By Paige Reist | Posted: August 24, 2018
“Life teaches you the art of letting go in every event. When you have learned to let go, you will be joyful, and as you start being joyful more will be given to you.” - Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Sometimes growth and healing isn't about adding something new to your life. Sometimes it's about letting go. But letting go is often a difficult and even painful process - it requires us to honestly and humbly evaluate our lives and identify the places where we're hurting, the places where we're holding on too tightly, the ways in which we might be making excuses for ourselves for the sake of comfort and stability.
Think of yourself as a tree, longing to reach your branches to the sky, to dig your roots more deeply into the earth, and to bring fragrant flowers and nourishing, delicious fruit into the world. A healthy tree is able to do all of this with ease and grace. Arborists know that pruning shriveled branches and freeing the tree of dead weight encourages it to thrive in the way that nature intended. Although that branch might have once been leafy and strong, although it might have once been of beautiful service to the tree, it's no longer useful, and being free of it helps the tree grow. We're no different.
Spring, with all of that new life bursting forth, is a perfect time to shake down those dead branches. Here are eight things to begin to let go of to bring forth all the growth just waiting to happen.
1. Let go of control.
Control is one of the biggest myths of the modern age. It’s tempting to believe that if we do a, b, and c, the outcome will be x, y, and z. But the only thing that is truly under your control is you. Your actions, your thoughts, your way of being in the world. You can’t control other people, or your life’s circumstances. You never had control in the first place. The desire to control the world around you is rooted in anxiety about what might happen, so in order to let go, you need to stop fighting and allow yourself to be peaceful. Think of life like a nice trail ride. The horse knows where he’s going, and all you have to do is trust him, treat him with love, and enjoy the view along the way.
2. Let go of guilt and regrets.
Guilt does serve a purpose - to keep us from repeating the mistakes of the past. The most powerful way to move on from guilt is to take these lessons to heart. Otherwise, guilt won’t actually serve you, and can completely take over your life. Often, when we feel guilty, we want to avoid the situation that created that guilt as much as possible, but research suggests that it’s more healing to face it head on. In this way, we can clear our consciences and not live in a cloud of regrets. When you let go of guilt and regrets, you’re free to grow as a human being.
3. Let go of caring what other people think of you.
Others’ thoughts about you are not truths. You are completely in control of the narrative of your own life and personality. You are uniquely you, and fitting in just might not be your destiny! There will be people who dislike you and misinterpret you - let them! What someone else thinks about you is none of your business. Instead of focusing on changing their opinion, just be authentically yourself. One of the many wisdoms that the Art of Living Happiness Program teaches and explores in-depth is “don’t be a football of others’ opinions”, which means, essentially, that you’re not meant to be kicked around by the thoughts and opinions of others.
4. Let go of jealousy and comparison.
Jealousy and comparison are rooted in the fear that you’re not good enough. It shows you where your hurt is, where your insecurities are. Next time you feel jealous, practice compassion for yourself and for the wound that is the source of the inseecurity. Recognize that seeing someone else as better than you is another lie that you are telling yourself. When you let go of jealousy, you begin to learn that you are already good enough, already worthy, already loved.
5. Let go of anxiety.
Anxiety, of course, is rooted in fear, but it’s also rooted in a desire to protect yourself. Your mind wants to explore every possible outcome for every situation so that you’re prepared. It’s a never ending series of “what ifs” that can completely paralyze you and prevent you from living your life. But anxiety makes things so much worse. Rarely does it actually prepare you. Next time you have a “what if” thought that fills you with dread, take a moment to recognize it, thank it for its warning, and let it float gently by like a cloud in the sky. Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique taught in the Happiness Program, is also an incredibly powerful tool for releasing anxiety. Research has shown that it reduces levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and is a helpful tool for recovering from PTSD.
6. Let go of entitlement.
The world owes you absolutely nothing. And rather than that being scary, it’s actually really freeing! Letting go of entitlement about what you’re owed or what you deserve empties your life of bitterness. Entitlement is deeply rooted within us, and based on expectations of how our life has unfolded so far. Patterns of entitlement lead to anger, disappointment, and discontentedness, and when you let go of entitlement, you become more compassionate, empathetic, and grateful.
7. Let go of perfectionism.
Perfect is the enemy of good. It’s also an excuse we use to isolate ourselves, to save our best work for a rainy day that will never come. Perfection is a carrot on a stick that you’re always running after. It sucks the joy out of your life when you do achieve something. When you’re a victim of your own perfectionism, you hold yourself and others to an impossible standard, and there’s no room for messiness, grace, or growth. You are rendered completely stagnant. When you let go of perfectionism, you can move on and celebrate what’s good instead.
8. Let go of expectations.
There’s nothing wrong with having a five year plan. But letting go of expectations will allow you to take life as it is, to find joy in the unexpected and unplanned for. Life rarely goes the way we expect it will, anyway. No matter how much we plan, the universe has different ideas about where it’s going to take you. When you let go of expectations, you’re much more willing and able to roll with the punches and enjoy every new surprise life tosses your way.
Of course, the process of letting go is much easier said than done. But there are tools and techniques to help you on the journey. The practice of yoga postures, meditation, and breathwork are time-tested, medically-backed mediums to help you bring forth this necessary, soul-nourishing transformation.
So what are you ready to let go of?
Paige Leigh Reist is a lifestyle writer and the blogger behind thewholesomehandbook.com.