- A Story to Illustrate the Power of Letting Go
- Why Letting Go Is the Key to Your Health and Happiness
- How to Practice Letting Go in Daily Life
A Story to Illustrate the Power of Letting Go
There’s a little story that beautifully illustrates the simple power of letting go. A professor holds up a glass of water and asks his class how much it weighs. Various answers are thrown up and the professor admits that they won’t know for sure unless they weigh it. He then asks them what would happen if he held the glass up like that for an hour. Of course his hands would pain, say his students. The professor then asks them what would happen if he held up the glass like that for an entire day. His students laugh and say that he would definitely get some severe muscle problems—maybe even paralysis. But did the weight of the glass change at all, however much time you hold it up, queries the professor. So what causes this muscle ache and stress? Why not put it down, chorus the students. “Exactly!” says the professor.
Life’s problems are something like this. Hold it for a few minutes in your head and they seem fine. Think of them for a long time and they begin to ache. Hold it even longer and they begin to paralyze you. You will not be able to do anything. It’s important to think of the problems in your life, but even more important to “put them down” at the end of every day before you go to sleep. That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh and strong and can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way.
Letting go is our way of embracing life, of living in each moment, engagingly and refreshingly.
Why Letting Go Is the Key to Health and Happiness
The simple act of letting go has profound benefits—physical, mental and spiritual.
Holding on, on the other hand, makes us more vulnerable to health problems. For instance anger and hostility are prime suspects in heart diseases. Gastric problems, including acidity and irritable bowel syndrome [IBS] owe their onset to pent-up emotions. This phenomenon is known as somatization, the tendency to translate repressed emotions into actual physical symptoms.
Emotion, kept in cold storage, and reheated and rehashed, is a sure recipe for looking and feeling old. We become susceptible to allergies, racked by chronic ailments, and the more we remain locked in old patterns, the more we close ourselves to new experiences. Just imagine how much energy we expend each day just holding on to all these things, and the frustration, disappointment, anger, and sadness that we accumulate as a result.
Psychologically, letting go is invaluable in building ourselves up from within. We learn from experiences instead of being carried away by their emotional content. We learn to accept and remain neutral, not allowing anger to fuel an already volatile situation, make choices with clarity and without fear.
Related » The Dangers of Emotional Suppression
How to Practice Letting Go in Daily Life
So, how can we let go? How can we release that which keeps us blocked? How can we let clogged up patterns and emotions flow on, away from us? Here are three suggestions to help you “loosen up” and embrace what life has to offer.
1. Practice forgiveness
Forgiveness is extremely liberating. It frees us; and though we may not excuse the act, we can forgive the person who committed it. Thus, we allow negativity and resentment to loosen its tenacious grip on our psyche, and open ourselves to leading a happier life in the present. It is a decision to let go of resentments, while not condoning the act. Forgiveness is the act of untying yourself from thoughts and feelings that bind you to the offense committed against you. Medically, it has proven effects—lower blood pressure, stress reduction, lower heart rate, better anger management skills and enhanced interpersonal relations.
2. De-clutter your mind
Just as you clean your closets and sanitize your homes, how about taking time out—perhaps once a month— to sit down and evaluate exactly what you have kept in your mind? What is it that you have “hoarded” that is bogging you down, hampering your productivity, decreasing your efficiency and pulling you down? Then, simply let it go. Let go for a few minutes each day to start with and then for a longer duration, till it becomes second nature to not think about it. It will be difficult at first, but with meditation and practice, you will master the skill. You will feel so rejuvenated; you will be tempted not to look back.
3. Try creative visualization to let go
This is a process through which you harness the power of your mind to meet your objectives. Picture yourself releasing, letting go of all that is holding you back from peace, contentment, health and happiness. It could be an old resentment, a co-worker’s bad attitude and your hostile feelings associated with him/her, or a lost love. Next, picture yourself exactly as you want to be. Make sure you see this very clearly.
Once you’ve got the picture in your head, think of it often. Not only when you are relaxing or meditating, but also through the day. This is the process of sending that positive energy out into the universe. The more positive energy you send out, the more you will get back.
Lastly, believe that the person you visualize is really you, free from painful attachments and negative memories, already having “let go”. Any disbelief is negative energy, and will counteract what you’re trying to achieve. And once you see it come true, acknowledge that you made it happen. Give yourself a pat on the back. To reward is to reinforce the feeling, energizing it to make it your.
4. Use a Prop
Another powerful technique through which you can release the need to respond to whatever it is that is stirring up your emotions is to visualize and practice this by holding a small, unbreakable item [like a coin or eraser] in your open hand. Imagine that this item is a physical manifestation of what is bothering you; this problem is literally in the palm of your hand. Now, close your fist around the object as tight as you can. Notice the energy that it takes to hold it in such a manner. You may even be squeezing it so hard that it hurts, and you can feel your muscles fatiguing. Keep squeezing, but turn your hand over so your knuckles are up and your palm is facing down. Now – here’s the secret – take a deep breath and just open your hand, letting whatever it is you were clutching simply fall on the floor. This, in essence, is letting go.
You don’t have to have a physical object to practice letting go, but it can be very useful in the beginning to help you develop this response to life’s stressors. You may even consider carrying a small stone, or other items, in your pocket that you can use throughout the day as necessary while you hone this skill.
Regardless of whether or not you use a prop, the idea is that rather than trying to get a better grip on the situation and trying to control it so fiercely that it’s fatiguing, you let it go instead. It certainly seems counter-intuitive, but that only reflects our fear-based desire to exert control over situations that seem to be threatening.
Letting go offers an opportunity to relax into an uncomfortable situation instead of pushing against it. This approach helps calm the mind and nerves, slows down your breathing and racing heartbeat, and makes space for thinking that is less emotionally charged and more likely to be productive.
Letting go of tension and energy that have you emotionally bound up does not mean that the problem at hand will probably simply disappear. But that’s okay because letting go isn’t about evading problems. Rather, it is about giving you an opportunity to release yourself from your own spiraling negative emotions.
Letting go can be very useful for helping you to come back to your center in everyday situations. As with most things, practicing it often will result in greater flexibility and facility. When used frequently, it can literally transform your life.
This is an updated version of the article that first appeared in the September 2008 issue of Complete Wellbeing magazine.
Spot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!