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Cultivating the courage to let go and Embracing change

“WE MUST BE WILLING TO LET GO OF THE LIFE WE HAVE PLANNED, SO AS TO ACCEPT THE LIFE THAT IS WAITING FOR US”

JOSEPH CAMPBELL


Fall Season; Leaves on the ground
Letting go of what no longer serves us.

Cultivating the courage to let go


The theme of Fall season is that of letting go. Any fruit that was not harvested during the main harvest will now become compost. All the plants and trees around us are letting go and shedding what was once their bounty so they can begin to focus and gather their energy internally (the trees drawing their sap). We can emulate this in our own lives by looking around us and letting go of what no longer serves us.


But what exactly does letting go mean? I like to think that letting go actually means letting be, not throwing things away. There is a classic Buddhist metaphor that I like to define what letting go is. Here is a free adaptation.


Imagine that you are sitting in a chair in the middle of a small, one-room house with one window and one door. There is nothing else in the room. Just the chair you sit on quietly and easily. The window and the door are open. Letting go involves letting things come and go. Various animals come and go, stick their heads through the door and then leave. The birds land on the windowsill, look at you and fly away. The neighbors pass by. They all come and go.


You sit on this chair and watch everything that goes by, what do you do? You can stand there, sit in your chair and just watch what’s happening at the door and the window. You can stand up and follow a magnificent deer around the yard. You can go out and explore more of what’s out there. Or, you can decide that you don’t like what you’re watching and turn the chair around and place it facing the wall. Not managing anything, even what comes through the door.


In our everyday lives, the practice of letting go simply means accepting everything that arises in our life (including what we don’t like), in each moment and letting it happen regardless of our preferences. You just sit in your chair and let things just appear at the door or window in which they appear. Let them be there. Notice them when they are there and when they leave, let them go. This does not mean we withdraw and ignore our lives, that does not seem like a realistic and viable option. The idea is to be fully present to whatever comes at the window or door, to welcome it, to allow it to be there, to offer it our presence. And when it goes away, let it go away.


With ease.


Well, let's say that's our ultimate intention. Because practicing this kind of non-attachment with ease is difficult to do. This is probably the hardest thing to do.


Yet, without even realizing it, several times a day, we let go. Every choice we make, every decision we make means we have to give up something else. We don’t notice it because these are choices that don’t have a significant impact on our life and our happiness. Deciding to wear my blue shirt this morning instead of the white one didn’t seem like a difficult decision to make in my life. But when what we must let go affects what we perceive as part of our identity or fundamental integrity, or if it is things that we believe will make us happy or preserve our happiness, then we resist, and we suffer.


We suffer because we have in our minds and hearts the illusion that if we hold on hard enough to what we love and fight hard enough against what we don't like, then nothing bad will happen to us. Better yet, we will be happy. Most of us unconsciously carry these old beliefs, stories, patterns, habits, and emotions that we believe define who we are and maintain balance in our lives. But much of it no longer serves us and is sometimes even harmful to ourselves and others. In the past, these might have been intended to give us a sense of safety and protection (literally and figuratively) or to help us move forward, but they are now useless.


Recently, one of my sons moved out of the family house. I found myself suffering, both angry and sad that he was gone. Mostly, I felt like he “forgot” about us because he wasn't answering my calls and texts like I expected him to. For almost a month, I told myself the story of a selfish son. Who now that he’s on his own, doesn’t even bother to give news. It wasn’t until I realized I was hurting myself, clinging to what was once our relationship, that I was able to process my emotions and let go. Only when I realized I was hurting him, criticizing him and reminding him every time we finally spoke that he hadn’t called or texted us the week before. Only then I could find the courage to let go. Not letting go of him or my love for him. No. Letting go of my attachment to the old way we related together. That’s what had changed, and holding on to that old version of our relationship was what was causing him and me to suffer.


Letting go therefore does not mean denying or abandoning our reality. This means learning to release our attachments and our self-clinging. Only then can we release our suffering, enjoy optimal physical, mental and emotional health and experience an overall sense of well-being. To do this, we must find and muster the courage to engage in the action of letting go in our body, mind and soul. We must develop an inner sense of safety and confidence that we will be able to handle whatever comes into our lives as it comes, so that we can move beyond our attachments and experience the goodness of life.


" We must embody the caterpillar who fully accepts to let go of her identity to become a wonderful butterfly."

What will happen if we don't find the courage to do it? I believe that answering this question is what can move us forward. If we hold on to the old, stagnant, and perhaps toxic energy we carry in our body, mind, and soul, we may never realize our full happiness and Unleash our Potential. We must embody the caterpillar who fully accepts to let go of her identity to become a wonderful butterfly.


Fear and lack of confidence will prevent us from living a fulfilling and meaningful life. We may never discover all the wonders that the Universe has in store for us. Letting go is a powerful liberating practice. And when we integrate it into our lives, instead of feeling like something is being taken away from us, we begin to experience openness, spaciousness and abundance. Letting go creates room for new experiences to arise, new energy to be cultivated, and life and vitality to be nourished.


For me, cultivating the courage to let go and practicing it intentionally has been life-changing. It took me out of my numb existence, allowed me to fully engage in my life and feel truly alive.



Going with the wind


Just as sometimes leaves need the wind to help them break their stems and finally let go to flutter in the sky before falling to the ground, we also need tools and practices to help us let go of old "things" that no longer serve us, or worse yet, which harm us.


To engage on that path, we must first develop our awareness, an extraordinary awareness. We all have blind spots and the only way to uncover them is to be willing to observe ourselves: our thoughts, our behaviors, our beliefs, our habits, etc., with curiosity. The idea is to identify which patterns, limited beliefs, and stories are no longer serving us. We want to acknowledge our feelings and emotions around them. It is not a question of rejecting them, nor of managing them, but of freeing them. We want to bring them to light so that we can honestly uncover the truth about what’s happening so that we can begin to act accordingly.


Just like I did a few weeks ago when I realized that I wasn't angry at my son, but was actually feeling deep sorrow over the situation that will never be the same. By observing how my delusion about our relationship and my resistance was causing suffering, I now had a better understanding of what was at stake, I could honor my pain, and finally let go.


Bringing awareness is the first step to any transformation. And once we recognize something, when we “know” something, we can’t “unknow” it. And then, it's up to us to change, to bring in new way of thinking, acting or being.


Among the practices and tools we can use to help us let go more in our lives, the following are my favorites.


Body


Breathing: When strong emotions arise and we get overwhelmed by the sensations in our body, Natural Breathing will calm our nervous system and help us process what’s happening right away and not store them unprocessed in our bodies.


Crying: The biology of crying teaches us that when we cry, our body releases endorphins and oxytocin, two hormones that help us release emotional distress and physical pain. In other words, it allows us to let go.


Qigong: We store in our bodies unprocessed emotions that can eventually cause blockages and energy stagnation. If left unaddressed, these can lead to dis-ease and illness. Specific Qigong movements allow the body to release and let go of old stagnant energy and restore the healthy and natural flow of Qi. This helps us renewing our life force, fostering balance, and nurturing our well-being from within.


Acupressure: Just like acupuncture, this Chinese Medicine’s modality offers a large range of intervention. Specific points can be used to release Qi blockages both on a physical and emotional level, helping us to move forward.


Mind


Journaling: Journaling is a very effective way to clear our minds and provide more mental clarity. As we write we can imagine we are an explorer observing phenomena on this planet for the very first time. Investigating the cause of things: how and why things work the way they do. Inquiry is another way to use journaling to Reveal THE truth about what is, just as it is. When we put on paper what is on our mind, we make space for new way of seeing life to arise.


Here are some questions to start your inquiry practice:

  • What experiences has life presented to me in the last few weeks?

  • What could be released to make room for integration?

  • Just as leaves fall to the ground, surrendering to the cycle of life, what do I want to clear, release, and let go of in my life?


Reframing: Words are powerful and they can keep us stuck in patterns or beliefs if we don’t pay attention to it. On the other side, we can use them to change our perspective on our life. We can even create powerful statements or mantras that will help us to let go and bring new energy into our lives.


Here are examples of affirmations related to the practice of letting go:

  • I release attachment to anything that does not serve my highest and best self.

  • I let go of any negative thoughts, worries, or any energy that does not belong here.

  • I am capable of prioritizing my physical, emotional, and mental well-being

  • My emotions are valid and essential to my own well-being, as well as the well-being of others.

  • I create openings for the flow of life to emerge in new and powerful ways in my life


Reprograming: We are beings of habits. Which is not bad. Those unconscious actions help us to go by our lives without having to re-think each time how to brush our teeth, drive our cars or cook a meal. However, some of them are harmful for us and sometimes for others. Once these habits have been identified, they can be changed. Following a specific protocol, we can teach our mind a new routine.


Soul


Meditation: A regular meditation practice helps us to develop a better awareness, concentration and presence to our life, leading us to an honest understanding of what is and what needs to be done.


Self-compassion: Compassion is the feeling that arises when we witness the suffering of another being and feel an impulse to relieve that suffering. Self-compassion therefore means that we bring this same warm concern to our own suffering. When practicing self-compassion, I like to use the expression “of course” as I try to soothe my emotions. “Of course I am sad that my son is not calling me back. I miss him and would like to be with him right now”. The idea is to bring the same gentle care we would for a friend, the same calm and non-judgmental attention. And when we uncover some patterns, emotions or habits from the past, we can extend this practice to who we were at that moment. We hold the child we were at that time in our hearts and repeat: “of course”.


Gratitude: Cultivating contentment and gratitude helps us appreciate what is given rather than focusing on what is, or might be, missing. We are wired to notice what is negative. It is part of our primitive survival mode. But when we intentionally focus on what is actually right and good, we calm our nervous system and can let go of the fear we create in our minds. Each night as I lay down in my bed, I intentionally bring back to my consciousness three things from my day that I’m grateful for. A simple powerful practice that leads me into Morpheus’ arms with ease and peace.



Enriching our life


The leaves and fruits themselves drop from the trees and fall to the ground to begin their composting journey. As rotting leaves and fruit deteriorate, the soil beneath plants and trees becomes much richer in nutrients and minerals for the next growing season. When Spring arrives, plants and trees will suck minerals from the soil through their roots, and when we eat the resulting fruit, we will receive all that nourishment.


This is the invitation offered to us in this season. We can imagine that entering Winter is like entering a cave. Knowing this is enough for us to truly check in deeply with ourselves. What do we need and what do we really want to take with us into the cave? What is superfluous and must be released and composted so that we can enter the cave with lightness. What will nourish us during the cold season and help us last until next Spring?

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