What Does “Letting Go” Really Mean?

“Let it go” has become a big buzz word in self-help and new age circles. It’s even seeped into the mainstream. So much so that it’s become a cliché. Letting go has become a convenient catch-phrase you say to someone in yoga class, at the water cooler, at the gym, your Uber driver, or over the phone with your sister.

That’s too bad because it describes a real process which is significant and seriously helpful.

It’s not generally understood that to let go genuinely requires insight and understanding, deeper awareness, taking responsibility and an inner ripening. These have to applied consistently, over long stretches of time.

Small stuff can be let go or put in a waiting area to be dealt with at a better time. Then there’s the small stuff that gets larger and larger, and there’s actual big stuff that’s excess weight and a barrier. Small stuff that can’t be let go of points to the big stuff going on inside, and the big stuff is where the commonplace advise of letting go just doesn’t cut the mustard.

True letting go is a personal growth, deep healing, and spiritual development sojourn all at once.

What hasn’t been fully processed, digested and integrated also can’t be truly released. With a caveat: it’s detrimental to be stuck in processing for too long.

metamorphosisThere comes a time when one has to take responsibility and decide what it costs their happiness to hold on. Intellectually it makes sense to let go. All the stuff being held on to has established hooks in the psyche, it has made rooted grooves in the mind. To unseat it there has to be commitment first on a personal level. It doesn’t happen by itself.

When things are held on to it sets up a pattern of obsessive and circular thinking. It’s difficult to get out this pattern as it’s self-perpetuating and becomes a bottomless pit. The initial responsibility is to extricate oneself from this trap.

The mind has a negativity bias. This was put in place by evolution so we can be alerted to dangers to our survival. To let go means to begin to work with the mind. Take a look at the link below after the quote for more on this:

Neuroscience is discovering that the brain has a ‘negativity bias.’ This is because processing danger signals is more important to survival than processing signals that are safe. This seems like a sensible adaption of the brain in early humans. We no longer live in constant danger to our survival. It seems some of our primal fears have survived into modern times, though perhaps they have morphed and may not be so recognizable.

 

— Pamir Kiciman, from The Brain: Being Positive or Negative, and Intuition

Working with the mind is extremely important and a continuous effort. Established mental patterns can change but not without steady mindfulness and application.

Similar to thought traps, there are emotional holes we fall into and often don’t even look up to see where the opening is to get out. These emotions engulf and set up a reactivity loop that control our entire state of being and our outlook. Resentment, anger, blame and guilt about the past. Worry, anxiety, pessimism and conjuring catastrophic outcomes regarding the future. Being so occupied means none of what’s needed to navigate the present is available to us. We’re essentially lost to ourselves and our loved ones.

Emotions too have grooves. As with mental grooves, emotional ones are also like well-worn paths. We cycle the same emotions over and over. We’re on a hamster wheel of thoughts. Thoughts and emotions feed each other. We live within stories we’ve created and some we’ve inherited. Stories are important. They give us a sense of place, belonging and continuity. They can also restrict and limit. Stories can be rewritten.

 

— Pamir Kiciman, from Rewriting Emotional Stories

Emotional wounds are the purview of healing. Being stuck in a reactivity loop is prolonged by emotional wounds being opened again and again. Again, responsibility has to be taken and these wounds need to be made whole. Letting go is intimately tied to healing because we continue to hold on to whatever causes us pain and suffering. We build shrines to all that hurts us!

Emotional wounds make strange bedfellows. As hurtful as they are, we hang on to them. This begins to change as insight and understanding gather, we show willingness to look within and to loving ourselves and wade through the pain to the other side. As root causes are revealed, dots connected, certain relationships seen for what they are, we’re able to stand on our own free of the filters, projections and overlays of others.

In this fresh clarity there’s empowerment and the ability to make the necessary corrections. Once corrections are made, once we’ve healed core lies about ourselves that we’ve heard from others or somehow believed about ourselves along the way, we can truly let go.

We can let go with forgiveness. This is the truest way to let go.

There’s wholeness inside each wound. To release it, we have to acknowledge the wound, hold space with it and infuse it with our awareness. Our awareness or attention is a type of love. Even if we can’t love the wound at first, it still feels love from us when we acknowledge it. Over time, it releases the wholeness and love that’s hidden and trapped on its inside.

 

— Pamir Kiciman, from Wounds, Love, Wholeness

Spiritual development which is part of this sojourn happens as a result of all of the above, and happens as a separate endeavor as well. Working with the mind to release its native power, emotional healing in a way that cauterizes triggers and thus finding greater freedom, tasting the benefits of letting go in the form of quieting the noise inside, growing personally and spiritually to be graced by forgiveness all lead to spiritual growth.

In turn, spiritual growth fuels our ability to let go because it changes our entire frame, outlook and worldview, the what and why of life! Understanding becomes wisdom. Wisdom cooked fully and embodied becomes a way of life. This wisdom shows us how to live and what’s important to keep and what’s useless.

Our spirit has the power of self healing if only we know how to allow it to rest and don’t continue to feed it with more worries, with more projects, with more fear. The practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, enjoying the contemplation of the sky, of the vegetation, of being with friends, enjoying things in the present moment, helps you to stop these kinds of feelings—the heart and the spirit filling with worries and fear. You will heal in the inside.

 

— Thich Nhat Hanh

Related

Healing Our Wounding


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About Pamir Kiciman

Teacher of Reiki Classes in the original tradition and Japanese teachings of Mikao Usui (Sensei) in South Florida. Meditation, Healing, and Spirituality training and services.