I think of letting go as diving in, not turning away. What I mean by that is to sincerely live in each moment, getting as close to a full life experience as possible in this one moment. To do that, we need to learn how to let go of what tethers us to what has come before this moment, and to what may or may not come after it. I don’t have all the answers, nor should I have them, but I do have a few ideas that can help.
“Leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.” — Shunryu Suzuki
So much of my struggle seems to come from being too tightly attached to… everything. Especially those things that hurt back then, and therefore still hurt now. Especially those things that haven’t happened yet, even though they might never happen. But I’m human, so how to let go?
I’ll start by trying to let go of needing to let go perfectly. Seems like a valid place to begin.
“It’s not a matter of letting go,” professor and founder of mindfulness-based-stress-relief Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “you would if you could. Instead of ‘Let it go’ we should probably say ‘Let it be.’” Fair enough. That’s how I try to see the phrase “letting go” and it does lighten things up a bit for me.
Because we’re both human, we have the freedom to make mistakes. How wonderful; there is freedom involved in the art of living, and thus in the art of letting things be what they are without (or before) needing to alter them (or how we view them).
So, let’s start letting go by first honoring that we are human and we are meant to stumble, and rise up again—again and again.
“Just let it go” is easier said than done, and surely easier to write about than to put into practice. This I know, which is why I’m practicing being okay with not having all of the answers but instead am focusing on sharing a few practices with you that help me.
We really want things to go our way. I struggle with destroyed plans and wasted time, and when I surround myself with hope-filled materials that remind me of what I’m capable of (sometimes I come back and read an archived Aim Happy post) I start to change how I see things… and things start to change for me.
With a little inspiration, I start to wonder if destruction is something for me to build myself from, like a Phoenix. Maybe the comeback is more important than the mistake. What if we were meant to learn from pain rather than dwell on it? To honestly feel it first so we can begin to move forward with its lessons rather than its strings?
Being tightly attached to any one thing tends to breed discomfort eventually, yet we are human and maybe we’re also meant to learn how to balance letting go with leaning in.
The following practices aren’t meant to make you invincible or something other than what you already are, but to help you navigate this experience with a little less suffering and a touch of grace.
How to Let Go: 3 Foundational Practices to Make Space for True Peace Inside
1. Acceptance first.
At its core, an attachment is about not wanting something to be the way it is. It is resistance to reality, which ensures that the reality stays planted firmly in your experience.
Procrastination, for instance, is a resistance to the challenge of working through a process. It keeps us stuck, or trudging through the process rather than discovering freedom through it.
Ruminating on opportunities lost, whatever the reason (maybe someone you love has died, or you got laid off, or your house burned down), is a natural human response to a tragedy. Suffering is necessary until we realize it’s not; clutched with closed fists, it cuts us off from co-creating new opportunities.
You may want something to be different, but you need to honor what is, for what it is, first. Stopping and breathing into the current reality is a healthy practice if you don’t want to stay rooted in that reality forever, or for any longer than necessary. You partake in the creation of a new reality not when you totally ignore the current one, but when you manifest from a place of acceptance.
Fight what is, and it’ll fight back. Try to rush your healing with angst rather than curiosity as to what can grow from here, and it’ll hold you back. Disvalue this reality with false positivity, and happiness will feel strained, not authentic.
Over and over, acceptance is the practice of opening and investigating the moment with curiosity, courage, and deep breaths.Letting go doesn't mean you resist or avoid, just that you don't serve tea to every passing thought. tell a friend
I mention it a lot, but I just keep reading about (and experiencing for myself) how helpful a practice it is for everything from stress relief and anxiety support to authentic happiness and changing habits.
Simply sitting (or walking, or even lying down) and paying attention to the present moment creates space around the things floating around in our head. You don’t have to erase the thoughts or control them, just keep coming back to your observation of them, your breath, or a mantra or other focal point.
Through meditation, it’s possible to see how we attach to worries, planning, and ruminating. We can practice letting go of these attachments by simply refocusing on the present moment and establishing our connection to an identity that’s larger than the cords/stories that tie us to things, thoughts, and patterns.
Meditation is peace training, space making, and a way to lighten the load of everything we’re carrying.Inner peace is not a matter of getting something. It’s often a matter of getting rid of something: the thing that is causing chaos, and not by solving it but by loosening your grip, by lightening your own heart. tell a friend
3. Connecting with compassion.
It’s difficult to let go of what we’re holding when shame is involved. We might bash ourselves for being stuck, or get angry with ourselves for not having been able to let go and move on sooner. Not only are we not showing up for ourselves, but we’re ensuring that we don’t move forward.
Compassion is a practice too, a skill that can be built no matter who you are or what your past looks like.
Try to see every attachment as a call for compassion. In your meditations, wish for an end to your suffering, and let that loving awareness evolve into a wish for the end of the suffering of others. You can begin with others if it’s easier for you.
As you focus on warming your heart, attachments start to melt and you’re granted a little wiggle room. Your awareness grows. Instead of dwelling on what you’re trying to let go, you focus on loving anyway. You see others’ suffering, and your suffering is suddenly not so different or all-encompassing.
Through compassionate practices, even if it’s just sitting and thinking about how we can send love to others, we free ourselves from the chains that keep us from loving deeper and wider. We can extend our reach and touch others with kindness, even if we’re not perfect. We connect with others and suddenly see how we’re not so alone.When our inner state is clear, we can better serve the world outside of us, because we are not so busy fighting the problems that live inside of us. tell the world
Which of these letting go practices do you think can help you? What is it you’d like to move through?
Share your version of letting go (without losing the lessons) and any stories of a shift with me in the comments.
Share these ideas with someone else who’s seeking peace, and remind them of what they’re capable of.
Every irritant contains what’s necessary for polishing. Every heartbreak, frustration, and disappointment harbors a useful piece of information. When we soften our views, we let go of what keeps us from leaning in and discovering something worthwhile right in the middle of pain.