Letting go is hard. For me, at least.
Maybe it’s because our culture saturates us with the notion of “holding on.”
It’s that deeply hardwired fear of loss — loss of approval, of relationships, of safety, of security, of possessions, power, finances, status, face, even the ultimate loss of life itself — that keeps us holding on. We know it’s BAD — “She has just let herself go.” OUCH. We get encouragement to “hold on” from everywhere — songs and slogans, government, religious institutions, and most powerfully, our own experience. “If I can just hold on and get through this, everything will be all right.” To let go is equated with giving up. We see it as a failure of some kind: an admission of wimpiness, of being a quitter, a litmus test of personal character, and one more piece of proof that we just don’t have what it takes. Culture only needs to nudge us. We do the rest of this judging and categorizing ourselves.
However, letting go is as much a part of the fabric of life as is holding on. Yin and yang, tension and release, there’s a time for everything — this is also built into our culture, but with much less fanfare. Some things in life can only be enjoyed through the act of letting go: if you don’t let go of the frisbee, you’re not playing frisbee! In much earthier examples, you have to “let go” to defecate, or experience sexual pleasure in orgasm. The heart muscle doesn’t stay contracted all the time — it releases to let blood rush in for the next pump. Even our heartbeat involves both holding on and letting go.
These previous paragraphs have simply bought me some time, treading in these uncomfortable waters, to consider — what (or whom) did I let go of this year, and why? I can’t think of anything dramatic, final, transformative, or life-changing. There are a million things to let go of. Why let go? Because I know if I don’t, I can’t move, or breathe, or live.
Each day is full of little lettings-go, and picking-ups again. Each day I come face to face with my expectations of others, and of myself. As enlightened and evolved though I may be (cough, cough!), still “Shoulds” are imprinted on the wallpaper. They retain their texture and presence, just faintly, despite multiple strippings and paint-overs. I let go of unrealistic deadlines, re-arrange priorities — all self-imposed — and then create more unrealistic expectations of myself. Daily I work to accept my circumstances and relationships just as they are, instead of feeling resentful that they are not as I wish or think they “should” be. Letting go of a “should” means picking up a responsibility to take some constructive action and create something preferred.
I’m much better at holding on than at letting go, probably because I’ve had a lot more experience at the former than the latter. Perhaps that’s another reason why my Feldenkrais practice is so important to me. In each lesson, I get to create experimental actions, and then stop that action for several moments — “let it go” — to let the new sensory information wash through my nervous system. Soon, I can begin a new experimental action, having learned, at a deep and pre-cognitive level, how to improve.
My deepest sense in this moment is that I need much more practice letting go before I can master it. Life constantly gives us those opportunities, welcome or not. Maybe by practicing the little lettings-go, the big ones will be easier when they come.
Reverb10 December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)
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