A concept that’s really been getting me lately is this idea of letting go, of surrendering. I’d been wanting to let go of some stuff for a very long time in order to be able to truly live, and especially so after writing a book about using death as a teacher to thrive in life... doing so has meant having to come up against every word I’ve written in it, spanning the topics of forgiveness, letting go of the past, exploring regret, getting in touch with the end of all things, and other light subjects. For example, in the most challenging moments of struggling to get along with family members, I remember that people can very easily spend decades out of contact with one another, but that “people seem to change their minds and want to initiate contact at the end of one’s life; what was an option the whole time suddenly becomes urgent.” I haven’t been able to forget those words even when I’ve wanted to. Because, the truth is, there are so many instances that make me not want to believe that staying out of contact would hold any weight at any time in my life. Considering that relationships always have this way of revealing themselves to be paramount when it comes what truly living is, especially when considering the inevitability of death, I’ve included some of what’s been on my mind around letting go of past stuff around people lately:
-Choosing not to let things go from the past means to have to constantly remember them, it really does take up a substantial amount of mental space… say that you don’t like how someone treated you in the past and you’re having a hard time reconciling it (when it comes to family, you probably have at least one example of this), every time you see that person, you will have to respond to them -even in light group conversation- through the lens of remembering what happened in the past and how “not okay” it was, even when you want to have peace. That can be translated in all kinds of small and insidious ways: in assuming the worst of intent during interactions, in holding back laughter when they’re being funny, in what can turn into multiple misunderstandings and false interpretations of their behavior. The weight that that remembering holds is not always apparent until it is lifted, but how to lift it? A lot of this is often easier said than done, I’ve been experimenting with how for many years, which brings me to some recently discovered techniques I’ve been working with to let this stuff go & live, below…
-I’ve been listening to this epic #soundstrue video course by Michael A. Singer of #TheSurrenderExperiment and #TheUntetheredSoul books. These include eight, hour+ long videos focused on the subject of surrender alone. What I’ve taken away most are two things: (and I’m completely paraphrasing Michael Singer from memory as I write this) 1) Michael compares holding onto being mistreated in the past to collecting in a vial every time you smell a bad smell, and then carrying that around with you so that you don’t forget how bad it was, with the idea that doing so will ensure that it won’t occur again. It in turn ends up occurring everywhere through every experience, because you are carrying it around with you. I will say that I find letting go to be a very tricky process because it can feel as though doing so means letting people get away with wrong behavior, or like being a doormat. I know how much resistance can come up for these reasons because I’ve struggled with it greatly. Yet, if we don’t let go of them, what we hold onto will infiltrate every area of our lives and keep us from living the lives we are capable of, while really doing nothing to solve the problem with whoever we’re holding onto this stuff about. I like to simply refer to his comparison of the vial in order to stop believing that harping on these past interactions and wrongdoings in my mind will be serving. And how to deal with the mind that relentlessly thinks about these things anyway? That brings me to 2) the second practice from Michael that’s been helping me immensely & is so incredibly simple... instead of being all involved with your thoughts (not just about past resentments but about anything, internal guilt or regret as well... refer to Alive for Now Chapter 5 for more on that) just simply watch your thoughts; instead of being the one having the commentary, be in the background… not trying to change anything, not trying to push anything away, not judging, just watching. This has been a very powerful practice for me, especially when dealing with challenging situations around uncertainty, family triggers, health, and the “future.” Michael discusses the importance of letting go and using the witness consciousness when it comes to the small challenges during these interactions, so that we’ll be better prepared to deal with the large ones.
-And the large ones are inevitable. Every one of us will face mortality, of our own and of our loved ones. How would you feel saying goodbye to each person in your life in the current state of your relationships? If there is something to reconcile, hopefully some of what I’ve been working with that I noted above may be helpful to use. I’d also like to hear from you, what practices or thoughts have you been using to let go of the past, or to resolve relationships?