“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; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.” ~Ajahn Chah
Most of the time, we’re so connected to holding on that we forget the energetic price tag of doing that. Here’s a way to bring that lesson home. Tightly clench both hands. Even after 20 seconds, you’ll notice how tiring it is to do this. It doesn’t really matter what we’re holding on to, a relationship, a job, or a material possession─ it all takes energy.
And as the clenched hand exercise illustrates so well, you can’t reach out or grasp anything new when your hands are in fists!
Why We Don’t Let Go:
There are many, many reasons why we don’t let go. Sometimes it means facing our grief or other challenging emotions. For example, we might not want to let go of a relationship because then we’d have to face our fear of being lonely. Or we might not want to let go of job because we’d feel worried about money.
It’s really helpful to identify these emotions. Here’s a sentence completion exercise that will help you identify what emotion is holding you back. Finish this sentence with the first thing that comes to mind.
“If I let go of (fill in your situation) I’d have to face my _________________.
Once you’ve identified the emotion that’s holding things up, practice letting that emotion go all by itself. Just for now. As in the above illustration, the person who’s worried about facing their loneliness could practice saying, “I let go of my worry about feeling lonely. For now.”
I use the phrase ‘for now’ because we can only work with ourselves in the present tense.
It helps to remind yourself that all things change. All things. Winter isn’t a failure because spring is here. Change is the natural rhythm of things. In my experience, more damage is done by holding on to things too long than by letting go of something too early.
A Behaviour Modification Technique:
Here is a technique you will find helpful. Write a phrase or few sentences about something you’d like to let go of. Eg: “This situation at work” or “My feelings about D.” Now, scrunch up that paper and burn it or throw it away or rip it into pieces. There’s something powerful about putting things into action like this that helps.
Letting Go in Stages:
Another thing that will help you let go is to do it in stages. Start with a little, then work up to something larger. Like any muscle, letting go is a skill that gets easier with practice. I find this particularly helpful with thoughts and emotions that I need to release. I’ll just ask myself to let go for an hour. Or an afternoon. Or a day….. It feels much easier to do.
Beyond Letting Go:
It also helps to focus on what might live on the other side of Letting Go: a new, more responsive relationship, a better job, a more spacious house. Even if there’s no sign of it right now, keep use the energy of the vision to pull you forward.
And remember, I’m always here to give you ideas and support if you need it.