In the great school of Life, lessons come at all different levels. Lessons in letting go can range from easy beginner ones, to ones that are more challenging. Maybe some of your lessons have been extremely difficult and traumatic. Often we don’t choose these lessons – they are thrust upon us and we somehow have to deal with them.
As I’ve been writing these posts, and thinking about holding on and letting go, I know that I have learnt some things about it. I am pretty good at letting go of material possessions (a year spent travelling in a caravan with few possessions convinced me of the joys of the simple life). I am learning to let go of control, of outcomes, and of taking on responsibility for things that are not my business. I am also learning more and more to let go of unrealistic expectations and judgements of both myself and others. But I know I still have a long way to go, and I am grateful that so far these lessons have been given to me in (mostly) manageable chunks.
I see people having to deal with really hard lessons in letting go – circumstances that turn their world upside down, that rock their worldview and their sense of how things work. Sickness, death, redundancy, break-down of relationships are all major events that can challenge the certainties we have held on to and lived our life by. All of a sudden we may have to let go of many things -perhaps our sense of control, our hopes and expectations for the future, our sense of the world as a safe and good place. Somehow we have to let go of these things, and find a new balance, a new way of seeing things.
On the news, we see images of people fleeing places that are torn apart by war or natural disasters – people who are left with literally nothing. How do they cope with having to let go of so many things, particularly when these things have been taken from them so brutally and harshly? What do they find to hold on to, to keep them going?
In a simple hand meditation (take a moment to try it here), we bring to mind five things we want to hold on to. Perhaps, when times are really bad, all people can hold on to is the next breath, and then the one after that, and the one after that. I see the importance of building up these “holdable” things – maybe hope, family, faith, someone to talk to, a meal, music, a glimpse of beauty – resilience comes from having a wide variety of things to hold on to, especially when lots of letting go is asked of us.
I guess I’m feeling under qualified to write on letting go, when others have had much harder lessons than I. All I can do is faithfully practice with the lessons I am given. Practice at increasing awareness of what I am clinging to and finding difficult to release. Practice at choosing what I want to hold on to. Practice at keeping the balance of the two. And continue building up things to hold on to.
What have you learnt about letting go? And what do you choose to hold on to? What’s been your hardest lesson? What has helped you? If you feel inclined to share your wisdom, we’d love to hear!