The ability to ‘let go’ can be difficult for most people to master.
Very recently, I had to let go of something that was very dear to me. In fact, it felt like letting go of a part of myself.
I had to let go of my job as senior art director at the LEGO Group. A job and an identity that had almost become ‘me’.
I have a disease that makes me blind and trying to bend my surroundings around that visual impairment was too big a mouthful. The ambition and the project were to become LEGO’s blind senior art director, but the realization of this ambition was too heavy a project for me to lift.
It was with a sense of defeat that I had to let go of both job, idea, identity and pride.
But is that the right way to look at ‘letting go’? Can you see the ability to ‘let go’ as a strength? Let’s explore that question a little more closely.
In my life, the ability to let go has helped me through a difficult time with many personal challenges. Losing sight is not for the faint-hearted!
For me, ‘being able to let go’ has been a necessity. Accepting that I am slowly going blind has been a big task and is still a big task every day. Who can I shout at for this midfortune? Who can I blame? Nobody! It just IS as it is.
If we cannot let go of the thought, the idea and the memory of ‘what once was’, then we will live our lives in the past and not here and now, which is the only time that really exists.
And it is right now, with the thoughts and actions we are doing now, that we are creating our future. So, we really have a choice whether we want to live in a circle of memories and nostalgic notions of what could have been, or whether we want to embrace and play with the changes that are an inevitable part of life.
I have lived a mindful life for several years.
Mindfulness is the ability to being in the present moment with full attention, without judging or trying to change what is. Simply to be with it and thus create a harmonious relationship with what is experienced. It is a thousand-year-old discipline only in recent times adapted by the West.
Seven attitudes can help us live a more conscious and mindful life.
- Being able to let go
- Having alot of courage
- Trusting in oneself and others
- To be able to acceptbe what is now
- Not constantly striving to be something else
- Not judging what is experienced
- Being able to experience the world with a beginners mind
Being able to let go
Often in life we will find that we have to let go of something we hold dear. Something we are attached to. People, jobs, loved ones, ourselves. It can be experienced as an almost insurmountable challenge, but sometimes we have to let go of what was to make room for what is to come.
The first step in being able to let go is to be able to notice and observe and simply allow what is right now to be as it is. To inter-be with what is without trying to force it away or judge it. To allow an unpleasant feeling to be there without fighting it, fearing it, condemning it or moralizing about it. It means not judgement and simply to realize that it’s just a feeling. The technique is to be with the feeling and surrender all efforts to change it in any way. Let go of the desire to resist the feeling.
It’s resistance that keeps the feeling going. When you stop resisting or trying to change the feeling, it will shift to the next feeling and be accompanied by a lighter sensation than the one you experienced in the first wave of feelings. An feeling that is not resisted disappears when the energy behind it disappears.
When you start working with yourself in this way, you may find that you have fear and maybe even guilt that you have this feeling in the first place; “Arrrghh not again”, an inner voice may say. It’s a familiar feeling that you don’t like to experience, so the pattern is that you’ll probably try to resisting feeling the way you feel. Like when I had to give up my idea of remaining in my old identity. The identity of senior art director, which was something I clung to but had to let go of.
Try practicing doing this instead. When you discover that you REACT to what you feel, discover the reaction, and then try to let go of the REACTION by choosing a different way of responding. Instead of anger, try to notice what brings you joy in life and what you feel grateful for. In a way, this is what I call the “STOP! SWAP-THOUGHT” game, which I describe in my book and in my lectures. Too often, it’s our unconscious thoughts that create our charged feelings.
Notice how the feeling makes you react, and then let go of the reaction. Take a deep breath, feel where you are currently sitting, standing or being. Shift your focus from your thoughts about what you feel and experience and be totally present in the body. Often it is the fear of fear that challenges us, so when you experience the unpleasant feeling, try to let go of the fear or guilt you direct towards the feel, and then look at the feeling again inquisitively and curiously – without fear and guilt.
When you let go of the fear and guilt, try to notice that it is often our thoughts about the feeling that keep the feeling alive. Instead, just look at the feeling without thinking about it. Just feel it. Thoughts are endless and self-perpetuating, and they only breed more thoughts.
Thoughts are just the mind’s way of trying to explain what is being felt. The real cause of the feeling is the unconscious thoughts that you think about your situation, which have activated your body’s ability to remember old patterns and events from the past. Let go of the idea that your thoughts are real. They are just thoughts, and are NOT reality, but the thoughts you choose to focus and believe in tend to become your experienced reality over time. “Life is against me, people are against me, everything always goes wrong for me”.
As you become more practiced in letting go, you will find that feelings are just survival programs that the mind believes are necessary for your survival. Practicing letting go slowly and quietly erases the old programs, which often determine how we respond to resistance and change. By becoming the observer of one’s feelings, instead of letting them dictate one’s life, the underlying motive behind the feelings becomes more and more apparent.
Being able to “surrender” gives you the ability not to have strong destructive feelings about what you’re experiencing. You’ll be able to say, “It’s okay if this happens, and it’s okay if it doesn’t happen.”
When we practice ‘letting go’, we will find that we can better enjoy what we are in, our relationships, a thing or a state, without these becoming necessary for our joy and well-being. We can enjoy these, but we don’t NEED them to be happy. If we have them, it’s okay, and if we don’t have them, it’s okay too. We practice becoming more and more independent of something outside of us deciding how we feel inside ourselves.
By constantly ‘letting go’, it is possible to remain in a state of felt freedom. Feelings come and go, and eventually you realize that you are not your feelings, but that your real “I” is simply witnessing them. You stop identifying with them. The “I” that observes and is aware of what is happening always remains the same. As you become more and more aware that feelings and thoughts are like the weather; it changes from sunny to cloudy and simply IS, you will change your relationship with all the challenges and changes you meet in life.
You move towards becoming a witness to the eternal flow of thoughts and feelings, rather than living in their dramas. You get closer and closer to your real “I”, and begin to see that you have been fooled by feelings all your life. You thought you were a victim of your feelings, but now you realize that they are not the truth about yourself; they are just created by that little voice within you, which we call the ego, that throughout life is collecting programs that the mind mistakenly believes are necessary for our survival.
This is what ancient masters called mental alchemy; the ability to change one’s inner chemistry and create one’s desired reality rather than being a slave to our perpetual stream of thoughts and feelings. The masters of antiquity did not participate in the swinging pendulum movements of life from the dark to the light to the dark, they sat at the top of the pendulum and watched its swing from a distance.
This is the deeper philosophy behind the big question in my lecture and in my book:
“If I can’t change the blindness, can I somehow change my perspective on it”
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