Freedom is Found in Letting Go
“The beautiful journey of today can only begin when we learn to let go of yesterday.” ~ Steve Maraboli
Life is a process of letting go.
When we let go of our destructive thoughts and habitual reactions, our expectations and desires, and circumstances we can’t control, we can dramatically increase the joy and inner peace in our lives.
I know it’s easy to say and I know from experience that letting go is really hard work.
Many of us get stuck thinking about a past lover, a job loss, or replaying today’s argument with our friend or spouse over and over again. We want to let it go but we just can’t seem to to release it. When we let go of fear, guilt, doubt, anger or whatever else we are hanging on to, there is the fear of living without this. Sometimes we say we are ready to let go but we aren’t. We have to get comfortable of living with uncertainty that something wonderful will fill the space of what once was there. It requires faith.
I hung on to a past life, wishing for what was, for many years. I was so incredibly resistant to letting go of the past until one day it hit me that reliving the experiences over and over again in my mind were not only draining my energy and causing me ongoing heartache, but this ‘hanging on to what was’ was also preventing happiness and inner peace from entering my life. It was keeping me from Freedom.
As I reflect on the experiences that created a seismic upheaval in my life, the only thing I know for certain is that life changes and we have a choice to either move with the flow of life or resist it and create additional suffering for ourselves.
The Buddha makes a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is unavoidable. Pain is the first arrow that hits your heart out of nowhere. This first arrow could be death of a loved one or the loss of a job or relationship. Pain, whether it is physical or emotional, happens. Pain is part of being alive. It is unavoidable.
But our suffering comes from the second arrow that we shoot ourselves with. That suffering is optional. When pain hits us do we shut down and fold within, do we lash out or blame others? How we respond to what’s happening in our lives will affect how much we suffer.
Why do we shoot ourselves with the second arrow of suffering? This happens because our ego, disguised as false pride, keeps us from letting go. It is our belief we are right, that we are alone, that we are in control, that keeps us fighting and creating more resistance. When we acknowledge the work of the ego and surrender to it, we start flowing with life.
Letting go creates a beautiful energy that allows peace, harmony and joy to flow into our life. And when we let go we create space for the Universe to begin its plan for our lives, which is bigger than we could ever dream.
Letting go is difficult but it can happen if you make a conscious effort to release the past. This includes releasing regret, resentment, grudges, bitterness, and anything else that was hurtful.
Here are a few of the steps I used to let go and find peace:
– Meditation: A regular practice will help bring you back into the present instead of focusing on the past.
– Acceptance: Take time to accept what happened. This was just one chapter in your life and does not define who you are.
– Reflect: Take time to reflect on what happened and your role in the situation. Try to see where you could have done things differently. This can be very empowering!
– Feeling Windows: Before you let go you have to feel the feelings. I worked so hard not to feel the pain that it seeped out at the most inopportune times.
– Cry it out: Crying is not weakness. Crying cathartic and releases harmful chemical created by negative thoughts that build up in the body due to stress. Make space to feel your feelings.
– Gratitude: Learning to give thanks for the people that pass through our lives and the lessons experienced will help you find freedom.
– Interrupt the thought: When you thinking starts to spiral back to the past interrupt the through by thinking of anything with Love. Think of your child, your dog, anything that moves you and fills your heart with feelings of love.
– Separate the truth from the stories: We all create stories in our head based on our filters and judgments that distort the facts. When I got wrapped in my thoughts I’d ask myself what is the actual truth here?
– Release with words : Writing letters to the people who have hurt you can help in letting go. You don’t need to send them. Remember letting go is for you. I burnt the letters I wrote and mixed the ashes in my garden soil where each spring flowers grow. This is a great reminder that beauty can come from heartache.
– Visual cues: Paint a sign that reads, “Permission granted to let go.” Hang it where you can see it every day.
Letting go has no downside. But it does take vulnerability and courage to take that first step. The rewards of increased energy, joy and freedom will make it well worth the effort.
What can you can let go of today?