Updated: Oct 23, 2019
Ah, letting go. Probably one of the most disliked sentiments in today's society. Why don't you just let it go? Why let it bother you? Let that shit go?
All those wonderful phrases that people throw out at you when you are having a moment. I don't know about you but I tend to find it infuriating and used to want to scream, "and how *exactly* do you want me to let it go?". It's bothering me, it's unjust, it's caused me to have this response for a reason, I can't just ignore it and surely that isn't what you're suggesting?! Oh, but didn't you know our job is to remain "zen" and "unphased" and "allow things to flow like a river"? Since when? Since when do we have to pretend that things don't irritate, anger, or sadden us? Perhaps though, like so many people say, we have to use it like a righteous anger and smite the injustice? Act. Do. Protest. Become the change we want to see in the world. Maybe we do. That isn't a bad thing. But what happens if we desire a more private action or inward approach? What if all we want to do is to sit with it and figure out our own way through in the confines of our own solitude? What do we do then? What we don't do is ignore it. These feelings came to us for valid expression and to move through and past us. They are temporary and tell us that, in that exact moment, something is not right and we need to spend some time figuring out what we, as individuals and as a collective, plan to do about it.
When these feeling arise it is an indication that we need to sit and ask ourselves some questions like:
|| Why am I feeling this way?
|| Do I require myself to take action?
|| What action is appropriate for me *right now*? Once we know the answers to these questions we can make a conscious choice on what and how we are going to move forward. There will be moments where we decide that we don't need to take action or that the best response for us is to "let it go". What, then, do we do now? Firstly let's change the language. Letting go sounds insipid and as though we are negating ourselves and the energy that caused our reaction. Releasing is another phrase that I find is overused and can often causes people to wince but it is part of the process and is the second step.
What we need to do first is to ALLOW. By allowing we give the feelings we are experiencing free expression to move beyond us in a constructive manner and identify that these have helped us to identify a lack with ourselves or without our community. Allowing is forgiving so that whatever it is we are feeling no longer has control over us. This is the truth of letting go. When someone says to us "let it go" what they are actually asking of us is to be free of the feeling that is currently in control of our body, our mind, and our soul.
How do we allow? Allowing is a conscious choice and a state of being. Imagine this: You are driving around in a carpark looking for a free spot when you see someone loading groceries into their car. You pull up and wait patiently, indicating all the while. They finish, start their car, reverse from said space and drive off. Just as you put your car in gear and start to move forward a heinous crime is committed and the car park thief strikes! It's infuriating, right? It boils your blood and makes you want to ram your car into the rear of the impertinent arrogant son of a *beep* that dared, DARED, to park in your spot when clearly they could see your indicator! Oh the rage. The infuriation. The viciousness that seeps from your very eyeballs as you stare, enraged and disbelieving as they casually pull in as if you were completely invisible.
It is at this point that you have a decision to make: In a split second you make a decision do I act or do I allow? Do I jump from my car as if overtaken by the rage of Hellboy himself and spit fire and venom at this dirtbag who is clearly devoid of moral standing or do I allow this to wash over me and wave sarcastically, "thank you... Jerk." and move on with my day? By allowing the feelings we have coursing through us to pass and make a conscious choice in how we use them we are diffusing the effect and control they have over us.
This is "letting go". It is in that moment that we may choose the civil route, "excuse me", you lean from the window, "I was waiting for that car park and you may not have seen me. I wanted to let you know so you could be aware for next time. Have a good day" might be what you choose if overlooking the behaviour is not your style. Please be aware I am not suggesting that we turn the other cheek and constantly allow unacceptable behaviour. We all have a responsibility to step up and speak out when we see others acting from a place of selfishness or insensitivity. Once we have allowed these intense feelings fair and free passage we can release what isn't serving us.
Releasing is the second phase of the full expression and without it we are merely letting the world move over us. This is the aspect that says, I have allowed these feelings and identified the deeper emotions that are at play. I have done the work to reprogram and evaluate what is detrimental to my progress and now I am ready to be rid of them. Releasing is the actual mental act of changing our mindset. We can think, "yes, I will no longer do that" and then the next time we find ourselves in that situation we default back to our old ways. When we release we are identifying a mental shift - a conscious choice - that what we are doing is no longer in our interest and so we will make a conscious effort to change. How do we release? It is different for everyone, I believe the trick is to create something tangible as a reminder of this mental shift. Some people talk of a ritual or ceremony, releasing to the moon, the sun, a specific deity, or through a meditation or movement. Releasing does not have to be any of those things. You may wish to weave yourself a bracelet that you wear constantly as a reminder of your new choice. You may write a note to yourself on a bathroom mirror so you are reminded each time you gaze at your reflection. You may choose a specific graphic that represents your new choice and have it as the home screen on your phone. How ever you choose to do it is entirely personal and up to you. To give you a "non spiritual" example. Complete strangers tell me things. As in, I can be standing at a bus stop and some old dear will strike up a conversation with me and suddenly I find myself listening to the disappointment they have in society today, or their child, or their grandchildren, and so on. I used to feel like I had to listen, like it was rude if I didn't. It started to affect me negatively until someone said, do you have a shit umbrella? Intrigued, I listened. A shit umbrella, I was informed, was an imaginary umbrella that I could put up so that other people's shit couldn't stick to me. Ohhh, I thought. Excellent! This image became the wallpaper for my mobile phone for years afterwards as a constant reminder to "put up my shit umbrella"...
There was no ritual or ceremony when I did this. There was no dancing under a full moon or praying to a deity. There was no one else involved and no promises made and witnessed. No priests or priestesses were involved either.
It was just me. A decision. And Google. You may choose to listen to a particular song that speaks to you. Or repeat a particular mantra as you travel to work each day. Whatever you choose to do to release your outdated programming and allow for change will be perfect for you. So the next time someone says, "just let it go" resist the urge to punch then in the nose (I am always an advocate of deep breaths here) and remember:
Allow the feelings to pass.
Identify why you are feeling as you are. Release what no longer serves you. And you have mastered the art of "letting go".