I have a lovely book called “Daily Joy: 365 Days if Inspiration”. As the title implies, there is a quote for each day of the year accompanied by a stunning photo that often illuminates the meaning in the quote. The book is published by National Geographic, so the photos are truly breathtaking. I opened the book this morning and here’s what showed up for November 2:
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. The Buddha
The same can be said of many negative emotions like resentment, envy, hate, jealousy, hate, and on. Learning to recognize that you may beholding onto something that doesn’t serve you and then learning to let that thing go isn’t easy. The behaviours and experiences we hold onto, either by grasping or pushing away, cloud our mind and prevent us from being the best we can be. Letting go usually involves some form of reflection and acceptance or forgiveness – whether it’s yourself, someone else, a situation or even an unknown third party. The irony is that whatever you’re holding onto is probably bothering you more than it does anyone else. Letting go doesn’t mean you are resigned to or condone a situation or behaviour, it’s about lightening your load. When you let go of whatever is weighing you down, you set yourself free and reclaim that energy that for yourself and for the service of others. 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 forward. Often whatever you find it hardest to let go of is what you need to let go of the most.
You can begin by making 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. Simply list the situations, behaviours & feelings you are holding onto, what slow you down, what rile you up and anything that gets in the way of you being the best you can be. When you identify something, be sure to make a note of how you benefit form holding onto that thing. If you struggle 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?” Perhaps by holding on to certain situations, behaviours and feelings, you don’t need to accept your part in the situation, or perhaps it stops you from feeling how hurt you really were, maybe you get to stay in ‘the right’ or avoid dealing with someone.
Next, just for a second, imagine letting go of everything on this list. How does it feel?
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.
Enjoy the freedom that letting go creates.