Thursday, May 17, 2012

Letting Go


Sometimes letting go feels like the most difficult, painful process in life. In fact, we let go effortlessly all the time.

We breathe in. We let go of the breath. We can't help it. We can't think about it, at least not for very long. Breathing in and letting go of breath is life itself.

The truth is that, in order to grow we must let go of things and people and places and ways of self-identification.

One of the problems we face in letting go is the fear of losing control. In practicing and teaching watercolor, the issue of control is a big factor. Watercolor is a great teacher of learning to deal with control issues and those lessons carry over into life in general. However, life always brings new challenges that offer us opportunities to grow even further and learn to let go even more.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” ― Ann Landers
The idea that we have control over anything is merely a self-comforting illusion. We can learn to control our own behavior and change our own patterns of thought that lead to reaction but that's about it.

When I forget that I'm not in control, one potential result is that I experience tremendous anxiety. It's an inherited trait and learned behavior that I swore I'd never succumb to. Oh, well. The follies of youth.

Thomas Merton said that "Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity." How true.

My Aunt Nancy kept a Ziggy cartoon on her refrigerator that read, "Let go and let God."

Regardless of your belief system and the fact that it's so easy to forget, it really is as simple as that. Why do we make it so difficult?

Letting go of things, people, and situations is one thing. Letting go of ways in which we cling to particular identities is another. One of my favorite books is Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying by Ram Dass (one of my favorite people.) Here's a passage:
"Letting go of personal history doesn't mean denying it; it means not allowing it to color the present moment with past experience. For example, I used to say, "I'm a golfer, and a sports car driver." That's my personal history. But now I'm someone telling that story. I can't golf or drive anymore. If I cling to that identity, I suffer. I can still tell stories, but I have to tell them without becoming the person I was when I golfed and drove cars. The things I did were exciting to that person, but they don't grip me in the same way. I have let go. You can bring your past up to your consciousness and look at it with the eyes of the present. Any memory can be captivating, but you have to bring it back to who you are in the present to nullify its grip on you.

"Unless we make a conscious effort to live with "beginner's mind," coming to each experience fresh, we find that the accumulation of our years can become a ball and chain."
One of the first orders of business in getting your life in order is to clear your clutter and let go of stuff.

One of the first orders of business in letting go of frustrations with yourself and your life is to learn a new skill instead of dwelling on skills you never mastered.

Do some conscious breathing. Almost immediately, you'll discover tension. Breath consciously until you feel how effortless it really is.

Then throw something out that you haven't used in a year. Give something else away. Learn a new skill. Start a practice of letting go to make room for the new and unexpected.

Here's an opportunity to learn a few new skills
and transform yourself in the process!

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