I have been practicing letting go a lot lately. It’s a fairly vague and at the same time broad topic, and yet it is simple in explanation. Letting go most often refers to letting go of the outcome, whether you let go before the outcome happens or after the result is in and it’s not what you expected. Letting go of how things turn out is incredibly helpful for reducing anxiety. And if you are like me, and I suspect that you are given that so many people are anxious about stuff in life, you try to reduce your anxiety. You might even work really hard to be less anxious. You meditate. You are mindful during the day. You breathe deeply and relax your shoulders. And yet you are still anxious about things that are coming up in the future, like a meeting, or a big event, or a tough conversation or just getting somewhere on time. So you tell yourself over and over (because it is a practice) to let go of that anxiety. That certainly is a good practice and I do encourage you to continue to practice releasing and letting go of the anxiety. However, have you ever considered letting go of the pressure of telling yourself not be so anxious all the time? That may sound confusing, but hear me out.
When you relax your thinking around what is the right way to be in life, you are truly practicing the concept of letting go. When you put parameters around how you should and should not be in life and say to yourself things like, “I should be less anxious,” you are setting yourself up for greater suffering. When you notice the “should” in your self-thoughts, you’ll have a clue to where you are pressuring yourself needlessly. If instead you recognize that you are anxious, acknowledge it, then just let it be, you might find some softening in your relationship to that anxiety.
This morning as I was reading Jack Kornfield’s The Wise Heart, I was struck by the concept of living with “what is” regardless of the positive, negative or neutral emotions you are experiencing. I tend to want to fix things—particularly things like physical aches and pains and emotional states that are uncomfortable. But what if instead of trying to fix them I just let them be? What if I let go of the need to fix and release some of the straining to make changes? What if I say that it’s ok to be anxious, it’s ok to have a sore neck, its ok to be human in a human body? There is relief with letting go of what I think is the right way to be. Some of the pains actually lessen and some of the emotional discomfort simply melts away. I can still take other actions to reduce the pains with physical therapy or other means. But loosening the hold of the mind beliefs that I shouldn’t have aches and I shouldn’t have anxiety goes a long way to reduce suffering.
It helps if you find a quiet moment to stop running around, take some deep cleansing breaths and calm yourself. When you are busy and moving at lightening speeds, you are likely to be reactive without realizing it and your reaction will be something that you are in the habit of doing, like clenching your body and getting stressed out. Slowing down and taking a pause will give you space to acknowledge your body sensations, feelings and emotions. Then without making those sensations, feelings and emotions right or wrong, just sit side by side with them and let them be seen, let them be heard. Gradually and with practice the thoughts of how you should be will not be as important. Gradually you will let go. Gradually the suffering lessens and the joy for life has a chance of showing up.
May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from suffering. May you live life with ease.