There are certain things in life that will be harder to let go of than others.
There are also certain things on this human journey that may be entirely impossible to ever totally release.
Despite what we’ve so often been told—we can’t always simply get over people, places, or experiences we’ve encountered. Some will stick with us our entire lives, and they are meant to.
We are affected beings who move through life building relationships, jobs, roles, duties, and memories. If we are leaning into living a full life, we will have dozens of each of these things, and we will also lose them too.
There’s much talk and advice given about “just letting go.” This is sage guidance, but how do we do this when something massive and life altering occurs? It’s likely that most of us will have this experience at least once (or maybe, a few times) in life, when—for whatever reason—we feel like we need to begin all over again.
However, when these life-altering things hit, it sure doesn’t feel easy to begin again. What often happens is we believe that in order to move on or move forward, we must release the old entirely. This is untrue. I will say it again—there will be things that stick with us for our entire lives, and they are meant to.
I’m not just speaking about relationships with people—I also refer to the abuse and trauma we carry with us. Sadly, most of us have been through both of these in some way, and even more sadly, we’ve been told that we should “get over it, already.” (Or, we say this to ourselves, which is just as destructive.)
Sometimes, “getting over” something can be a way we choose to deny that something even occurred—which means we may become perplexed when a new loss triggers that old, original wound. We think to ourselves: “I should be past that.” Or: “It happened so long ago—why am I responding so strongly to this?” But, the body and our psyche carry these residual energies with them. Unfortunately, this means we might experience a reaction to certain experiences forever—as those who carry something like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will know.
However, just because there are things that we may never totally get over, it doesn’t mean we cannot continue on with our lives presently. One of the pinnacle teachings I have learned from Buddhism is that the first practice to finding peace in our lives is to accept what is and what was.
Tara Brach, a renowned Buddhist speaker, writer, and psychologist, published an insightful book about this called Radical Acceptance. In this book, she shares the challenging experiences she had with abuse and heartbreak and how they led her to the path of fully loving herself and all the things (including the past pain) that made up her life—rather than just rejecting what she’d experienced.
It is not our ability to “get over” or forget something that makes us stronger—it is actually acknowledging that these things create a beautiful, unique, and meaningful tapestry that make up who we are that makes us truly resilient.
As I spend more time dedicated to sitting on my meditation cushion, it becomes more clear what the art of “non-reacting” truly means. It means we pause, acknowledge, and open to the larger space of life—bigger than simply one experience or one loss. It also means that we develop compassion for old feelings as they arise, and we trust that we don’t need to do anything about them but simply allow them to be and pass through.
Non-reaction allows us to face our lives and continue. We become the observer of our experience, instead of the victim of it. Non-reaction means we are mindful enough to slow down, recognize, and give ourselves and it room to breathe.
So then, the process of living in a productive way and honoring our “humanness” simply means: pause, acknowledge, and open.
This might seem too basic to apply to something that feels life altering—but often, the best wisdom is simple.
The Buddha was a master at facing the most challenging circumstances in the most relaxed way.
So, if there is something we are struggling with right now—if the pain of past or current situations feels like we just can’t get over them—don’t cause more suffering by trying to force a complete release. Rather, like a Buddha: pause, acknowledge, and open. Give yourself (and it) room to be.
Remember, what we are doing with our lives is creating a beautiful tapestry—and tapestries require multiple layers to become complete.
Author: Sarah Norrad
Image: Instagram @sarah.norrad
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social editor: Waylon Lewis