Today’s offering comes to you by request…. Recently I asked my students what they were grappling with or hungry for or wanted me to speak into…. And so, L, A, M, K, and anyone else who needs it…. This one’s for you.
I don’t remember where I read it, and it’s been many years now.… but it was a good one.
And I bet a lot of you will remember it too… and if you are a part of our community already, you can probably guess what I am about to share…It’s that perfect quote about letting go :: the kind of thing you read that stops you in your tracks, and leaves you spontaneously nodding Yes.
You wanna hear it:
Ok. Here it is:
“Everything I have ever let go of has claw marks.”
I love when things stick like this. When they seem to anchor me to a truth that I knew was true… but I couldn’t quite get to all by myself.
It’s true you know: If I might be so bold as to generalize, we, humans sure know how to hold on tight — to things and people and experiences that aren’t good for us any more, and we also know how to hold on for way longer than is useful. And I know why… and I don’ know why, you know what I mean? It’s like somewhere evolution went sideways and we started holding onto the things that centuries or perhaps mere decades ago would have killed us…. But now it’s like we hold on and slowly die inside. We look for a million reasons to outstretch our claws, and like a cat hanging from a branch — we don’t care how close the ground is… we are NOT letting go.
Now… entertain me for a moment, if you would please. Because I’m gonna go somewhere that might feel unrelated but then I promise I’ll circle back around — because there’s something I want to share that I think will shine light on our holding on… or maybe on our letting go.
Sometime, quite a while back, Deepak Chopra was interviewed on a major network, after a series gut wrenching school shooting had taken place in the U.S. and he was asked by a choked up anchor, why does this keep happening?
His response was deep and brilliant.
He said something like this, and I am bringing this back from memory, so please forgive me, Dr. Chopra.
He said this: We have become a country of unresolved grief. As time has sped up, and rest has become criminalized, we move from chaotic moment to chaotic moment, from war to war, from loss to sickness to challenge…. With essentially NO healing time between significant events and that it is this grief — this built up grief — that comes out sideways crooked and in unexpected and unhealthy ways. We are fighting and attacking, road raging and abusing each other because we are like ticking grief-bombs… waiting to go off, until we just GO OFF.
The yogic tradition speaks of this as the moment when we either “implode” or “explode”.
So, I’ll be transparent here — because when I heard Deepak say that, I thought about my own past, and my own grief. I looked back at what I have been through, and thought about the mistakes I’ve made — and the times I didn’t know what to do with my grief. His words rang true. It doesn’t matter where I ran or what I ran toward or away from, I felt his words in my bones and blood as high Truth. I remember him also saying, if we don’t learn how to slow down and heal, this unhealthy pattern is bound to continue and even escalate.
In my own life, although I have committed myself to a healing path, the grief is still there… how could it not be? … a broken family, sexual abuse, a long-time buleimic, an alcoholic, abusive father…. Failed marriages… …. even though I never picked up an actual weapon, as I look back I can see that there definitely was a war being waged — right under my own skin… When I look back at how I moved through difficulty or let go or ran away, I see the struggle now, the battle for power and for peace… and how in the end, people got hurt, myself, and those I loved the most— not because I wanted to hurt anyone or intentionally was lashing out — but because the unresolved grief within me was unbearable, and I simply lacked the capacity to know what to do with it so out came my claws.
And my life has the claw marks to prove it.
Everything that I have ever let go of his claw marks… boy, do I resemble that remark and I doubt if I am alone.
Letting go is no easy task and there’s so much science and soul around this discussion but today, I just want to give you a few simple things to think about — because you asked.
Number one: Letting go is always bigger and deeper than we think.
It’s never that you’re just letting go of the job or the house or the relationship it’s that these things are potent little packages, filled with our dreams and visions and hopes for the future …. So, the relationship, for example, isn’t just a person or a ring or a piece of paper but it’s that PLUS everything that we have packed into an idea, a story, a fantasy, and a label of that person… And, we fear if we let go of it a part of us a big part of us will die. And death is terrifying.
So, the thing I’ll say about that is you’re right you’re right to be terrified… and you’re right to feel that way something in fact will die — but let me be clear. Something WILL die… but it won’t be you… letting go is hard because it’s bigger and more unknown than you can imagine — and it’s deeper than your conscious mind can comprehend
And if we know anything about we human beings and especially we Westerners — we will do whatever it takes to not get old, sick, suffer and especially to not die — and when something feels like its pointing you toward suffering… the psyche will rise up and fight hard against this reality and when we fight hard there are inevitably claws.
So, it’s bigger than we think, and we don’t want to suffer…
And next, it’s hard for us to let go because we have created patterns in our lives that we have become very, very good at. A pattern could be getting up in the morning and exercising first thing, or getting home at night and reaching for a glass of wine, or spending your time with a certain someone, or going to a particular job. — The point is that each of us have created a life of “individualized familiarity”… and if we are anything, people… we are creatures of habit. We like things that are predictable and make us “feel” safe. So, letting go of anything gets really hard when we tighten up around what “has been”, and what we’ve practice — so watch yourself closely…. Stalk yourself… and when you feel yourself extending your claws in an effort to hold on tightly…. Breathe a little… relax a little… take a little space away from it all…. And do things — anything — just a little differently…. So you can lay down some new patterns…. And ways of thinking, feeling, being and SEEING.
So, I’m going to leave it at that today…. It’s enough. These few bits are BIG and DEEP.
… and it’s OK that you haven’t let go of something you know, or if you’re having a hard time doing so…. You are holding on for very good reason… and I get that… AND I want you to know that if you let go — just a little — you’re going to find more space for joy, for laughter, and for possibility. I am certain of this.
And then, once you decide you need to let go of something…. It’s worth getting right with the fact that this isn’t going to be easy, necessarily. It is hard to let go. It’s hard to let go because: We have deep-seated grief that we have not healed…. So if this resonates with you, here are a few tips: take time to journal, be alone, be undistracted, and to be with what is. Go to nature, find joy, try something new and sweet, where there is fresh air, and fresh perspective… and have some soft and deep conversations — oh, and let go of the vision of a quick fix or any sort of timeline. Grief doesn’t play by your rules. Next, forgive yourself for your ONE big, fundamental reality :: you are human. There is nothing you can do about it… and I don’ know that we’d change it if we could… and we, humans, are beautiful, complicated, fallible, tender, and mortal…at best.
Also remember, we have formed patterns of “individualized familiarity” that we think are who we are — these things, these attachments, these stories are not who we are… they are just what we have gotten very, very good at believing…
So, If you want to “let go” of something , you gotta get outside — beyond – your patterning — find new friends, take risks, do things that feel weird and uncomfortable and strange to you — all knowing that you are doing this so that you expand your range of familiarity :: making room for a new way of being and a new way of seeing. Then make a decision to be okay with being a little uncomfortable…. Knowing that you are expanding the possibility of who you are and who you can be in this world.
Get right with the truth :: Letting Go HURTS. If you get right with this truth, and then LET IT HURT… you are going to expand your capacity to feel pain…. And if you have an expanded capacity to feel pain, guess what? You also have an expanded capacity to feel LOVE.
So there it is…. Be gentle with yourself if letting go is hard for you…. Practice giving yourself a little bit of space… buy yourself flowers, rest a while in a sliver of sunlight on the living room floor, draw a bath and drizzle in some essential oils, make yourself a yummy pot of soup. It’s enough. Rest your hands on your heart and soften your paws, so your claws aren’t quite so ready for the fight.
I have a feeling just these few little reminders can make a world of difference, and maybe even change your entire world.
Until next time…