Letting Go Again… and Again… and Again

Photo of Heather Sanderson by Angel Vargas

Oh, letting go… easier said than done? How many times have you been told to “just” let it go or to “get over it already”? How many time have you tried to let go of something you know in your heart isn’t serving you? Or are completely unaware of the patterns you hold? Letting go is complex and is embedded into our psychology, energy, and bodies often with the wrapper of fear, lack of safety and harm or hurt.  

If I can control something–a situation, an emotion, a problem, someone else’s behavior, then I can pretend to feel safe. For a moment. Or a day. Until something else comes to ripple through the tendencies I hold. The tendencies you hold too. 

Patterns are not inherently good or bad… everything is neutral. However, they can start to tip in or out of balance… and that tipping point is often a moment when all the internal alarm bells go off. “Wait… let me grasp onto something, anything… let me keep the order in the chaos, let me make something else happen, let me feel something else. If only I could have held onto this, that wouldn’t have happened. If only they could have done that, this never would have happened. I will never forgive them. I will never let it go.” Any of that sound familiar? Or what do you have to add into the cauldron?

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali there is a word to describe the practice of non-clinging: Aparigraha. This concept is defined as “non-attachment”, “non-grasping”, “non-coveting”, and “non-hoarding”. I borrowed the definition from this website because it’s easier than writing it over again. 😉 

I have several blog posts on this theme and how it relates to every-day life. The first was written in 2016 and the last in 2020 and here we are again. I laugh at the thought that letting go is not letting go of me. Haha. 

 In the last two months I recognized a pattern in me where I followed up constantly with everyone to make sure they were doing what they said the would. To ensure what was “supposed to” happen. Whether it was my place to do so or not. Not only is this often annoying and confronting for people, it sent out the signal: I do not trust you to do the things you said you would do. For me this lack of trust was something I held onto. If I let it go then everything would fall apart. If I didn’t keep expending my energy making sure everything was moving forward as agreed and planned then… what? Then the world would collapse. My world would collapse. 

With this realization came practice. I had to (and wanted to) stop. 

And… within the first few days of stopping… things *did* fall apart. I was meant to participate in an event but never heard from the organizer. They had said they would email me and so I decided to let go and trust the outcome. They never followed through. So I didn’t go to the event (I had no details of where it was or what time). 

Other wonderful things flowed into that day and I felt every part of me wanting to check in. To make sure it happened. 

I got a text halfway through the day asking if I was coming? I replied, with love, saying I didn’t receive the information so wouldn’t make it there now. 

And, much to my surprise, nothing “bad” happened. In fact, who knows, but maybe the communication didn’t come from that person for a myriad of reasons. Maybe not going kept me safe in some way I will never know. The outcome completely different. Maybe there was no reason whatsoever and nothing to understand. No sense to be made.

This is also a practice, for me, of not being “the responsible one.” I forget things too. I make mistakes too. While I usually am very good with time and following through with commitments, of course, I also “mess up” and things “fall apart” and… that is okay. (I share in depth the concept of working with your inner archetypes in Holding Space to Heal: A Conversation with Holly Ramey).

Falling apart is okay. It is, actually, a necessity of living. Having expectations that aren’t met can lead to direct conversations about how you feel; what harm was done and how will you (and the other person) do it differently next time? “Messing up” requires grace and forgiveness. When someone else doesn’t do what I expect, instead of trying to will or control them into doing it, can I instead express myself and my needs? Can I let go of what I want them to do? How I want them to be? And instead accept and meet them with love. Meet them where they are. Can I do that for myself? (Here comes in the practice of Loving Kindness for Everyday Life)!

Letting go and forgiveness go hand in hand, I’m learning. Because once something has happened, it’s up to me to trust a new agreement and then move on. To not rehash what happened before again, and to reset in the present moment. To actually, for real, let go and trust that whatever the outcome, I am safe. Or not… and I will try my best to make it through.

And, it reminds me that if we can practice letting go with the seemingly smaller things of everyday life, then we have more capacity to navigate the the big ones. For when things do feel like they are falling apart in moments of crisis or grief. The ability to let go at those times… to truly surrender… is one that reinforces all the other practices and tendencies we have developed. To choose to find ways of letting go when you do have relative safety better equips us to move through or break through those moments of unexpected falling apartness. To be comfortable with the ultimate letting go, one day, of death, and to not live life trying to control even that outcome.