My life lesson for today is letting go. This seems like the lesson I keep having to relearn every few weeks or so. I’ve discovered that when I begin to focus on particular outcomes, all sorts of holding on shows up in me; muscles get tight, my thoughts obsessively focus on one thing, my perspective becomes narrower, I become judgmental. These are my clues that it’s time to let go.
For me the issues that circle around letting go are trust, patience, and fear. I have trouble trusting that what I need will show up when it’s time. And while I’m waiting for things to come my way I get impatient. That waiting then brings up the fear that what I want will never actually arrive. This, of course, reinforces my reluctance to trust and I’m off onto another trip around that cycle; lack of trust – impatience – fear – lack of trust – impatience – fear….
We all find ourselves on these sorts of vicious cycles from time to time. And when we’re not aware of them they can cause plenty of suffering. (Even when we are aware they can cause plenty of suffering). But I’m grateful that I’ve begun seeing this cycle in myself. Awareness provides the opportunity to step out of a cycle, change our thoughts and beliefs around these issues and thereby change our experience.
When I really look at my life I can see many ways in which the universe has provided just what I’ve needed. It’s provided jobs when I’ve needed them. It’s brought people into my life just when I needed them (I’m thinking particularly of my wife and son but I could make a long list of friends and acquaintances who have shown up in my life at the right time too). It’s brought teachers when I’m ready for them. It’s brought opportunities for me to learn and grow when I am ready for them. I have plenty of evidence that the universe is trustworthy.
My impatience is really at the crux of my issue of letting go, or in this case, not letting go. Wanting things when I want them is a way of stopping the natural flow of events and denying the present. Accepting the present as it is is the first step in moving beyond it. Eckhart Tolle says, “Whatever we resist, persists.” Caroline Myss says that the more psychological weight that is attached to something, the longer we must wait for it to change. I’ve had numerous experiences recently in which I’ve wanted something to happen. I became attached to a particular outcome. And just when I “gave up” and let go of that outcome, what I was waiting for came to pass. My energy of grasping kept it at bay.
Fear is probably the deepest and most primal issue we have. When we become aware of the many ways fear can show up in life, we begin to see it all around. Stinginess, accusation, lack of curiosity, feeling stuck or trapped, blaming, avoidance, the need to be right, judgment, these can all be connected to fear.
What is it we’re so fearful about? The part of our brain that looks for fear is the oldest and most primal part. The multi-million-year-old “lizard brain” in us (otherwise known as the amygdala) developed a heightened alertness to danger in order to keep us alive. It helped us know when to run and when to hide. It’s programmed to find things to fear and it does its job very well. Even though we’re pretty safe most of the time now, it’s still working on overtime.
I appreciate the efforts of my amygdala and don’t want to get rid of it. But I do want to educate it and encourage it to trust my other senses. Loosening its grip will help me to loosen my grip and get me back to flowing with life instead of against it.
Here are some strategies that can help us let go, trust, be patient, and less fearful.
• A 30-day journal in which we daily list all the things the universe has provided for our growth.
• Take a couple of deep, meditative breaths and become aware of the impatience, grasping or craving we are feeling. Don’t try to change that feeling, just experience it with an observer’s mind. It will dissipate on it’s own if given the chance. (Remember: resisting results in persisting). Do the same with fear.
• Begin a practice of generosity. Frequently find ways to give to or help others without any sense of wanting something in return. You will be amazed at what comes back to you.