How Do You Know It’s Time to Let Go?

Via Eric Klein
on May 20, 2013
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Why do patterns hold on?

The patterns of identification that limit us weren’t always limiting. They were adaptive.

If you grew up in a threatening environment, learning how to fly under the radar was adaptive. Playing small and keeping quiet protected you.

The pattern protected you.

But your life has changed. You’ve matured. The world you live in is not that of your childhood. But the pattern persists.

It doesn’t have any other choice. Because the pattern is not self-aware. It cannot turn around in consciousness and witness itself. It needs you to do that.

And as long as you are unconsciously identified with the pattern, you can’t witness it.

Unobserved patterns continue to generate thoughts, speech, actions, and results that conform with the needs of the pattern. Not the needs of your life-as-a-whole. Yes, the pattern cannot embrace your life-as-a-whole. Its horizon of awareness is limited, focused on its own emotional needs.

And, as long as you don’t witness patterns—the pattern’s limited horizon of awareness will continue to define your life.

Building your witnessing capacity is the key that opens the door of freedom.

Through the practice of meditation, you build witnessing capacity. As you practice, you observe how the mind drifts from the object of meditation . . . and re-attaches itself to the familiar patterns.

But rather than becoming lost in that identification, you return your attention to the object of meditation.

Rather than allow the mind to drift into habitual patterns of thought and emotion, you re-center gently, gently, gently on the object of meditation.

What are you really doing?

You’re cultivating witnessing capacity.

As your witnessing capacity develops, your identification with patterns releases. The consciousness and energy that has been fragmented and spent fueling the patterns is freed. In that letting go, you re-discover yourself as freedom, as consciousness.

You are not a pattern of consciousness—you are, fundamentally, consciousness itself.

With each meditation, you become more and more capable of witnessing the patterns and more and more able to rest in the un-patterned presence.

So, why do patterns hold on?

Because they are waiting for you to witness and infuse them with loving awareness.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel


About Eric Klein

Eric Klein is one of the few people on the planet who is both a lineage holder in a 5,000-year-old yoga lineage and a best-selling business book author. You can get his free ebook & guided meditation audio "The 7 Reasons Meditation Doesn't Work (and how to fix them)" at Eric has worked with over 35,000 people to infuse greater meaning, awareness, and purpose into their work and lives. His book "You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For" won a 2008 Nautilus Book Award for being “a world-changing book promoting positive social change and responsible leadership.” With his wife and partner Devi, Eric is also the creator of the Healing Family Karma programs and The Meditation Habit. Eric and Devi have two adult sons, a ball-obsessed pup, and live in Encinitas, California. To learn more about their work (and access free teaching videos on meditation and mantra), go to


10 Responses to “How Do You Know It’s Time to Let Go?”

  1. Auki says:

    Significantly beautiful topic…

    "Patterns" originate within us as coping mechanisms or emotional survival strategies… but then outlive their usefulness and become rigid confining psychological chains or boxes.

    However, meditation is not by any stretch of the imagination the only way to diffuse patterns. Emotional patterns may be discharged, defused or released through deliberately expressing or triggering natural physiological emotional release mechanisms, e.g., crying, laughing, trembling, raging, yawning, shaking, stretching, etceteras. Try it you might like it!

  2. Sarah Wilson-Jones says:

    This was helpful to read this morning… however it ended up in my facebook feed today, I'm glad it did! I have been thinking about the value of a "witness" in our lives for over a year now, mostly in the context of friendships, so it was so refreshing to see it applied to meditation and to witnessing my own patterns. I can't help but mention a book that has made a huge impact on my thinking about this thread, which is "Where the Heart Beats", a biography of John Cage. Cage was a student of Zen and the more he lived out Zen, the more he embraced the patternless and brought these fascinating and resonant principles into his art.
    Thank you for this short but poignant essay!

  3. Jackie says:

    Eric thanks for this! What I have found helpful with building my ability to witness and bring the unconscious into consciousness is tapping into the wisdom of the body. When I become curious about how my body is reacting to situations, questions, thoughts and feelings, the larger picture of an embedded pattern becomes clearer.

  4. Marriott says:

    A wise person once shared with me that in the midst of trauma or it's after affects, we can develop unhealthy or destructive responses which become patterns because it was our best chance at survival. I believe when we are aware of an alternative route, we can begin to imagine and hope for freedom from the repetetive patterns. Reading the above, it reminded me that the next step is awareness and being able to see when these destructive patterns take place. To be able to practice turning our mind from the same emotional response could over time lessen or begin to take our behavior in another direction. This is when the real internal work begins. I am interested in seeing what meditation could contribute to this process. I do not have a lot of experience with meditation but am going to look further into it. Even the slightest change would be welcome.

  5. Mary Jo says:

    Patterns have no specific mechanism for removal other than awareness and desire. With that said, practices like meditation, journaling, 7 min., power poses, state changes, music and the practices previously expressed here are great ways to change the the patterns that previously daunted one like ghosts from the past. However…..the patterns(behaviors)were based on beliefs that were created out of fear and/or survival. One’s reevaluation of the belief and creating of a new supportive belief will banish the pattern(s).

  6. Bob Doucette says:


  7. azyuwish says:

    Exactly! I figured this out in 2009 when there was a rough patch in our marriage. We separated for six months and I was anxiety ridden and upset. Two things I did. Took ample amounts of Holy Basil and tuned INTO my body. If I ate something, did something, thought something that tensed me up OR freed me up I would make note of it and say "Thank you" for the message. Unerring guide that body of ours!

  8. Lorre Fleming says:

    This essay clearly and beautifully describes how habitual patterns of thought and behavior become established, and the importance of the tool of meditation in dismantling those patterns. It is important to note, however, that in the case of significant and/or prolonged trauma, the fight-flight-or-freeze response – a biological survival mechanism of the primitive, pre-cognitive part of the brain – kicks in. If the opportunity to naturally move through the trauma response from activation to resolution is not present at the time, the physiology of trauma can become “frozen”. This can happen without the person even having any memory of the trauma itself.

    Because the trauma response is neurophysiological, the most effective techniques for releasing frozen trauma are somatic. Meditation, in and of itself, is insufficient. It can also be a means for an already highly disembodied trauma survivor to further dissociate from his/her experience (particularly when the focal referent of the meditation is the sensation of the breath at the nostrils or something completely outside the body, such as a candle flame), thus perpetuating the problem.

    However, a well-grounded, highly embodied meditation practice can bring about deep, intimate awareness of what’s happening in the body as well as in the mind. This kind of global awareness can be a significant boon in the process of resolving deeply embedded trauma.

  9. Lorre Fleming says:

    Somatic Experiencing™ ( is one of the most effective healing protocols currently available for addressing the effects of significant trauma. I have personal experience with this modality, as well as a daily meditation practice. I can vouch for the efficacy of this combination!

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Lorre, this is practically an article in itself! Start writing for us!