How to learn to let go

Last night I stayed up late to watch one of my favourite all time movies. Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands still makes me cry. I wondered why this story is so powerful for me. And then I realized: it is a classic Western love story where pure, good, selfless love is squashed by social ignorance, where the truth of heart and feeling is overruled by the fear of the collective mind. And the really beautiful thing about this whole mess is: Although Edward Scissorhands and his true love Kim must release each other to their separate destiny, their gift of love is never lost or forgotten.

Sure, it’s just a movie, but it made me stop and consider the issue of letting go, especially letting go of those things that truly speak to our soul. How do we know when to let go? And how do we do it?

In recent years, many psychologists, philosophers and New Age spiritualists have turned their attention to the ‘living in the now’. Their call to be in the moment is supported by reams of research that demonstrate how holding on to attachments, feelings, memories, and desires increases anxiety, discontentment, and frustration. Ouch. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. Staying angry or disappointed, or continuing to try to figure out what went wrong contaminates our present possibilities for growth and happiness with negative feelings or useless ruminations.

Letting go of the need to hold on to your past is the secret to living in the now. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? So how come letting go is such a challenge? Approximately 80% of our daily life is concerned with either thoughts of our past or our future. Perhaps we can blame the linear thinking processes emphasized in Western culture for this – we are trained to think in terms of cause and effect, and are asked to continually re-evaluate the role of particular causes so that we can maximize certain effects later.

To overcome this cultural focus, we must practice letting go of past and future-oriented thinking. Here are 5 tips to help you do that:

  1. Angry or hurt by someone? Can’t stop thinking about how they have done you wrong. Try this. List their inappropriate behaviours. For example, they acted selfishly. Then remember a time when you behaved selfishly towards someone else. Oops – Recognizing the laws of karmic return sometimes make is easier to forgive and move on.
  2. Does the past situation feel overpowering to you? It will lose its impact when you play the ‘what if’ game. Follow the situation to its most extreme conclusion. For example, “What if your child broke the TV?” A logical response might be that you would not be able to watch the news, and this makes you feel angry. Ask yourself: “What if you could not watch the news?” An extreme response might be: The apocalypse could occur and you would be the last to know – sounds ridiculous right? Kind of puts a broken TV in a bigger picture context where we can see that the broken TV issue is probably not the end of the world. Literally.
  3. Ask yourself: who has control over how I interpret this situation? Guess what? You do. Recognizing your own power to let the energies of others affect you will automatically diminish the impact of their energies on you.
  4. Trust your intuition. It is the voice of your spirit. Sometimes situations and feelings escalate because we have not honoured our intuition. We stayed too long, or did too much, or ignored our creep alert. Sometimes the person we are really annoyed with is ourselves. Honouring our intuitions will help us love ourselves more.
  5. Watch how what you focus on in your life gets bigger. Feeling badly? Focus on that and watch how the bad feelings contaminate everything and everyone around you. Understand that whatever you focus on gets bigger. Focus on gratitude and watch how good feelings flood your world. Like attracts like.

Bring these tips to action by finding a quiet place to sit with yourself and your feelings. Even a few moments of reflection can help move you towards letting go and living in the moment.

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