September 29, 2015

Why “Letting Go” has it Backwards.


Just let go!

Did that annoy you a bit? Yeah, I thought so. It shows up way too often in some places, as if it’s a cure all and somehow easy to do. Upset? Just let go! Sad? Just let go! Disappointed?…You get the picture.

When the conversation doesn’t get any more nuanced than that, then all I can think of is this MadTV sketch.

So I think it’s time to take a deeper look at this idea of “letting go”.

A friend summed it up beautifully: “I have struggled with the idea of ‘letting go’. The statement implies an action as easy as letting go of a cup in your hand, or the dock on a boat to new horizons…It is not so easy to let go. At this point I allow myself to question how I can loosen my grasp, find spaciousness within and around my heart.”

So I think we have it all backwards. Trying to let go of something doesn’t really work. It’s not surprising that we think it would; we are a goal-oriented culture obsessed with outcomes and terrified of failure and inefficiency.

We can get a little closer to what might actually work when we think of it as ‘softening our grip’. We cling, we soften, cling again, and then try to remember to loosen our grip a little more each time.

But I think the real issue here is that when we try to let go we are making a fight out of it. We have an experience we have decided we don’t like or don’t want, and now we are trying to get rid of it. It’s understandable; there are many incredibly hard experiences to be had out there—ones that can and do shatter many people for weeks, months, even years.

But those who have been shattered the longest can tell you a basic truth about it: there is no running away. There is no fighting it. Not really, at least. We can be numb, we can avoid, but it’s still there. Once we relax enough, there it is. The pain, the fear, the sadness, whatever it is we want to let go of.

It becomes a part of us, for better or worse. It becomes a part of our identity. And in doing so it becomes a small death to let go of it as well. To let go of it is to let a part of ourselves die, which is another painful challenge connected to the process. This is something important to remember as well: sometimes the process letting go can be nearly as painful as the initial pain.

So what to do?

There’s no fun answer, unfortunately. The only way is through the pain, through allowing ourselves to experience that which we wish to let go. The only solace I can offer is that this will slowly result in a new person—one with a very special type of depth, compassion, wisdom and strength.

So we come back to my wise friend’s comment: the necessity to “find spaciousness within and around [our] heart[s].” This is the “secret” to letting go. Because while letting go may speak to the ultimate outcome, it’s downright misleading when it comes to the process itself.

In order to let go, we have to hold whatever it is gently and from the deepest place within that we can find. And then loosening the grip happens once the grip too is held along with the pain. We hold it with the spaciousness within and around our hearts, and with our silent awareness. We hold it without resisting the experience.

As another wise friend said: “Don’t ‘try’ to let go or ‘do’ anything with the attachment to suffering (pain is inevitable, suffering is optional). Just keep bringing awareness to—and see—the attachment…Bringing light and seeing the whole movement of attachment is enough for the gentle shift. Anything more is ego coming in slyly through the back door.”



18 Fantastic Ways to Let Go.


Author: Timur Crone

Editor: Caroline Beaton 

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Timur Crone

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