What are you holding on to in life? A tetchy comment from a colleague last week? The excitement of your next big career move? Your growing list of search qualifiers for "the one"? If you're at all like me you're probably clinging to thoughts, memories, objects, people, and goals in every area of life. If this doesn't sound like you, well you're probably ready to ascend to the mothership and can skip the rest of this post.
The difficulty with clinging is that when we hold on, even to beautiful moments, we become unconscious, blocking all the good stuff (creativity, love & inspiration) that naturally flows through us. Imagine floating along a river and grabbing an overhanging branch. If you hold on, life tugs away at you, and you grow exhausted with the effort. In clinging to that branch we all suffer, surviving life instead of living it.
How do we give up our "clingy" human tendencies and get back to living in the present?
Because all self-respecting blog posts have at least three steps, here's three ways to do it:
Sometimes it's easy to release, and other times a stubborn thought sticks around for weeks. I've found that if I'm having trouble releasing, it's probably because there's still something to be discovered about it. When I have a nagging thought I ask, "What am I trying to survive/avoid/escape right now?" and usually with a bit of digging I'll get honest enough to see insecurity or self doubt (often stemming from a past experience) concealed beneath the surface. Once I see what the core of the issue is, my heart shifts and I can let it go. There's a very real experiential shift when this happens - for me it usually coincides with a good ol' cry fest!
Trust the Future
Trusting the future is also a part of letting go. Like a chubby little kid clinging to the edge of the swimming pool, you're not going to swim until you trust yourself not to plummet to the bottom. It's easy to convince ourselves that our world will go to bits if we're not planning, strategizing, and managing our lives. What we lack in trust, we make up for in control. You know those marathon conversation you have in your head, analyzing the infinite permutations of what he might or might not say? The funny thing I'm discovering is that when I trust the present moment (i.e. give up the planning!), the perfect spontaneous action arises and life has a whole lot more ease to it.
Be gentle with yourself as you release the past and trust the future. Our society is so hooked on seeing results now, that it's hard not to feel like there's a fiery dragon breathing down your back. I was chatting with a friend the other day about his writing career and he was saying how he'll be pleased if he has some decent publications by the age of 40 (he's 28). I loved this because he's not writing for the results, he's doing it because he loves it. Patience is a way of describing what naturally exist when we're not clinging to our futures, it's what flows from being present and embracing each moment.
As I practice releasing, trust, and patience I'm letting things go, and piece by piece, life is opening up. Sometimes I feel like a closet hoarder being pried from her dearest possessions, but it's also so rewarding because I'm finding I occupy a space much larger than I previously thought.
So friends, what are you letting go of?
I'd also love to hear about your practices for letting go - please share them in the comment box below!
Fiona McGlynn is a writer, sailor, rock climber and minimalist (except when it comes to chocolate). Follow her adventures as she sails her 35 ft sailboat from Vancouver to the South Pacific. She is also the founder of The Love Letter Project, a community project that publishes letters that address life's greatest challenges.