Eckhart Tolle holds the belief that we create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity.
This could explain why we often hold onto our pain for far longer than it actually serves us. Pain is necessary—there is no doubt—but letting go of that pain is just as necessary.
If we can’t process, let go of, and transform pain into growth, then we trap ourselves in vicious and destructive cycles.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Holding onto pain has a direct effect on our choices in the present, whether we are aware of it or not.
It’s a backward kind of logic. We obsess over every little detail of our failings and things we cannot change as well as cling to worry and frustration about the future, and all this does is keep us in a bubble illusion of control.
In truth, there is only one thing we can control, and that is our true power of conscious choice. In this humble writer’s opinion, the only way we make conscious choices is to master the art of letting go.
This is how we learn from the past but stop allowing it to negatively influence the present and the future.
How do we do this?
“It is what it is” has been my catchphrase for most of 2020. Like many, right in the beginning, it was, “what the actual f*ck.”
This year, although gut-wrenchingly painful in many aspects, has been an opportunity for us to accept what we have no control over so that we can shift our focus to the things we can. The truth may be brutal, but it always sets us free.
Our energy, once we have accepted uncomfortable or difficult situations, is then redirected to where it is welcomed, where it can do the most work.
I have found myself in a myriad of situations this year that I have had to simply accept, sometimes with grace, other times—shamefully—with adult temper tantrums and utter disdain, but all with the sole purpose of moving me forward.
I found the less I fought it, the easier it became. Acceptance is about raw, unadulterated strength, particularly in painful situations.
I have always waffled about how strong I am. This year I had to prove it. I had to accept the sh*t flying in from every direction, embrace all of life’s changes, trust my ever-knowing intuition more, and to keep learning as I went along. Acceptance helps us to understand that every experience has value.
All we need to do is make a conscious choice to take the lesson and move on, a little wiser than before.
2. Distance is a gift—focus inward.
In some of the most difficult situations of my life, I have been fully embroiled in drama, chaos, and pain. I’ve found myself stuck right in the middle of it, and in some battles, I have fought like a fearless warrior, and in others, I have waved a white flag, but in all, I never gave myself the gift of distance—until 2020.
In the beginning, I found myself being dragged from pillar to post with everyone wanting something from me. It didn’t matter if it was time, money, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to vent their rage to. The drama was everywhere—chaos was everywhere. The pain was everywhere—and I was right in the middle of it, every time.
People began grabbing frantically externally, holding on to anything or anyone they could, while we all floundered. I had to step back from the pain around me and sit with the pain swirling within me. I had to bring my focus inward. I had to tell people I wasn’t available for a little while. I had to regain my innate sense of harmony.
This included ranting angrily to the universe, eating myself into a food coma, crying on the couch until my eyes felt like sandpaper, running along a stretch of road with my music blaring in my ears until my legs wanted to give out, and sitting in the garden meditating to the sounds of the wind dancing in the trees.
When I did focus solely on myself, I could see with clarity exactly what I needed to let go of. There were no distractions to get lost in, no drama to escape into, no chaos to keep my energy flowing in the wrong direction, just me and the pain.
I cut away mercilessly at the excess in my life, letting it go one by one—making more space for myself as well the connections that are truly important to me.
I was surprised at how much I was holding on to that simply had no place in my life. Because I had been emotionally overwhelmed for so long, I was completely unaware of where my energy was wasted.
3. Forgiveness of self.
I was sitting in a recovery group session about a year and a half ago, and the topic was making amends. Every single thing I have ever messed up in my life played like a trailer in my mind.
I remember feeling utterly defeated, thinking, how am I going to make amends to the people I have hurt?
As the discussion progressed, one person said, “Forgiveness can only start in one place, within yourself. Before you go out and start making amends, start with yourself.”
She was staring directly at me when she said it as if my body language had clued her up to know that I absolutely could not forgive some of the things I had never thought myself capable of. I had to let go of the hate I had been harboring for myself.
I can tell you that it didn’t even cross my mind until she said it out loud. But when she did, I felt the weight of all I had been carrying for years—and it was heavy.
I wrote it all down, everything I had ever done, everything I had allowed to be done to me, every damn thing I didn’t want to think about but forced myself too.
It was all in black and white, and once I had heaved all of that weight onto that paper, I set it on fire and watched it burn, saying over and over to myself, “I forgive you.”
I’m all about dramatic rituals and how we assign them meaning. We can truly let go of what has always been holding us back. I’m not saying this was a cure-all. I still have moments where my mind wanders back to certain pain, where I find myself berating myself or finding it hard to find compassion for myself, but I no longer live there, and my bounce back rate is a few hours at most.
4. Awareness of thoughts and the beauty of gratitude.
If you love Elizabeth Gilbert as much as I do, you will remember a line from Eat, Pray, Love said by Richard, the brash Texan:
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
We are either slaves to our minds or masters of it. If we are continually running a story in our minds of pain, loss, heartache, failure, and worry, we create a hive of all of the things we are not willing to let go of, and we can—yes, you know what’s coming—make a conscious choice.
We can choose to stop running the same damn script and let it go. We can choose to catch ourselves in harmful thoughts and replace it with a new narrative, a kinder narrative, a narrative that questions, that is curious, that is explorative, that is grateful and rooted in the present.
Have you ever thought of something that fills you with the warmth and fuzzies of pure gratitude and tried to be angry, hurt, or upset at the same time? You can’t.
That’s the beauty of gratitude when we feel it to our core, and it’s a great tool for helping us to let go, both in the moment and in the long term, when we train ourselves to focus on it.