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Frustration, resentments, regrets, fear, and negativity poison our well-being. Learn to let go to prevent unnecessary suffering.
How do you let go?
First see the cost of wanting to change what cannot be changed. See your suffering from grasping. Notice that grasping is like holding on to a red-hot iron rod that sears your skin. Your pain tells you that you are not in alignment with Reality.
You may feel hurt, fear, disappointment, and even anger toward others who don’t do what they “should” do. There is a saying that “expectations are resentments under construction.” Notice that at the core of your pain are expectations about “fairness,” or “justice.” You expect people be honest, not hurtful, not exploitive, accepting, even loving. The problem is these expectations are unrealistic. This isn’t how people are all the time.
When you see the pain and suffering your expectations and grasping cause, letting go happens. People, places, and circumstances are as they are. Just breathe, let go, and accept. Accept this moment while doing what you can to make the next moment better.
Letting go is an act of humility. You acknowledge that you are not “God.” You surrender to the fact that the Universe will not change to meet your expectations by your wishing it so. You stop picking a fight with Reality–a fight you can never win. There is a much greater, unseen perfection of this sacred Universe that no one fully grasps. It is beyond our limited human powers of perception and comprehension. Humbly surrender to this truth. Accept and honor Reality.
Ironically, reverence for Reality empowers you to exercise your initiative and creativity to engage in “surrendered action.” Surrendered action means you act with hopes of a certain outcome, but without expecting that outcome. You do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Paradoxically, surrendered action is more likely to bring happiness and fulfillment than expectation-ridden grasping.
Letting go of resentments can be challenging. Resentments are an attempt to control by objecting. You may resent people and conditions that do not line up with your expectations. You may resent others for exploiting you, abusing you, or neglecting you. You might resent the weather or social injustice. You resent difficult events, such as illness, death, or unemployment. You resent because people, places, or things aren’t what you want.
You may resent change. When things are “good,” you don’t want change. Grasping fuels your resentments when things don’t go “your” way. Let go. Align yourself with Reality. This liberates you from resentment. Letting go ushers in acceptance. With acceptance comes peace and serenity. You move from living your life out of fear and anger to living your life out of love. Through letting go you allow for reverence of the miraculous gift of existence, even in the midst of pain.
Letting go of the uncontrollable is the path to freedom from anxiety. Look into your fears. Notice your nonacceptance of risk, harm and loss. While valuable for survival, untempered anxiety is too much of a good thing. Anxiety and fear may serve you well if you are leaning too far over a 100-story building, or if you are swimming with sharks. The problem is the fundamental, underlying lack of acceptance of the inevitability of harm and loss. You will eventually lose everything, including your life. You will suffer insult and injury, illness and disability, and innumerable other traumas, no matter how skillfully you live. You will lose jobs, loved ones, friendships, and more. This is life. This is Reality. When you let go of your need to control the uncontrollable, your anxiety recedes. Peace ensues from acceptance. Acceptance begets serenity. Letting go is the most powerful of all anxiety remedies—more powerful than any pill.
Finally, let go of regrets and past traumas. The past is also beyond your control. What’s done is done. You can’t change the past. You can only act in the Present to influence the future. Regrets only poison the Present. Ask yourself what you can learn from the mistakes you have made. Transform your pain into wisdom and compassion. Wisdom arises when you allow yourself to learn from the past. Compassion arises from understanding our common suffering. You are not alone in having suffered from your mistakes. Letting go of the past transforms suffering into a gift.
Letting go can be difficult. It takes work, along with the help of others. Let go of the past so you won’t repeat the past to fix the past. Learn new ways of being, seeing, and doing to prevent more trauma and pain than what is beyond your control. Study your past to improve your future. Process past events and traumas with healers and loved ones. Journal, reflect, and contemplate. Do this with reverent self-acceptance and self-affirmation. After you have examined the past and learned what you need to learn, turn to the Present with no regrets. Know that loving yourself involves letting go of the past to live in the Present with love.
So when you are in difficult circumstances, you have choices. Remove yourself from toxic situations if possible. Engage in surrendered action to change your situation if possible. Act positively, knowing karma is on your side in the long run, while accepting that there are no guarantees. Finally, let go of what you cannot change. Accept what is beyond your control. Remove, change, or accept. These are your three options.
Since you can only control the little you can, channel your efforts into positive activities that enhance your life and the lives of others. Commit to doing your best and accepting the rest. Letting go doesn’t mean you stop controlling what you can. Actions have consequences. Karma exists. What goes around comes around 10-fold, often later, in unforeseen ways. If you stay positive, act positive, and let go, you are doing what you can. This will reduce your suffering and enhance your joy.
Letting go is a skill that develops with practice over a lifetime. It is not a one-time event, but something you do over and over again throughout your days. Have patience, practice, and persevere. Be intentional in your practice of letting go. With time, letting go will become a more automatic way of responding to what life brings our way.
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