Two Buddhist monks return to their monastery after the rains. They reach a swollen river and in front of them is an extremely beautiful lady in a delicate silk kimono, distressed because she is unable to cross the river by herself. So, the older monk scoops her up, carries her safely to the other side and the two monks continue on their way in silence. Five hours later, as the two monks reach their destination, the younger monk, literally fuming, bursts out, “How could you do it? You touched a woman; you know we’re not allowed to do that!” The older monk replies, “I put her down 5 hours ago, but you are still carrying her with you.
The things we hold onto, bear grudges or perhaps feel angry and hurt about cloud our mind and prevent us from being the best we can be. Letting go usually involves some form of forgiveness or acceptance – whether it’s yourself, someone else, a situation or even an unknown third party. The irony is that whatever you’re holding onto, it’s probably hurting or bothering you much more than it does anyone else. Letting go doesn’t mean we condone a situation or behaviour, it’s about lightening OUR load. Because when we let go of whatever is bothering us we set ourselves free and get to reclaim that energy for ourselves. You don’t need to know HOW to let go, you just need to be WILLING. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it and change how you feel going forwards. And remember – whatever you find it hardest to let go of is probably what you need to let go of the most.
STEP 1: Make a list of what you want/need to let go of. Often this will raise your level of awareness and you’ll naturally begin to loosen your grip. Just list the situations, behaviours & feelings you are holding onto – things that slow you down or rile you up – anything that gets in the way of you being the best you can be. As you make your list of what you need to let go of, also write down how you benefit from holding on. If you’re struggling to identify a benefit (there must be something or you wouldn’t be holding on to it) ask yourself, “What do I gain by keeping hold of this?”
STEP 2: Just for a second, imagine letting go of everything on this list. How does it feel?
STEP 3: the next time you are in a situation or conversation and any one of the feelings or behaviours on your list begins to come up for you, pause and do the following:
- Feel your breath. Breathe long, slow and deep 3 times.
- Consciously relax your body
- Acknowledge whatever you are thinking as it is (don’t try to make it go away)
- Notice the feeling in your body associated with this moment
- Notice the tone & content of your internal dialogue
- Accept all of the above.
- Affirm to yourself: “I can’t change all of this right now. I am responsible for my thoughts, feelings & actions. I am going to choose the one next action that will make a difference.”
Do this as often as your experiences call for it throughout the day. Do the best you can in that very moment and then let it go.