Updated March 2022
Letting go. It’s a gentle, soft sounding idiom that floats frequently from the quiet lips of yin yoga teachers, weaves itself through the texts of ancient yogis and spiritual teachers, and has no doubt made an appearance or two on your social media feed. But what does it really mean? Let go of what, exactly? And how do we learn to ‘let go’…
Learning to let go means we have the potential to move with the natural course and rhythm of life, which we humans so adeptly resist!
This lesson of letting go is even more powerful given the last two years of uncertainty and disruption. The great dichotomy of our existence, however, is that our natural instinct as humans is to resist change, while the nature of our environment and experiences is to do nothing but.
You may have heard the phrase, “the only constant is change.” This is desperately, undoubtedly, and unavoidably true, and the idea of letting go is really just the process of surrendering constantly to what is already happening, therefore creating for ourselves the possibility of enjoying peacefulness, as well as the least amount of suffering.
“If we realise all things change, there is nothing we will try and hold onto.” – Lao Tzu
Letting go is not about cutting out every material comfort that is not absolutely physically necessary. It also isn’t about ending all of our less-than-perfect relationships, quitting our day job and sitting on a mountaintop meditating all day, every day, for the rest of our human lives. It is simply about releasing what is already on its way out, going ‘with the flow,’ if you will, rather than getting dragged along kicking and screaming.
Nature, as always, provides the best life advice.
Autumn is particularly good at letting go; showing us that there is no need to hold onto old, dead leaves, even if it means we will be left completely bare and naked and looking nothing like we did before. Autumn simply drops its leaves and, without anxiety, stands steady and exposed while it attends to the inner work of nourishing its roots and trunk
Humans mirror nature’s cycles; therefore autumn is the ideal time for us to practice letting go.
We too are meant to shed, release, drop old leaves, and spend time feeling bare and empty and without what we know, as we embark on a new path or simply direct our energy toward nourishing our insides and growing our roots deep and strong for when it is time to bloom again.
Happy Buddha’s retreat offerings are the perfect setting for to get away; to let go and reground and reset. Being surrounded by the beauty of nature, as well as the beauty of people who understand this, will truly encourage a gentle and personal unfolding.
What do I need to let go of?
What we need to let go of can be obvious and external. Places, relationships, jobs, clutter in our homes and lives. These are the things we can point to and clearly see as dysfunctional or simply outdated. What is harder to notice are the conditions within us that create these circumstances in the first place. What is it within us that chose this place, relationship, job or material item, and what is still within us that doesn’t want to let go of it? This is the true work of letting go. Often it takes changing the outside to reveal what is operating inside, but until we turn our gaze to our hearts and minds and compassionately hold, question, comfort and release what is happening there, we will continue to choose and attract the same set of unchanging, unfulfilling circumstances and call it our life.
What are the gifts of letting go?
Apart from feeling lighter, more aligned and in congruence with our true nature, the gifts of letting go are the gifts of making space, and everything that is able to arrive when we weed and fertilise the soil of our minds. When we release our attachment to anything we don’t really, truly desire, we free up space for what sparks a light in our hearts. The gift of letting go is, really, anything and everything you desire.
Often times, that can be something completely and wonderfully intangible. Creative inspiration and expression, for example, is something that many people find readily available to them once they’ve let go of old ideas about the way things should be or how their creative process should unfold. Whenever we are holding on to something, we are contracting on some level.
In letting go, we release this tension and allow our true essence to flow out without boundary or restriction. Holding on acts as a hard outer-casing around our being and keeps us trapped in sameness and stagnation. When we are open to life as it organically unfolds, not how we think it should unfold, we can taste its sweet nectar as well as our own.
When we are free from anxiety about life not behaving the way we think it should, we have a well of energy available to help us navigate and cooperate with our life as it unfolds, rather than drain our batteries by resisting and fighting what shows up. New experiences will always fall on our path. It’s up to us to see them as petals or weeds, stepping stones or roadblocks. To let them energise us or empty our well.
“Depression is not deep sadness, it’s the Universal consistencies of tension, pressure, stress, and friction in search of the Universal efficiencies of ease, joy, knowing, and liberation.” – Guru Singh
In letting go was are realising a greater possibility for ourselves; imagining a life that is more enjoyable, exciting, true, and in line with our highest good and purpose. Cleaning up shop inside allows us to be free of the fetters that keep us believing we don’t deserve the things we desire, that things never change for us, that life is hard, that good things don’t come easily, or that we aren’t capable of creating a new life experience. We can, we do, and we are. This is the magic of letting go.
How do we learn to let go?
The question is not how we let go, but rather how we release resistance to what is already falling away. Yoga and meditation practices are incredibly powerful agents of change, or rather vehicles to acceptance of change. When we can feel a connection to our true nature and the stillness that always exists within, the movement and reshuffling of our external world feels far less disconcerting and discombobulating. When we can hear the quiet voice inside, the loud shouting of our mind is easier to tune out and we can rest more comfortably in the knowing that all is unfolding as it is meant.
Spending time in nature is a wonderful way to be reminded of our own inner worlds. As we gaze upon a tree we see that its growth is messy, organic, full in some places and sparse in others, and yet it lives and breathes and is beautiful. We, too, are chaotic and yet perfect in the way we drop leaves and bloom again.
For most of us, our life would be revolutionised if we simply let go of the belief that happiness is somewhere other than here. Rather than spend our life checking off to-do lists and working hard to control our day in an attempt to minimise discomfort, we can let go of the things that don’t bring us delight, leaving blank space and idle time for connection, excitement, inspiration, new ideas and interests, deepened friendships and expanded joy.
Instead of living in perpetual busyness to avoid our imagined inadequacy, we can wake up every day excited to enjoy what life so desperately wants to offer us. This is the greatest gift of letting go, being present enough to know what we want to do, even and especially if that means doing nothing at all. In the end, time enjoyed is never wasted.
This article was originally written in Autumn 2019 but we thought we’d re-share as it’s just as relevant now.
Erin is a passionate yoga teacher, traveller and certainly has a way with words!