“Let it go.” It’s the go to, seemingly helpful advice for everything from ex partners to feelings, awkward situations that happened years ago that our brain replays for us at night when we’re trying to sleep, and everything in between. Buddhists, Christians, people of the Jewish faith, even just the plain old practice of mindfulness, they all have something about letting things go. There’s even a lovely song about it. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Maybe you have a younger child that has watched Frozen so many times you can recite the movie word for word? No, just me? Well, Queen Elsa of Arendelle sings and dances her way through letting it go. But, what does that mean exactly? How does one, “Let it go?” Because when I ask, no one can give me a straight answer.
They can only tell me lofty and vague ideas that sound good in theory like, “Let go, or be dragged.” Clearly, not literal. And I am a person who very much appreciates practical and concrete action steps I can take. So, “Let it go?” Not helpful and so frustrating. If I could literally open up my hand and let something go, don’t they think that I would? So, I would go along trying to let things go, all the while being frustrated because I knew I wasn’t really letting things go. How do you something you don’t know how to do?
One step at a time, it turns out. One next, easiest step toward being completely free from it, at a time. The thing that turned me onto this was someone telling me to hold it gently. Gently, being nicely. Sure, shame can work as a motivator, but wouldn’t it be so much nicer to be motivated by kindness and love? Shame erodes at your soul. Kindness and love nurtures you and makes it that much easier. Anyway, holding it gently. That, I understood. I took that to mean if something is bothering me, taking up way too much of my mental and emotional space, consuming my every waking moment, then get some space from it. It can be literal space, as I do when I feel overwhelmed with my child. I take time and go to my room or for a walk usually, to be alone. It can mean freeing up some mental and emotional space like I do when I watch a movie or read a book so my mind is literally focused on something, anything else, and I can think about and feel something else. Naps are great for this too. And I have found it helpful to give myself a set time to focus on the issue because I know me. If I didn’t focus on it at all, I would feel like I was avoiding the issue, and that would make me feel even more stressed. So, a set time, and when time is done, I move onto something else, and I have the option of coming back to it later.
Of course, practice makes all this so much easier. And of course, my mind wanders back to it all the time and I’m off and running with it again. That is the practice of meditation, to notice that and to gently redirect your focus as many times as you need. That, to me, is holding it gently, until you can let it go. And letting it go, to me, means no longer being controlled by it, not having your emotions hijacked by it, or acting from a place of fear and subsequent urgency that just make things worse. Because holding it gently is when your awareness is receptive enough for the helpful concrete action steps to come to you. So, asking and doing whatever is the next and easiest step toward being free from it, and doing that process of asking and doing again and again, is how I “Let it go.”
What about you? What’s helped you to let things go?