18 Fantastic Ways to Let Go.

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It’s been said that the dharma teachings can be summarized in two words: let go.

Letting go is the ultimate zen habit we all must master, sooner or later. Letting go has also become somewhat of a cliche and is often misused in spiritual contexts. But it is the single most powerful, simple (not easy) skill we can cultivate in life. Let’s take a deeper look at what letting go isn’t and is—and some concrete ways to practice it.

What Letting Go Isn’t.

Letting go isn’t just cliche spiritual advice. Letting go isn’t not caring. Letting go isn’t passive. Letting go isn’t merely saying, “It’s all good” or “whatever.” Letting go isn’t lazy. Letting go isn’t giving up. Letting go isn’t the easy way out. Letting go isn’t always fun. Letting go is the most courageous thing you can do.

Letting go is wise.

Letting go enables life, energy, love and learning to flow freely. Letting go takes practice. How can we turn it into a revolutionary daily life practice? Here are 18 ideas for starters. May they be of benefit.

1. Let go of procrastination.

Raise your hand if you procrastinate a lot. I know I do. Procrastination is based in fear: of failure, of success, of sharing our stories, of what other people will think. Let go of these fears and take action. Just do it. All we have is now. Quit procrastinating.

2. Let go of going to extremes.

Walking the Middle Path isn’t easy. Trust me; I know. In my twenties, I was a manic-depressive Gemini yoga-teaching partier who thrived on extremes. But as I’ve aged, I’ve gotten more in touch with my inner Libra, and I believe balance is a worthy intention for daily life. The middle way is balance. Pema Chodron writes, “The middle way is wide open, but it’s tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don’t want to sit and feel what we feel.”

3. Let go of clinging.

The opposite of letting go is clinging, grasping, clutching. See how softening your grip, opening your palms and relaxing brings peace and ease into your body and mind. As Buddha teaches, “You can only lose what you cling to.”

4. Let go of complaining.

And meditate on humility. “Remember you don’t meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you won’t find it. You won’t be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.” ~ Ajahn Chah

5. Let go of comparing yourself to others.

When judgment, superiority, inferiority, jealousy and envy arise, see them as poisonous and let them go. “Problems are rooted in ideals. Let go of the ideals. Not easy, but letting go of ideals, accepting reality and acting appropriately and with compassion can be practiced.” ~ Leo Babauta (whose free ebook on letting go is what inspired this post)

6. Let go of busyness and multitasking.

Take time to just drink a cup of tea and be. The world will go on. Meditate. Make letting go a practice in itself. Set aside some time every day to sit and focus on letting go—of thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories, plans, physical sensations—simply letting go of whatever arises in the consciousness and returning to the breath, over and over, each time the mind wanders away. “Just go into the room, sit in the center of the room, open the doors and windows, and see who comes to visit. You will witness all kinds of scenes and actors, all kinds of temptations and stories, everything imaginable. Your only job is to stay in your seat. You will see it all arise and pass, and out of this, wisdom and understanding will come.” ~ Ajahn Chah

7. Let go of clutter and excess.

Get rid of excess stuff. The process of letting go of material things can be both painful and joyous, because lots of our things have both sentimental value. Giving stuff away is a simple yet intense process involving both loss and liberation. “Look at your own mind. The one who carries things thinks he’s got things, but the one who looks on sees only the heaviness. Throw away things, lose them, and find lightness.” ~ Ajahn Chah

8. Let go of trying to control others.

Recognize the difference between influencing someone and changing them. You can do the former; the latter is impossible. “Let go of wanting to control people, of wanting to change them. Instead, focus on yourself and be the shining example. Be the compassionate center.” ~ Leo Babauta

9. Let go of illusion and delusion.

See the damage done by hanging on (and being dragged). “Seeing the harm (of not letting go) allows us to let go, because we have a choice: hold on to the idea of the past and suffer, or let go and accept reality as it is, and suffer less.” ~ Leo Babauta

10. Let go of negativity.

Notice signals of clinging such as irritation, anger or fear. Notice the ideal or expectation to which you are clinging. See the harm in holding onto this negativity. Let go, with love and compassion.

11. Let go of the guru.

“Wisdom is in yourself, just like a sweet ripe mango is already in a young green one. You are your own teacher. Investigate yourself to find the truth—inside, not outside. Knowing yourself is most important.” ~ Ajahn Chah

12. Let go of who you think you are.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” ~ Tao Te Ching

13. Let go of attachment to the plan.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

14. Let go of the demons from your past and the worries about your future.

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. ~ Oprah Winfrey

15. Let go of certainty.

Because we just don’t know. And that is a beautiful thing. Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” ~ Erich Fromm

16. Let go of the illusion of control.

“But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.” ~ Alan Watts

17. Let go of what’s gone to let in the now.

“Let come what comes, let go what goes. See what remains.” ~ Ramana Maharshi

18. Let go of trying to let go.

Just let it happen. “Letting go” can’t be taught or explained, only experienced. It is not a numbered list or a step-by-step process like the stages of grief. Life is not neat and tidy. Things get emotional, dramatic, messy. “Letting go” is an awesome intention and a beneficial practice. But it isn’t easy. Take it moment to moment, day by day. “If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will discover complete peace.” ~ Ajahn Chah


Relephant read:

The Constant Practice of Letting Go. ~ Vanessa Fleming

You’re not truly “Spiritual” unless you do this (and it’s probably not what you’re thinking):

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a yogi, writer and teacher. Hers is the mind behind Yoga Freedom. Hailing from Austin, Texas, her home base since 2012 has been Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan highlands where she lives with her husband, daughter and fur family. Michelle has been writing this column for elephant journal since 2010 and has also self-published several inspiring books. Michelle’s practice style incorporates hatha yoga asana, dharma/Buddhist teachings, pranayama/breathwork, yin, mindfulness, chakra balancing, mantra and meditation. Go on retreat with Michelle in Guatemala!

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anonymous Mar 19, 2016 12:24pm

Thanks for your marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, i try and i try but i cant forget

anonymous Feb 3, 2016 2:21pm

Brilliant! So perfect, so true, so important. "Letting go is NOT giving up." Thank you.

anonymous Nov 30, 2015 12:04am

Some one should always say Let go let GOD

anonymous Oct 12, 2015 7:43am

i love it thanks

anonymous Oct 2, 2015 10:40am

Great Ways Keep Going

anonymous Jun 12, 2015 6:39pm

Some one should always say Let go let GOD

anonymous Feb 2, 2015 7:22pm

great info thanks a lots

anonymous Dec 5, 2014 2:21pm

That's a keeper!

anonymous Jul 27, 2014 10:35pm

Interesting article. I like the suggestions and the overall assumption that letting go is not giving up. Let go of anger, fear, second guessing, and mind clutter. I like it.

anonymous Jul 27, 2014 4:24pm

Lovely article! Did want to provide some feedback to following statement "[Letting go] is not a numbered list or a step-by-step process like the stages of grief." Just wanted to comment, as a social worker specializing in grief and loss, that grief is also not a step-by-step process. It is messy too. Elisabeth Kubler Ross was a pioneer in developing our modern understanding of grief and loss, however, her understanding of the "stages of grief" is now considered outdated, replaced with a more nuanced, non-linear understanding. Just thought I'd add that. Thanks!

anonymous Jun 16, 2014 5:39am

A list of 18 Things to Let Go. Mentioned a few ways to do this: meditate, breathe, dispense with material things you don't need.

anonymous Jun 15, 2014 9:58am

I was fine, until you started quoting Oprah Winfrey.

    anonymous Sep 5, 2015 5:42am

    What do you have against Oprah? There was one quote in the article from her. Do you disagree with what she said?

anonymous Jun 14, 2014 9:32am

Thanks so much for this article. I have always found that letting go is greatly assisted by throwing love at what I cling to. It is easier to let go of people and things I love when it is attached.

anonymous Jun 5, 2014 9:09pm

Brilliant! So perfect, so true, so important. “Letting go is NOT giving up.” Thank you.

anonymous Jun 5, 2014 6:04pm

I love this post. Just yesterday, I saw a picture on FB that was captioned "letting go is the hardest asana". In the yoga world, we often see social media posts of yogis in extremely advanced arm balances or back bends, but much of the "hard work" in yoga is not in the physical postures, but the work we do spiritually and emotionally. Thank you for your insight!

    anonymous Jun 6, 2014 6:04am

    Thank you for your insight, too! namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jun 4, 2014 10:41pm

I especially love #5. So important! Thanks for a very thoughtful article.

    anonymous Jun 5, 2014 1:06pm

    As my favorite poem (Desiderata) says: if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Thanks for reading and commenting, Amanda!

anonymous Jun 4, 2014 4:38pm

Holy cow did I need this message today. Actually, I needed it yesterday, but I had to let go a little of the things I was desperately afraid of not being able to control (insert laugh track here) and today I can hear this message. A little. Letting go of letting go is probably the best advice too, because once you know how liberating letting go feels, you want to continue to create it. Sometimes that's easier said than done, but freedom from attachment feels so GOOD!

Thank you for putting into words what my inner Kristin was ignoring.

    anonymous Jun 5, 2014 1:03pm

    Hahaha, Kristin. Thanks for reading and commenting! It's usually way easier said than done, but sometimes it's easy to just drop whatever it is and move on. To letting go!

anonymous Jun 4, 2014 9:42am

For more on the theme of letting go check out http://surrendertotheinfinite.blogspot.be/

anonymous Jun 3, 2014 10:07pm

That's a keeper!

anonymous Jun 3, 2014 7:09pm

Love, Love, Love.

Thank you!! Just gorgeous.

    anonymous Jun 3, 2014 7:44pm

    Thank you, Janne! I Loved your skinny sisters piece and take no shit list, too!
    With Metta, Michelle

      anonymous Nov 30, 2015 12:05am

      No, just a typo! Thanks for reading and commenting.

anonymous Jun 3, 2014 2:37pm

"Here are 28 ideas for starters." Are there another 10, somewhere?

    anonymous Jun 3, 2014 6:22pm

    No, just a typo! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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Leanne Jean Sep 27, 2016 4:08am

Thank-you x

Ania Sempek Jun 24, 2016 1:49pm

Thank you:)