You might be familiar with one of the central mindfulness attitudes, letting go but is easier said than done. There are some helpful things to remember when we find ourselves hooked on a thought or spiralling in a sea of emotion.
Acceptance is a helpful precursor attitude to letting go and helps the letting go part to happen more effortlessly. When we can't accept something about ourselves or our experience in the present moment it's the energy of our resistance or avoidance that causes us the problem. When we struggle to let go it's because our mind fixates on a viewpoint, we make a judgment and there is some level of attachment to holding that position. The whole situation is usually underpinned by fear.
Remembering that any of number of things can happen in any moment or the future. The whole thing is largely out of our control and while we like to think we can have certainty and control that is not reality and this cognitive dissonance can be a great source of suffering. Trying to control or holding onto a position usually means we miss so much of what is happening right now as things are in a constant state of change.
Planning is certainly helpful and having goals and intentions can help you manage the way you approach and experience things but it won't make any difference to the unexpected nature of things that can and do happen. You can't control things and when you can grasp that idea you can unclench from trying so hard to hold on and you can finally exhale and let go. Being a parent we are reminded of this when we see our children so rapidly grow up and they are teenagers or young adults. The childhood years are suddenly gone forever and you get glimpses sometimes of deep loss which helps you appreciate we are all so very vulnerable. Accepting this reality of impermanence and the loss we feel is like letting things be as they are and it's incredibly liberating.
To practice letting go try these tips:
• Noticing how you're feeling and label it and understand what is going on in your thoughts. Did someone say something to you that was triggering, was there a situation you were in that you did not feel safe or comfortable, do you feel like you're right about a situation and there is holding on to a viewpoint? Notice that you're clinging to something and that it is underpinned by a judgment or viewpoint that you're attaching to.
• Notice when your body becomes hardened or there is some kind of tension present. Being aware of the body is helpful for letting go so do a quick body scan and check in to the tummy, back, chest and shoulders and notice where you're holding the tension physically. Usually when something is right or wrong or you want or don't want something you can feel a tightening in your body.
• Work on relaxing all the tightened muscles in your body systematically. Let the body soften and let go.
• Open your awareness from being just about your own body and concern to the world around you and expand your awareness to include other people and your natural environment. Zoom out with the lens of your perception and see how you can open up to more possibility and a sense of not-knowing and being ok with uncertainty.
• Once the mind and heart are open you will feel much freer and softer in the body. Your mind will be naturally curious and open to exploring what is in the present moment.
If you'd like to know more about letting go and other mindfulness approaches join our mindfulness support group on a Tuesday at 1pm.
Image: "Minimal collage" by dada22.