Seek and release all that is in the way. ~Rumi
Let’s jump right in with the big question: What’s in your way, dear friend, on your path to even greater evolution?
May this be your starting point of inquiry. Coach with me, and I’ll probably ask you this question, in some form or another, early on. This is because I believe we must release to evolve! To reveal even more of your unique essence, one must break free of unhelpful patterns, people, routines, thoughts, or feelings, and step into the full truth of who you are.
Sadly, it seems, we often focus so much on things in our life not being better that we can’t let go and simply allow ourselves to remain stuck. Now breathe. Feel into that for a sweet, contemplative moment. It’s true, isn’t it? We sometimes care way too much about our disappointments, and hyper-focus energy there. We do this rather than concentrate on what we desire to generate in our lives. Disappointment locks you into the past. The ticket to growth and evolution includes the invitation to let go of, release, or get over that which has brought disappointment. Doing so jump-starts a momentum in the direction of what you desire.
Forms of Letting Go
So, what are you called to release? Do you seek to let go of elements of your past? Of a toxic relationship? Of control? Of anger? Of resistance? Of a painful experience? Of someone you love? Of a prized possession? Of an uncomfortable thought? The opportunities are endless, the growth potential enormous.
Letting go, I’ve discovered, is the first essential step to transforming any chosen aspect of yourself or your life. Knowing what you don’t want puts you all the closer to what you long for. One of my favorite teachings that highlights this idea can be found in the work of C.S. Lewis, and especially resonates in this quote often attributed to him: “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” Powerful, yes? Reaching up and grabbing those monkey bars, whenever I see them in a park, has become something I now can never resist!
Monkey Bar Magic
When your grip is tightly closed around some aspect of your life, you are exhibiting the energy of control, or even perhaps distrust. When you cling to someone or some circumstance, for instance, you create a breeding ground for rigidity, anxiety, or personal paralysis. One can’t successfully cross monkey bars unless you first surrender to the release and then swing forward, flowing bar to bar. It’s a one-moment-at-a-time kind of prize — the joy of immersing oneself in the present instant.
Nature is my greatest teacher when it comes to the art of leaning back and letting go. There’s no need to mess with nature — no need for control. The process of growth, the changing of seasons, it all simply unfolds. Left to its own accord, a flower blooms into its fullest, most satisfying form. Water it too much, and nature is interrupted by the intervening. The lesson: less action, more surrender. Letting go creates space for the universe to unfold — the universe within as well as the universe outside of yourself.
Release that monkey bar grip and you are drawn forward as well. Follow your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses. Head downstream instead of trying to paddle upstream. Embrace change; it’s a natural condition of existence. Let what is seeding within you grow into new form. Accept that which is your inherent nature. Then release all that is in excess. As one Chinese proverb goes: “A bird can roost but on one branch.”
I’ve discovered, both as part of my own process and that which I offer clients, the intoxicating joy that comes with letting go of what holds one back. The nectar is so, so sweet there. Tend tenderly to your garden. Weed out the unnecessary — all thoughts, feelings, and ways of being that constrict or suffocate you. This is what a devoted master gardener of personal growth and self-expansion is all about.
Here’s an example of how I work with myself to release an emotion that may be causing me some suffering. First, I let myself become fully aware of the challenging feeling. I label the feeling — “I’m feeling angry,” for instance. I try to remember to not say “I am angry,” because I am not anger. I’m simply feeling that emotion.
Next, I allow myself to notice where the feeling is being held in my body. Doing this helps me stay with it. Noticing where an emotion lands in your body also helps you recognize it sooner the next time. This is because our bodies often register things before we are consciously aware of them. So, noting the emotion, I try to relax into it for just a minute or two. I actually welcome it in.
When you can cognitively take control by inviting an emotion in, you avoid possible resistance and the problems it can create. The likelihood of the feeling going underground, or being disguised in defensiveness or avoidant activities, lessens tremendously. When you can welcome and “stay with” a feeling, it typically releases sooner than later. I liken it to a wave: the emotion momentarily rises, then gently recedes once attended to. Making the darkness conscious, though not always easy, has great rewards.
The more you can deeply feel your emotions — while at the same time remembering you are not them — the more confident, calm, clear, courageous, and connected you will feel. These are the states of whole-hearted living. We can experience whole-hearted living when we allow ourselves to embrace all of ourselves, including both our uplifting feelings and our more challenging ones.
As for letting go of painful or disturbing thoughts — cognitive baggage that can’t help but bring you down — one process I love is that created by author Byron Katie. She suggests asking yourself four simple questions when haunted by disturbing thoughts: Is it true? Is it really true? How would you feel if it wasn’t true? And lastly, what’s a thought that is the reverse of the original one?
Engaging in these simple steps is guaranteed to facilitate the opening of fresh perspectives and wider horizons. Challenging your own thought process offers massive self-empowerment. Doing so can greatly lessen unnecessary suffering. This is because from new vantage points, you can more easily let go of that which no longer serves you.
There is additional magic here as well. You’ve probably noticed how, when your thoughts shift, so do whatever feelings accompanied those ideas. New revelations open rapidly when you can observe your thoughts as simply energy, as dancing vibrations. One can always learn new dance steps. You can always change your energy.
Turn Away to Turn Toward It
Letting go keeps us ever-awake to the present. The present moment is all we ever really have, so be there now. Attend to it. Accept what is. Then deliberately turn your attention to where you’re going, not where you’ve been. Your power to create your very best, most magnificent life rests in a devoted forward focus!
This article was also published in The Brick Magazine.