Letting Go and Releasing Control as we Start the
Lao Tzu wrote: “Those who use moderation are those who are already on the path to the Tao. When we stop striving, we give nature a space to unfold. In trusting the universe and accepting that its ever changing lies the opportunity to become loose and supple instead of rigid and brittle.”
“The power of letting go means we float along the stream, without grasping for rocks and branches and that we cut loose dead weight, so we can navigate through life with minimal effort.”
Lao Tzu lived thousands of years ago and we come to know the Tao or “The Way” through his sharing of the Tao Te Ching. His quotes are great metaphors for letting go of control and surrendering that which you hold on tight to that no longer serves your growth, creativity, and relationships.
As we are now at the start of 2023, it’s a good time to look back to the year and see what has been good in your life, what you have overcome, what has been strengthening your inner self, how you have been resilient, what are your inner and outer resources, and what did you learn about yourself that has been your super powers or gifts. I invite you to take the time to sit down and journal, to notice and look back and write about 2022. Knowing your strengths, skills, resiliency, resources, goals you have accomplished, small ones or big ones and what you have overcome are as important as knowing what you need to let go of as we end the year.
Secondly, as you take the time to journal think back with a lens of objectivity of what you have been holding on to that you need to let go and how it would benefit you to release now as you start the year 2023 . I know that sometimes there are thoughts, behaviors, habits, people or things that we just continue to hold on to and each year we say we are going to do it but find it very challenging to let go. If you’ve tried to let go of a habit or old expectations or beliefs, have you noticed that sometimes you can clutch even harder and tighter? I can tell you from my own experience, especially with specific foods that I have enjoyed since childhood, that can be really tough to break! I cling tighter and eat more of it instead of less!
Another example of my own experiences in life that as a Cuban American mother of two adult children, I have found it challenging at different stages of their development and transitions to let go and release but instead, holding on to my children with great anxiety. As I look deeper as to why this happens, I observe unrealistic cultural expectations about motherhood that I want to fit into and I begin doubting myself as I peer through a judgmental lens asking, “Did I do a good job?” or “What if I didn’t support them enough or love them enough?” I begin to notice all my mistakes rather than all the sacrifice, work, time, effort, love, and care given to my children and family life!
Whether we are trying to let go of an unhealthy eating habit or self-judgment letting go and releasing is not always easy depending on how your body has wired into sugar as part of your memories of love and nurturing or the value you have placed on yourself to fit in and meet society and cultural expectations. To let go and release, we need to understand what, why, and where is the tight grip, the holding on, the fear, the anxiety as we move with our strengths and resources, and step into new intentions and goals. Here is a little encouragement: it is important to know that just because you tightened the reigns, clutched a little harder, and avoided the decision there are opportunities at every corner to let go and release. Life is not a straight and linear approach to reaching goals and most definitely not linear for letting go and releasing. Why? you may ask, because not only the mind has to let go but our hearts have to release as well, and it takes time, patience, and compassion with ourselves and with each small step forward into the new, we can do both release and move forward.
When you hold on to irrational beliefs about yourself or others, fears, negative thinking habits, and unhealthy lifestyles surrounded by people who are toxic or no longer supportive to living a healthier and more joyful life, this is like carrying “dead weight” upon your heart, mind, and body. By carrying this dead weight upon you, the movement or flow of your life is much more challenging, distracting, and harder to navigate. As Lao Tzu is quoted above, “The power of letting go means we float along the stream, without grasping for rocks and branches and that we cut loose dead weight, so we can navigate through life with minimal effort.”
We want to open up to new life and new beginnings so even taking some steps now at the beginning of the year, can help support the release and letting go process so you don’t keep hanging on to the rocks and branches, but allowing yourself to move, flow with the stream of life so that new beginnings flow your way.
Here are some steps you can take to begin the letting go and release of what is no longer of value or desired for your life:
- Begin by journaling your strengths and accomplishments as shared early in this article. Knowing your strengths is just as important to know what needs to be released so that you can rely on your inner resources and outer resources to hold you up, inspire you, and encourage the path forward. Draw, collage, or create an art piece that shows all your strengths and resources to have somewhere close to you in your office, home, or work space.
- Secondly, take the time with objectivity to write about one or two things you need to let go of that you want to work on. What keeps you stuck in your old beliefs, habits, and thoughts do you continue to ruminate and hold on to? Are there people, items you keep, or a job that is not bringing joy, creativity, or supporting your goals?
- When you begin to write, allow for a loving and wise self that is patient with you and compassionate. Notice if a perfectionistic or judgmental side wants to jump in as you write and take the time to notice these parts of yourself and send compassion to those parts as well. These parts of ourselves judgement and the critic may have been trying to be protective but not very good in helping us to let go and release but bring us into more shutting down and fear. If so, notice and send compassion to those parts as well. Ask those parts why they hold on and then let them know you are going with a different approach to releasing and letting go.
- Get rid of unwanted items connected to what you are trying to surrender or let go of around your home whether it is in the pantry or refrigerator of items that are unhealthy for you or whether it is clutter in a room that can be used to create space for meditation or yoga practice. I have found that getting rid of things in my home that are no longer going to support my movement forward into new beginnings can help establish the intent and goal. You can also pull an empty box out and begin placing things that you have been holding onto from old relationships, clothing, furniture, items that no longer have any value, keep you hanging on to past memories that are not supportive to your life now. Sometimes we hold on to items given to us by family members that hold memories of poverty, sadness, grief, and the story of their hardships that keep you in story of someone else’s life at a different period or time. This doesn’t mean you don’t keep things that bring you joy and love or encouragement but sometimes it is a sense of freedom and joy to release old narratives and generational pain that we hold onto that keep us living the same financial narrative.
- Beginning a meditation practice can support learning to relax, to find your center, feel grounded, and calmer. The more you are able to integrate this into your day as you are letting go and surrendering you are able to feel less defensive, controlling, and fearful during these choices and actions that you begin to take. Relaxation can increase and support flexibility to move through difficult situations, open up to a fresh perspective rather than struggle with painful feelings.
- Having a sense of humor! When we are anxious and challenged to let go and release something that has been painfully challenging, having a sense of humor is very helpful! In Beyond Anxiety and Phobia, psychologist Dr. Bourne cites several psychological benefits to laughter: reduces blood pressure, relieves muscle tension, stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain of well-being and production of white blood cells that supports the immune system (p.135). However, most of all, it can relieve fear and anxiety. One example during times of letting go and releasing unwanted behaviors, thoughts, or things is to watch comedians you enjoy and look back at some of their old works and new ones! See how you begin to feel in your mind and body!
- Begin to write what you are desiring, what does that look like next year, what steps could you take? Make sure to be realistic with your goals and intentions. If there is a habit that has been quite difficult to change begin with one or two new thoughts, a new food choice, a new hobby you enjoy, or a new yoga or meditation practice. When you step into something new your focus goes to what is new, fun, creative, or joyful which helps to stop the old belief, thought, or habit from being the focus of attention.
- If you are finding it hard to let go and release something that you have been clutching on to, try connecting to your Spirituality whether it is through a religious group you participate in, a ritual, or prayer, meditation, or connecting with nature. As the year is starting, one way I have learned to step into releasing and letting go of something that has been hard for me is to create a fire pit in my backyard, play some music that helps me get into the spirit of nature, I write a letter to myself, my spirit, my guides, or whatever you believe in and share why it is important to release it, whether it is to forgive yourself, forgive others, or new thoughts or beliefs about yourself, improve self-confidence. I then take the letter and place it in the fire pit letting it burn away. You can add dried flowers, branches, sunflower seeds, pinecones to connect with nature as you release the letter. You can pray, sing, or dance the release too! This start of 2023, I will be releasing the need to force things to happen, to let go of old beliefs about motherhood through a cultural lens that is restricting and limiting for myself and my adult children, and to release doubt! What will you release?