We’ve all had to let go of things at some point or another, whether it’s a pet, a friend, boyfriend, or simply graduating high school. We are constantly ending chapters in order to start new chapters.
Though age and experience can make it a little easier to let go and move forward, completely letting go and allowing ourselves to heal and look to the future with optimism and excitement can be difficult to achieve. Our tendency can be to focus on “what used to be” and idealistically hold on to the past as if it had everything we ever wanted.
The problem with this, however, is that it ultimately causes more suffering. It doesn’t encourage growth and it doesn’t help us move forward. We have to learn how to find a balance between grieving as we need to and focusing on where we are now and what we want to have that we couldn’t before.
It is human nature to become too attached to things or people. And it can be very difficult to find out how to let go from these attachments even if we know that they are not good for us. Buddha even went so far as saying that our addictive behaviour is the root of all suffering. But why is it so difficult to let go? Why is it so hard to give up a bad habit or an ex-lover? The truth is that most of us suffer from a feeling of inner emptiness that we are trying to fill up with our various attachments – often without much success. One person may eat too much, another may cling to an unloving partner while a third may get addicted to social media. But none of this can fill our inner emptiness.
How can we learn to let go?
The first step to letting go is to take a good, hard look at the things and people that we are so attached to. Do they really fill that nagging sense of inner emptiness? Is our ex-lover really this wonderful person that we make them out to be?
It is amazing how much we can deceive ourselves, believing that things and people will bring us happiness when, in reality, it was never the case. In other words, we need to burst the fantasy bubble that we have built around our addictive clinging and then we need to make a decision to give it up.
We can do this in a number of different ways depending on your own personal preference.
You can write down your thoughts and feelings about this in a journal. If you are trying to let go of a person (either with a breakup or the person’s passing), you can write them a letter sharing all the things that you valued about the relationship and then you can either send it or keep it for yourself. If the person or pet has passed, you could create a little ritual out of it by leaving the letter in a place that reminds you of that person.
If you’re not much into writing, you could also create a photo album or scrapbook to help yourself continue to cherish those memories. This can be a nice way to “organize our pieces of the past” into one activity.
Cry when you need to
Know that it’s okay to grieve. Your body and soul knows when it needs to grieve… trust that it will come up when it needs to. And allow it to come out when you feel it come up rather than whether it is “socially appropriate.” Focus on what you need rather than whether it will “make other people uncomfortable.” Take care of yourself — be your own emotionally nurturing mother in this way.
Face the emptiness
The next step is to face the emptiness that will appear once we try to give up a bad habit or a person who does not want to be with us. Doing this needs courage but I will now tell you a technique that will make this step easier. When temptation strikes we simply sit down comfortably and relax our whole body and mind. You will notice that the sense of craving is like a contraction in your mind that you can relax and release with every out-breath.
Wrap yourself in love
Then we envelop ourselves with love like a loving mother would cradle an unsettled child. In that way, we give ourselves the very thing that we have wrongly expected from our addictive habits. Only love can fill our inner emptiness and we can get this love directly from ourselves. And once we feel this inner fulfilment it will be much easier to let go and invite healthier habits and people into our life.
A bubble of love
Once we are filled up with love, we envelop the object or person of our temptation with a bubble of love as well and let this bubble slowly drift away until it gradually disappears into the distance. If this is difficult, we simply remember vividly all the negative consequences that will happen if we carry on clinging.
Focus on what you are gaining
When one door closes another door opens. Whether it be the end of a relationship, job, or the unfortunate passing of someone that you love.
Ask yourself: What can I now create for myself in my relationships or career? Where can I move? What can I do that I haven’t done before? Focus on the possibilities. Dream big. Start to write yourself a bucket list or vision board and begin to make plans to make that a reality.
Ultimately, remember that tomorrow is a new day and life is a journey. And even though some days may be very difficult, know that each new day brings the opportunity for a completely new experience. Start each new day fresh and looking forward to all the new opportunities. Be positive!
Remember: If it is the end of a relationship or the passing of someone close to you, chances are there will always be a small part of you deep within your soul that will always grieve because you miss them. This is okay! The trick here is to not focus so heavily on it that it drags you down.
The keys to letting go
The essence of the art of letting go is truthfulness, relaxation and love.
When negotiating life’s twists and turns, it’s easy to get bogged down by our past experiences and things that have gone wrong in our lives. Fear and worry can be the main drivers of our existence and, without us realizing it, they can slowly destroy our happiness and our health.
Learning the art of letting go is the answer to living a fulfilling and productive life. This doesn’t mean not acknowledging the trials and tribulations of our own reality. Quite the contrary, it means reflecting on them in a way that helps us to digest what has happened, extract the life lessons, and then put them behind us.
Risk is your friend
When you’ve been burned before, whether in a relationship, a friendship, or a job, it’s easy to shun similar situations to avoid getting hurt again. Fear stops us from living a full life. It prevents us from reaching our full potential because we miss opportunities in order to remain safe. We worry that whatever we have suffered will repeat itself and so we avoid taking chances. Risk is necessary if we hope to push our own boundaries and discover what life has to offer beyond the mundane. Wisdom comes from experience and taking into consideration our past helps us to make calculated risks. The art of letting go turns fear into intention. It gets us out of our own head and our own way. Often, our fears and worries are just in our mind and letting these go by facing our anxiety head on makes us feel accomplished and courageous. It leads us to greater achievements.
Learning from failure
Failing means you have tried. Although failure can sometimes have a huge impact on our confidence, security, safety, and even our finances, that doesn’t mean that failure is necessarily a bad thing. Our failures are where our life lessons lie. If we reflect on what went wrong, we are less likely to repeat the same pattern. If we do, we are better prepared to handle the outcome. We needn’t dwell on our failures to take away the most valuable information that can inform our future decisions. We just need to properly acknowledge them and understand the reality. Then, commit to letting go.
Living in the moment
Obsessing about the past or anticipating the future too much distracts us from what is right in front of us. It is important to analyze what we have been through so that it can contribute to what we do next and it is always necessary to have some sort of forward planning to guide our life’s trajectory. However, the here and now is the most important, and really the only, thing that we have. Letting go requires us to be mindful about the present; to enjoy each day and each moment as it happens by quieting the noise in our minds long enough to open our intuition. If you have adequately recounted what has been and have suitably deliberated about what will come, then it is time to just be and to surrender and accept life’s inevitabilities.
Trust is key
Letting go is all about trust — trusting your own decisions and instincts about what is best for you. When you have done all the ground work and developed your perceptiveness about how to strive for your goals and build your achievements, letting go becomes second nature. The hardest thing to do is to surrender control in life. We all want to hold onto the reins of our lives tightly and to be able to steer our destiny in the direction we desire. We like to think that we determine what happens to us and that the outcome of our life’s challenges, are our responsibility alone. Letting go feels like losing control, but it isn’t. It is actually assuming complete control, not of what happens to us, but how we survive it.
And that is the key to a happy and healthy life.