How To Let Go . . . . When the Going Gets Tough
It’s 4:00 AM and the brain-hamsters awaken from their deep slumber and are ready for play time. They jump onto the wheel and start having the time of their lives! I need to remember to send that email! Don’t forget to look up that tax issue! Why haven’t you started on your newsletter post! I wish I could fall back asleep! I need to sleep!! Should I risk going to the bathroom –will it wake me WAY up?! Hey all hamsters, party over here!!
Letting go is a powerful life skill at 4:00 AM, and whenever we get attached to outcomes or fall into any form of stress or suffering. But how do we do it when the going gets tough?
David Hawkins, physician, scientist, and Director of the Institute for Spiritual Research, offers guidance in his book, “Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender” (see book link below). I’ve gathered some of his thoughts and some of my own to come up with 4 steps that lead to letting go:
1. Move from head to heart: The starting point is realizing the hamster revolt is under way. Our thoughts are running amok. The key is to interrupt the thoughts, take a deep breath, and soften into what our heart is feeling (it can be helpful to place your hand on your heart).
2. Find the feeling: Thoughts are almost always an extension of feelings. So the question is, What is the real feeling that’s generating the thoughts? A single emotion can spawn thoughts like a salmon in the fall. Hundreds of them! And, many of them make no sense. Finding the feeling literally shifts the brain circuits and tames the wild mind.
3. Embrace and release: This is the tricky part. Say you feel furious with colleague Stan who continually ignores you in meetings. One option is to repress the feelings, smile, and move on. Another is to haul off and express your feelings to Stan. A third option is to escape the feeling by going to the cafeteria and getting a muffin and coffee. Repression, quick expression, and escape all are a form of avoidance. Instead, owning and honoring the feeling have a quieting effect on us, enabling us to respond wisely, and then to intentionally release it. The anger, and the important information it’s given you, can be offered up with appreciation.
4. Find the freedom: In the wake of release, a deeper sense of presence comes to us. True release has an energy to it that we feel in our bodies. Honest. If you tune in, you will feel a sensation to it that is peaceful and activating. True surrender always has an echo of freedom. Savor this freedom, and sustain the feeling as long as you can.
4:10 AM: I decide to go to the bathroom. I get back into bed. I breathe. Slowly. I get into my body and out of my head. Too much on my plate. Anxiety is the feeling. I keep breathing. I’ve got plenty of time. No need to worry. I breathe. What needs to get done will. It always does. I feel better . . . . Three hours later I wake up feeling rested.
We let go to feel freedom and peace. Next week, in the final installment of this “surrender series,” we’ll explore what happens as we grow fully into this freedom. We’ll explore the “Outrageous Openness” that comes when our letting go muscle is frequently exercised.