This month, we were privileged to hear from one of our Sangha members, on her personal journey of “Letting Go.”
With her permission, I am re-printing her talk so others can benefit from her struggles and her journey to a new way of life.
With gratitude for her strength, courage and compassion in sharing her story, here it is:
Thank you, Bette, for asking me to share some of my experiences of “letting go” with our group.
I must admit that letting go has become a mantra for me, almost a way of life. Giving myself permission to let go of activities that no longer serve me well; ideas that no longer apply; useless regrets; destructive thoughts; negative self judgment; has made life easier and more peaceful. Letting go of self imposed expectations is also very freeing, I’ve found, and I think has given me more compassion for others.
I used to feel that letting go was giving up, or at times giving in to ageing, but I’ve come to believe that it’s part of the journey of life. If we can do it graciously as we move through the years, it makes our passage simpler to navigate.
As we let go in some areas of our lives that have been important to us, there is a vacuum created. Depending on how this emptiness is filled, our lives can be very busy, but perhaps may not feel satisfying or productive. As more letting go takes place, sometimes out of necessity, we may question our purpose in life at this stage. If we can see this as a time for self growth and personal enrichment, we can give meaning to our days. Sharing our feelings with others; helping where we can; fostering the attitude of always having a half full glass; these are some things that can help as we let go in life.
As to my experiences with letting go these past few years, I’ll tell you a little of my story so that you might better understand me. Five years ago, I left my husband after being together for 53 years. Letting go of my marriage after all of those years, definitely left me feeling lost and questioning my decision, my identity and my position in life. My coping skills were not enough. As strong and independent as I thought I was, I needed help and felt humbled as I asked for it. To get through this part of my journey, I relied on my dear friends, a psychiatrist and therapy. I tried to meditate to help me to focus; however, I was too scattered and restless to stick with it.
Over the next three years, I moved twice more. With each move I let go of the space I’d called home. Moving so often taught me about the impermanence of life: things change; nothing is forever. I find that material things mean much less to me now. Each time that I let go of home and things, it lessened my attachment to stuff. It changed my priorities. I did find some humour in my situation. Moving so often, but still living in Port Perry, I would be out and about, and then when it was time to return home, I’d forget which place I was living in or be half way to my previous residence before it dawned on me that I didn’t live there anymore. At first this frightened me – was I losing it? – but soon I found the humour in it and just laughed at the situation and myself. Humour definitely aids us in letting go.
During those three years of moving, and after a year long journey through our medical system, I had spinal surgery. After my recovery, it became apparent that my life had changed irrevocably. I used to be a yoga teacher and had been fortunate enough to be able to continue to do most yoga poses after I retired. I had taken my body’s abilities for granted. However, after the surgery, I had to let go of my attachment to thinking that I had to do yoga poses to a certain standard in order for them to be worthwhile. I’ve come to accept, with much emotional struggle, that if I’m to continue to do yoga, I must accept the change and adapt my practice to my new capabilities and to be grateful to my body for what it can still do. Because of my ego, this has been a difficult letting go.
While I was waiting for surgery and during my recovery, I was on morphine. This poses its own problem – addiction. In order to get off morphine, I had to let go of my anxiety and fear of the return of the extreme pain, and find ways to cope with withdrawal. This is where returning to a meditation practice helped me so much, especially focusing on the breath and visualization.
I’ve been a walker my whole life, and this last winter I had two bad falls on ice. Before my surgery, I had also fallen twice when the footing was bad. I was being sent a message, I think!
So my perspective on winter walking had to change. I had to let go of feeling that I needed to be outside to benefit from a walk. Being determined not to give up walking because of bad weather, I compromised and bought a treadmill. It isn’t as emotionally satisfying as outdoor walking, but I’m grateful that I’m still able to walk!
As I’ve let go of activities that I’ve stubbornly fought to continue, or made modifications that are safer and more compatible with my age and abilities, I now feel more content and am not constantly striving to do better. That feeling of not enough has lessened and what I can do has become enough. We become creative when we let go, and it’s amazing what we come up with to fill those holes.
I find that the more I let go, the easier it becomes. There is a certain contentment that happens when we can let go with acceptance and stop fighting it.
Life holds so many new interests to pursue if we are open to change and freely let go of things that no longer serve us. As we let go, the universe will present other opportunities to fulfill us, if we will only let them in.
In conclusion, on my journey of letting go, I have learned that asking for help, on so many levels, has been my saving grace. The support that comes to us, when we expose our vulnerabilities and trust that others really do care and want to help us, makes us feel more secure and confident in our decisions. Taking self help courses; meditation; being willing to change, and sharing with others, helps us realize we are not alone. All of these and more, facilitate the process of letting go and give us the courage, through knowledge and support, to face the things we must or we wish to “let go”!!
Perhaps you might like to explore your life to see if there are some areas where it could be beneficial for you to let go. Do you have relationships that are hurting you or inhibiting your growth? Is it time to downsize or let go of activities that are becoming too challenging for you?
Thank you. I wish you well in any endeavours you may undertake to “let go”.