I have written about letting go before. Although the phrase has many implications, my focus has often been on relaxing concern with the outcome of things. You don’t have much control over results even though you think you do and try so hard to take control. But when you let go before the outcome happens or after the result is in and it’s not what you expected, you will feel so much better. While I was thinking about my intentions for this new year, the phrase letting go kept coming to the forefront of my mind. I realized my attitude towards letting go has shifted to be more expansive and I think more helpful for me. Perhaps this perspective will be freeing to you as well. And as always, it is a practice.
Letting go…of what? That is where the juice is in this phrase. There are different realms with which you can practice letting go. I like to start with the physical realm. Letting go of tension is my first line of offense against stress and anxiety and probably why I like the phrase letting go so much. If my body is tight and holding onto tension, releasing really helps to calm me. Letting go of tension in the face and jaw is not easy for me. At night I clench my jaw as do many others. I’ve read that the number of people who are getting mouth guards to help alleviate jaw clenching while sleeping has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic. I practice relaxing my eyes, face and jaw regularly during the day in hopes that at night my practice will pay off and I will clench less.
I am a big fan of progressive relaxation which is essentially moving from your toes to your head or, my preferred route, from your head to your toes slowly relaxing each body part. I like to say softly to myself the words letting go as I exhale and release a different area in my body. Let go of shoulder tension. Let my belly soften and let go. If I am walking let go of my breath and take a deep exhale as I release my shoulders back and open my heart. If I am sitting release and let my hands rest gently on my thighs. Feel my butt and thighs let go against the cushion or chair. Feel my feet planted on the ground and let go of leg tension. Always relax and let go of the breath.
Moving through the body to regularly relax and let go provides the opening to expand your letting go beyond the body. This is where I have been finding so much more deep serenity. I must first let go physically and then I notice what unhelpful thoughts I am holding onto in my mind. These thoughts are a form of suffering. Then I can practice letting go of my thoughts. Sometimes after physically letting go and being in a calm and peaceful state it doesn’t feel like a practice of letting go of thoughts but rather an arrival of a softening towards the world. A softening towards my suffering and the suffering of others.
But it is still a practice. I am constantly practicing the physical letting go so that I can move to the next level for myself of letting go of mental clinging and suffering. This morning as I was walking and relaxing into my body I felt such a lightness of not caring while so completely caring and loving the world. In a moment, although fleeting, I felt as if I could do anything I want and it didn’t matter and also it mattered so much. I felt soft and light on my feet, floating through the sunny cold morning. It was kind of like “think globally, act locally” landed in my body. I knew in that moment that as long as I am being true to my personal values of giving and receiving “Love, Beauty and Peace” I have no more I must do. I will write if I want to. I will paint if I want to. And I will give and receive love. What a relief. My body softens even more with this realization. So it’s a spiral of starting with physical letting go that leads to letting go of thoughts that leads to greater letting go of the body. And that enables me to move forward in the world with a greater opening of the heart to all creatures great and small. That is the wonder of the practice of letting go.