Letting be is the first step to letting go
I imagine that we all struggle with feelings and thoughts that come into our minds without our permission. Feelings and thoughts that stick to the inside of our brain and leave us stressed, anxious or depressed. It might be feelings of doubt or worry about the future, nagging guilt or sadness about the past, wishful thinking about a different outcome or feelings of victimisation about the situation you are currently in.
Of course, the stressful situations or painful memories are not the real problem here. The problem is the way we respond to situations or memories that make us uncomfortable. And so we are told to simply let go of these negative feelings.
The struggle with letting go
In meditation, we are encouraged to acknowledge intruding thoughts and then simply let them go. In the personal development sphere, we are advised to let go of all that is no longer serving us. And I assume that if you are a seasoned Buddhist monk or a self-help guru, this advice might be useful to you.
But the problem with letting go is that for many of us it can create more tension. Letting go implies that you need to eliminate something, often the thing (or thought or feeling) that is most difficult to eliminate. Of course, this can then create even more struggle and tension around the issue. This is known as the principle, ‘what you resist, will persist’.
What is letting be?
Rather than trying to get rid of parts of ourselves, we create a space in which we can simply acknowledge all that is going on in our body and mind. In ‘letting be’ we hold ourselves in a still environment of open, tender non-judgemental acceptance from which we can witness all the thoughts and feelings, and desires and attachments that are passing by.
Letting be means loosening your grip and experiencing everything without fighting it. It means you simply pause within your story for a while, particularly when the story gets difficult. It means realising you don’t have to fix anything and are allowed to feel everything.
Life will always move forward and evolve. By doing nothing, you get out of the way of life to unfold in whatever way it is meant to be. Often, when you simply surrender to the moment, things will evolve without you really needing to do anything to make it happen. Remember, what you resist, will persist. So, stop resisting and simply let be. That is the first step in a process of sustainable change.
“Let go of the battle. Breathe quietly and let it be. Let your body relax and your heart soften. Open to whatever you experience without fighting.”
~ Jack Cornfield
What will happen when you let be
Letting be encourages awareness of your emotional patterns and mental clutter rather than avoiding or attaching to them. The first thing that will happen is that we will find a relief – a relief from striving and desiring. When I was going through a burn-out a few years ago, I resisted my situations for months before I finally surrendered. As soon as fully accepted my sheer and utter exhaustion (and the possibility I might never regain my energy), a sense of openness, softness and relief washed over me.
But accepting fully what is, also ignites a process in which we can let go and evolve from the situation we hold on to. Letting be is not just a complacent giving-up, it is a creative and spirited activity. Once you drop into the state of letting be, you will notice that many things around you will start to pivot. Whether they are your own mindsets or external circumstances, letting be ignites a process of non-striving evolvement.
Once I surrender to the burn-out, I naturally and instinctively knew what I needed to do to heal. (Of course, it simply requires a lot of rest, but in the midst of the burnout resting felt anything but intuitive.) I didn’t strive to have more energy or to have my old life back. I simply surrendered to the present situation and evolved my health from there. Notice that I keep using the word evolvement rather than resolvement. Resolving something has a quality of returning to what was, whereas evolving acknowledges that change might take you to unexpected and new ways of living.
How to let be
If you struggle with letting be – whether it is a health problem, a bad job situation or a troubled relationship -, an easy way to practice letting be all that resides in the present moment, is a simple meditation technique. On each in-breath, say ‘as it is’ and on each out-breath, say ‘as it is’. This relaxes a rigid, hardened mind and releases tension around your current situation. When negative thoughts and feelings crop up in the mind (as they will), simply ride the wave of them – truly feel what you feel – and then simply remember ‘as it is’. And with all that being said, I will leave you with this quote by Dan Millman:
"The first step to change is accepting your reality right now. Honoring your process. Compassionate self-awareness leads to change; harsh self-criticism only holds the pattern in place, creating a stubborn and defensive Basic Self. Be gentle with yourself as you would with a child. Be gentle but firm. Give yourself the space to grow. But remember that the timing is in god's hands, not yours."
To learn more about letting be, check out the resources below:
Jack Kornfield – A Path with Heart (Book)
Pema Chödrön – When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Book)
Dan Millman – Sacred Journey of a Peaceful Warrior (Book)
Dr. David Hawkins – Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender (Book)
Rumi – Guest House (Poem)