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Learning to Let Go

Life is all about transitions, some good, some bad, some terrifying, some painful, some that are just okay, regardless of how or why, we have to go through transitions in life. The challenge that most of us face is how impactful that transition is and the wave of emotions that usually accompany it. This is especially true when something ends, whether a relationship, a job, a life, a dream, or a chapter in our life journey book. When we go through those transitions which are painful, these are often more difficult because they remind us of how much we actually don’t control and that we are human and we do feel. Where some of us have the most difficulty is when we are not able to fully process the loss and ending. When something hurts; we want it to be fixed, to stop hurting, so pushing those emotions and feelings away, so we can “get on with life” can actually cause us to get stuck. Our society is also not encouraging in allowing you to sit with your pain, to allow those emotions to wash over you, to be present and acknowledge the high and lows of letting go. When someone dies, we say “oh the sooner you move on, the better it will be. Get on with life.” But that’s not how grief works, it isn’t linear or sequential; it has highs and lows, it has bumps and flats, it has whirlwinds and hurricanes, it has sunrises and sunsets and breaths of fresh air and times you can just exhale.

In this community, and I refer to my own (West Indian Caribbean) culture, I was not taught how to let go. I wasn’t taught how to move on, or how to process the ending in a way that honors the role it played in my life and how it has led me to the next page of my life journey. It wasn’t until I began to make counseling/therapy a key part of my processing and learning more and more about meditation and prayer that I began to embrace the concept of “letting go”. In actuality the first time, I was exposed to a letting go ritual was at a youth conference in Nashville. In one of the prayer rooms was a wall filled with post-its and notes, just pinned and left there. You were encouraged to write down those things, situations, people, etc. that you needed to let go of, to place it on the wall and leave it there for God to work out. Daily, pastors at the conference would come and pray over the wall and the prayers that were being left there. It was an amazing experience and the beginning of my journey of learning to let go. When I moved overseas with my kids after my 2nd divorce, I knew there was a lot pain, sadness, confusion and grief that had not been processed by them or me. So, on a trip to St. Augustine, we had a letting go ritual, we walked the beach and found different stones that we could write a word on. We then talked about the divorce and the things they would miss because their dad and I were no longer together and things that they were excited. The things that they felt were lost and felt sad about, they wrote on a rock. Then we walked out to the shoreline, held them up, said we were letting those things go and then threw them into the sea. We imagine how the rocks fell to the bottom of the sea and would be washed and rolled over the ocean floor forever and ever, no longer in our hearts. When we let go of those hurts and losses, it allowed us space to bring the new joys and adventures into our lives and hearts – those new things and adventures we painted on posters to take back home and pin up in the kids rooms.

So why can’t we as adults still do this in our present day to day lives – maybe not paint on rocks and throw them in the sea; although living on an island this is still an option? But instead, we hold on to things whether material or emotional, letting go isn’t easy for all of us. So, here are three easy steps shared from Jeremy Hunter’s “letting go ritual” that may be easier for you to incorporate in your steps to living more mindfully. This also works for getting rid of things that you have collected over the years that are taking up space in your home (if you’re like me a bit of a hoarder-teachers tend to be ), so it’s not always the painful things we have to learn to let go of. Learning to let go will and can open so much space in your life, heart, home, mind – that the things, people, experiences, opportunities that you are meant for you.

A Practice to Embrace New Beginnings

Feelings that arise when something comes to an end can be difficult. Try this three-step letting go ritual from Jeremy Hunter the next time you need a gentle reminder to create space for the next stage. 1. Ask yourself: What do you need to bring to an end in your life?  What needs closure? What bow do you need to tie, what letter needs to be written, what in the closet needs to be put up for sale on eBay (or locally ecaytrade)? Identify an object that represents this needed transition. 2. Sit with the object you’ve identified.  Bring to mind the thoughts, emotions, and memories associated with it. Allow space for whatever arises. 3. Let the object go. Let it go into the recycling or donation bin, if appropriate; the waste basket if not. Observe what happens in your body as you release it. What does letting go make space for?

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