HOW RESISTING IT COULD BE HOLDING YOU BACK
Shock, denial, hurt, anger, resentment, loneliness, fear of what lay ahead. I carried these emotions for a long time after my ex-husband and I divorced. I remember one day shortly after we separated, I woke up and just could not function. I couldn’t bear to listen to music, turn on the tv, listen to the radio, or have any outside interaction that reminded me of what I had lost. This was the lowest point in my life. All those negative emotions and fears literally stripped me of who I was. I felt completely weighed down, almost paralysed.
Looking back now, it almost seems like I was a completely different person with a completely different life. Back then I was afraid of being on my own and I was afraid of the uncertainty that lay ahead of me. I was facing huge changes; the loss of employment and the loss of my family – all at the same time. Talk about a double whammy! Everything I knew, my security net, my life as I knew it was all gone in an instant. That hurt, anger, resentment, sadness and guilt could have continued to overwhelm me and define the rest of my life, but I was fortunate though to have another man enter my life at this critical point. And no – it’s not what you are thinking. This man was my counsellor. He saw that my challenge was in accepting the changes that had happened in my life and letting go of a past life that no longer existed. And so together we devised a plan that allowed me to give myself permission to let go, embrace the changes I had to face and move me forward without all the raw emotional baggage I was carrying around every minute of every day.
That was thirteen years ago and it was one of the biggest and most painful learnings of my life, and also one of the best. What did I learn? That the greatest obstacles to change lies in letting go of the past.
And so, I would like to share another story with you.
Two Buddhist monks return to their monastery after the rains. They reach a swollen river and in front of them is an extremely beautiful lady in a delicate silk kimono, distressed because she is unable to cross the river by herself. So, the older monk scoops her up, carries her safely to the other side and the two monks continue on their way in silence. Five hours later, as the two monks reach their destination, the younger monk, literally fuming, bursts out, “How could you do that? You touched a woman. You know we’re not allowed to do that!” The older monk replies, “I put her down five hours ago, but you are still carrying her with you.”
This is one of my favourite stories as it so beautifully conveys a simple yet powerful message: the things you carry around with you; the things you are fearful of, the grudges you bear and the anger and hurt you resist letting go of, all cloud your mind, prevent you from being the best you can be and stop you from achieving your goals and dreams.
Letting go of these things usually involves some form of forgiveness or acceptance – whether it’s of yourself, someone else, a situation or even an unknown third party. The irony is that whatever you’re holding onto is probably hurting you much more than it’s hurting anyone else.
Now this next point is important; forgiving and accepting doesn’t mean you condone a situation or behaviour. Because I certainly didn’t and still don’t condone my ex-husband’s behaviour! What I learnt is that it’s not about anyone else. It’s about you and lightening your load. Because when you decide let go of the weight of things that are bothering you, you set yourself free and get to reclaim all that energy for yourself.
As we get started on my step-by-step process of letting go, keep in mind that you don’t need to know how to let go, you just need to be willing. And remember – whatever you find the hardest to let go of is probably the change you need to work on the most!
But if you do find you’re not ready to do anything about a particular thing that’s weighing heavily on you right now. that’s ok too, by starting with awareness you’ll naturally begin to loosen your grip as you’re ready.
1. WHAT ARE YOU CARRYING?
Write a list of what you’re holding on to. If you’re not sure, think about what feels heavy for you right now? What are you fearful of, what slows you down, what riles you up and what is getting in your way?
2. HOW IS IT BENEFITING YOU?
Next to each of these, write how you benefit by holding on to it. If you’re struggling with identifying a benefit (there must be something or you wouldn’t be holding onto it), ask yourself, “What am I gaining by holding onto this?” Perhaps by holding onto resentments, fear, anger or hurt, you don’t need to accept your part in the situation, or perhaps it provides you with a good excuse not to take action, or maybe you get to stay in ‘the right’ or avoid dealing with a person or situation. I can relate to all of these reasons for holding on because at the time, they seem perfectly justifiable.
3. WHAT WILL YOU GAIN BY LETTING GO?
The next step is to ask yourself, “What will I gain by letting go of this?”, and write these reasons down too.
4. COMPARE THE TWO
The last step involves comparing the benefit of holding on to the benefit of letting go and asking yourself honestly “Which one outweighs the other?”
If you’re still finding it hard to let go and leave it behind you for good, ask yourself, “What do I need to do that will allow me to let this go?” Perhaps you need to make notes in your journal of what you’ve learned, perhaps you need to make some kind of amends, engage in a significant ritual or activity, apologise or find a meaningful way to make it up to yourself or someone else. While we can’t change the past, we can make amends and learn from it.
As we come to the end of another year, isn’t this is a great opportunity to let go of the past, and start the new year with a fresh, clean slate?
Finally, sit with your list and imagine letting go of everything on it.
Now, how does that feel?
LOOSEN YOUR GRIP ON THE THINGS THAT WEIGH YOU DOWN AND YOU WILL START TO RECLAIM YOUR LIFE.