Letting go is one of the biggest lessons we are continually learning in our lives. I have found myself working on this in a huge way recently. In the last few years I have quit my profession as a theatre professor and director, moved back home to take care of my father who has Alzheimer’s, and am in the process of starting a new business. Everyday is filled with unpredictability, change, and loss. What I have come to witness is my intense need to hold on, to control, to find normalcy in a sea of uncertainty. But as they say, “what we resist, persists”. So I have begun to practice surrender. Letting go is just that-surrender. We forget how good surrender feels and how liberating it can be.
Alzheimer’s I think is the greatest lesson. It is a slow, monumental, and surprisingly abrupt decay. What was true yesterday is no longer true tomorrow. Patience is required on every level. You can’t take life one day at a time, not even one hour at a time, but you must take it one moment, one second at a time. When you slow down and really face each moment something miraculous happens, your heart opens. You find the power of patience and it reminds you what is important and what is not. You recognize all the many things to be grateful for. You realize control is an illusion, that it is exhausting to try and control everything, it causes anxiety and stress, and removes you from experiencing your life. Life’s challenges will always be there, some days much more strongly than others, but as long as your heart beats and you have air in your lungs you must try and cherish the present moment, because that is all there really is.
And yet this proves to be one of the biggest challenges for just about everyone. How do we deal with our hectic lives and still be available to right now? How do we let go of all the past fears and hurts that weigh us down and hold us back so we can enjoy what our life is like today? How do we let go of all the tiny, everyday injuries, anxieties, and stresses and trust that the universe will take care of us? I have been pondering these questions a lot lately and I have come up with some of the following answers. These are some of the tools I am using in my daily practice that I want to share with you in case you too find them helpful. Also, I would love to hear from you so please feel free to share what techniques you use in the comment section below.
Tip #1 - Develop a Mantra
A Mantra is a short phrase you repeat often to help you focus your thoughts and energy. This idea has been extremely helpful to me. Whenever I find myself getting caught up in frustration I repeat my mantra. My favorite these days is Let Go, Let God. Now I am not a particularly religious person, but this Mantra reminds me that the universe is on my side and can handle all the crazy details that are overwhelming me, or help me to let go of the frustration or hurt of a given situation. How you develop an effective Mantra is to find a phrase that resonates with you and repeat it whenever you find yourself facing familiar obstacles. Some good Mantra’s for letting go include: This Too Shall Pass, I Surrender to the Universe, I Accept Life Just As It Is, Let Go - Let it Be Just as It Is.
Tip #2 - Breathe
This is an extremely important technique. A simple breath can release tremendous stress, give you that crucial moment to gain control, and bring you back to the present. So many times we are controlled by our habitual response to stress triggers, taking a simple deep breath allows us to interrupt our knee-jerk reaction, calm ourselves, and reconnect to our core. It also helps us to slow down which frees us from a reactive state and allows us the chance to connect with our best self.
Tip #3 -Be compassionate
One of the most important things you can do to let go of past hurts, injuries, and difficulties is to be compassionate with yourself and others. Remember that at their core everyone including you is doing their best and usually has good intentions.
Tip #4 -Laugh
One of the best ways to stay present and not let the little stuff bother you is to remember to not take life too seriously. So often we think now is forever, work ourselves up into a frenzy, obsess over who was right and who was wrong, and make mountains out of molehills. Laughter is a great release, let's us realize that in a hundred years or even sooner this won't matter very much, and reminds us of the ridiculousness of it all. It's like Richard Carlson says "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff".
Tip #5 -Forgive
This may be the most important one of all. So often we hold onto past hurts and injuries and make them as present as if they just happened. There is a great story of two Buddhist monks walking through the forest. They come upon a young woman who needs help crossing a stream. One monk lifts her up and carries her across the stream. The two monks continue on for a couple of hours in silence. Finally one monk turns to the other and yells "How could you pick up that woman and carry her across the stream. You know it is forbidden for us to touch a woman." The other monk turns and looks at him and says "I put her down when we crossed the stream. Why are you still carrying her?" This story reminds us that when we hold onto things they fester, debilitate us, and create negative energy in our lives. One of the most powerful ways we move forward in life is to forgive. There is a saying from a course in miracles "Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred". Remember people rarely have cruel intentions and don't set out to hurt or disappoint you. We all battle the same demons, suffer the same hurts, and do our best to manage the difficulties life presents. We tend to be our greatest enemy. Forgiveness is a way to let go and reconnect with the love that is always present in our lives.
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