Why is it so hard to let go?
Of habits, relationships (healthy or toxic), of expectations, of dreams? Even when we know we’re hurting ourselves by hanging on, what drives the compulsion to keep gripping?
What do we do when old behavioral patterns no longer serve our life?
First of all, don’t beat yourself up.
In the transition stage between awareness and change lies a really sucky phase of awareness without change. It’s torturous. “Why do I do this?” “Why can’t I change this?” We lament. We tear out our hair. And we still don’t change. But now we’ve spiced up our situation by hating ourselves. Stop adding fuel to the fire. Rest assured, you created your habits for excellent reasons. To cope, to deal with stress, to survive. They have served you well. But now the time has come to change. So let go of the blaming and put that fabulous energy into changing your situation.
Cultivate tolerance for discomfort.
You can either be uncomfortable in your old habits, or uncomfortable in your new habits, so why not choose with awareness? Once you start, it becomes easier every time. Remind yourself that following your old habits may bring short-term relief, but longer term suffering. Find ways to take care of yourself during this time, whether it’s yoga, massage, tea, time with friends, or a trip somewhere that grounds you. Cultivate your capacity to take pleasure in the little things, moment to moment.
Reach out to your community.
You are not alone. You are wired like a human being, and we’re all programmed to create habits in order to become more efficient. As your awareness increases, you may realize that some of your autopilot tendencies aren’t ideal for you. Reach out to others who may be experiencing similar growing pains. There is comfort in community.
In the spirit of radical change and letting go, I’m including some inspiration below from different sources, even Dr. Phil 🙂 The first is about the Hindu goddess Kali. Put this girl in back pocket when you need to up your potency for radical transformation!
Here’s a blurb from Anita Revel’s Goddess Site:
Kali’s esoteric attributes are PASSION and physical and sexual energy. Be alert to those who undermine your self-confidence – Kali is here to hurl your life onto a new path that will ultimately prove to be more fulfilling than your current path.
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MORE ABOUT KALI
According to ancient Hindu tradition, Kali is the mother of us all. Kali is often depicted as a bloodthirsty harbinger of destruction, but this is so that through death we can experience the wonder of rebirth. Hence, when our lives seem as though they are out of control, this is Kali telling us that we have not chosen the right path. Through Kali’s strength, we are forced out of complacency and fear to find the right path for ourselves.
HER MODERN ENERGY
Kali has unwavering judgement, strong willpower and penetrative insight. She also characterises how we feel about our attachments to people and possessions, and how we react when we are threatened with losing them. Don’t be afraid to shed – Kali offers you the strength to rid your life of excess baggage, to confront the forces that threaten you, to destroy the elements of destruction in your life. Once this is done, you can celebrate new life!
Kali is related to our root chakra, home of the kundalini energy. When our root chakra is in balance, we feel secure, alert, stable – our lives are full of active and positive energy. If you are not feeling like this, it is no wonder Kali is speaking to you today. Sit on the floor, close your eyes, and while nurturing a related gemstone, feel your spine grow and take root in the earth. Feel the strength of the earth energise your spine and your body. You are indestructable! You are strong! You can shake the weight from your shoulders and conquer the demon shadowing your life.
Go Warrior Woman!!
From the Buddha Dharma Education Association:
If we contemplate desires and listen to them, we are actually no longer attaching to them; we are just allowing them to be the way they are. Then we come to the realisation that the origin of suffering, desire, can be laid aside and let go of.
How do you let go of things? This means you leave them as they are; it does not mean you annihilate them or throw them away. It is more like setting down and letting them be. Through the practice of letting go we realise that there is the origin of suffering, which is the attachment to desire, and we realise that we should let go of these three kinds of desire. Then we realise that we have let go of these desires; there is no longer any attachment to them.
When you find yourself attached, remember that ‘letting go’ is not ‘getting rid of’ or ‘throwing away’. If I’m holding onto this clock and you say, ‘Let go of it!’, that doesn’t mean ‘throw it out’. I might think that I have to throw it away because I’m attached to it, but that would just be the desire to get rid of it. We tend to think that getting rid of the object is a way of getting rid of attachment. But if I can contemplate attachment, this grasping of the clock, I realise that there is no point in getting rid of it – it’s a good clock; it keeps good time and is not heavy to carry around. The clock is not the problem. The problem is grasping the clock. So what do I do? Let it go, lay it aside – put it down gently without any kind of aversion. Then I can pick it up again, see what time it is and lay it aside when necessary.
You can apply this insight into ‘letting go’ to the desire for sense pleasures. Maybe you want to have a lot of fun. How would you lay aside that desire without any aversion? Simply recognise the desire without judging it. You can contemplate wanting to get rid of it – because you feel guilty about having such a foolish desire – but just lay it aside. Then, when you see it as it is, recognising that it’s just desire, you are no longer attached to it.
So the way is always working with the moments of daily life. When you are feeling depressed and negative, just the moment that you refuse to indulge in that feeling is an enlightenment experience. When you see that, you need not sink into the sea of depression and despair and wallow in it. You can actually stop by learning not to give things a second thought.
You have to find this out through practice so that you will know for yourself how to let go of the origin of suffering. Can you let go of desire by wanting to let go of it? What is it that is really letting go in a given moment? You have to contemplate the experience of letting go and really examine and investigate until the insight comes. Keep with it until that insight comes: ‘Ah, letting go, yes, now I understand. Desire is being let go of.’ This does not mean that you are going to let go of desire forever but, at that one moment, you actually have let go and you have done it in full conscious awareness. There is an insight then. This is what we call insight knowledge. In Pali, we call it nanadassana or profound understanding.
I had my first insight into letting go in my first year of meditation. I figured out intellectually that you had to let go of everything and then I thought: ‘How do you let go?’ It seemed impossible to let go of anything. I kept on contemplating: ‘How do you let go?’ Then I would say, ‘You let go by letting go.’ ‘Well then, let go!’ Then I would say:
‘But have I let go yet?’ and, ‘How do you let go?’ ‘Well just let go!’ I went on like that, getting more frustrated. But eventually it became obvious what was happening. If you try to analyse letting go in detail, you get caught up in making it very complicated. It was not something that you could figure out in words any more, but something you actually did. So I just let go for a moment, just like that.
Now with personal problems and obsessions, to let go of them is just that much. It is not a matter of analysing and endlessly making more of a problem about them, but of practising that state of leaving things alone, letting go of them. At first, you let go but then you pick them up again because the habit of grasping is so strong. But at least you have the idea. Even when I had that insight into letting go, I let go for a moment but then I started grasping by thinking: ‘I can’t do it, I have so many bad habits!’ But don’t trust that kind of nagging, disparaging thing in yourself. It is totally untrustworthy. It is just a matter of practising letting go. The more you begin to see how to do it, then the more you are able to sustain the state of non-attachment.
About letting go of love, from Dr. Phil:
Have you been dumped, betrayed or left so heartbroken that you didn’t ever want to love again? Are you still stuck on an ex and don’t know how to move on? And how do you know when it’s time to let go and look for love somewhere else?