
Have you been practicing the art of letting go this year? Or are there things you need to let go?
Here are 5 things that have helped me ride through the emotions of letting go this year and come out the other side, fairly calm, grounded and content. These can be applied in any situation where you need to let go.
1. Believe that everything is working in your favour
I know this may be contentious or hard to accept, but I truly believe that even our toughest challenges can be working in our favour, even though we cannot see how. This involves a whole lot of trust that what is meant to be will be and that I have enough strength to navigate any situation that comes my way. I’ve had to let go of timeframes that I really wanted, and “how” things would happen, and trust that it will be all ok in the end.
2. Really feel the emotions of letting go
I used to be a master of pushing uncomfortable or vulnerable feelings away because I wanted to be strong and in control. Now I see that true strength is accepting and feeling your emotions, not denying or being afraid of them. What we suppress always comes back and amplifies. So, my journal has become my greatest comfort in times of letting go. I let all the feelings flow out onto the pages. I don’t rationalise, criticise, judge or ignore them. I welcome them. I notice how they feel in my body. I cry, feel angry, sad or whatever it is and let it flow through me. In doing so, the emotions are released and I feel much calmer and more grounded afterwards.
3. Identify the expectations and beliefs that are standing in the way of peace
Situations and circumstances are neutral. We give them meaning through our interpretation, beliefs and expectations. So when it feels hard to let something go, I ask myself why.
What are the stories I’m telling myself about this situation? What are the expectations I’m trying to live up to? What do I believe about myself in this situation?
Then I consciously choose what I want to carry forward. Where my expectations and beliefs are not supportive or no longer serve me, I rewrite them.
What is a more supportive belief? What is a more realistic expectation? What feels true and good for me?
4. Focus on what you can control
This is so freeing. The only thing we can really control is ourselves. Not our children, boss, partner, the past, the future or anything else. When I bring my focus back to what I can control and let go of the rest, I find much greater peace and acceptance.
5. Do something creative
I know this one might feel uncomfortable because somewhere along the line many adults come to believe they are not creative. But creativity can be expressed in many ways. I find doing something artistic incredibly supportive both as a mindfulness practice and because it brings me joy to create things. Creative pursuits can be a really effective way to express and process your feelings and create a sense of achievement and control over something. This year I have enjoyed painting (I’ve been using paint by numbers – it’s really easy!) and colouring, but any type of craft helps me clear my mind and reset. For you it might be music, dancing, writing, playing, decorating, organising, cooking, taking photos, solving problems, gardening, planning a trip or party, or something else!
Now, over to you. Is there something you need to let go? If so,
Which of these 5 things would be supportive for you, lovely?
What other things do you find supportive in letting go?