“What is your relationship to anger?” my teacher, Roger, had asked me out of nowhere.
I was on top of Cloud Mountain in Santa Barbara, at a week-long Qigong and Tai Chi teacher training, ten years ago. I felt serene, peaceful, and full of joy. I was alone, doing something I had dreamed of for a long time. My body buzzed with warm energy and my cheeks and hands felt uncharacteristically warm. My only nuisance was a persistent headache on the right side of the back of my head with which I had arrived, five days before.
“In Chinese medicine headaches have a lot to do with the liver, which has to do a lot with anger”, he continued.
“Tell me about your anger.”
The memory of this conversation was running through my head as I was speeding down the freeway. My son’s teacher had called and requested I come early to have a talk with her before the end of the school day. My heart had not stopped pounding. My thoughts were racing. What had he done? What was so urgent she couldn’t wait and tell me at the regular pick up time? Why couldn’t I just let go, breathe, and wait to get there?
Letting go has never been my forte. It’s not only anger, as my Qigong teacher pointed out, but also all the feelings that drain me like fear, anxiety, and disappointment to name a few.
What has become glaringly obvious over time is that my kids reflect the energy of my feelings back to me. If I am happy, joyous, calm, they are too. If I am agitated, frustrated, angry, or upset they multiply it … exponentially.
I deeply want my kids to find peace in their mother, our connection, and in their surroundings. Mainly for this reason, I gave myself a new challenge at the beginning of the year. I would stop to notice where and when I don’t let go. I would create my own practices for letting go and I would use then as a map to navigate through fear, anxiety, worry, and overwhelm.
As we get close to ending this year, I can’t help but gasp at the intensity with which I find myself, face to face with my life’s biggest challenges.
When I picked my theme for 2014, late in December of last year, I had no idea how this intention would unfold for me. All I knew at the time was that I was willing to take on a giant self-healig project. I would become a crusader of self-love, I would stop to pay attention and take note. I would stop to breathe.
#LetGoFindWonder was born from a deep desire to be intentional about my work to let go.
What I’ve learned this year, as I look at the loads I’ve carried, is that my life is far from homogenous. Rather than white or wheat bread, my life is more like a multi grain loaf, full of seeds, swirls, and nuts. Even when I seem to be anxious or frustrated, when I slow down to notice and pay attention, the feelings I experience have complexity. They have shape, texture, hue, and tone.
For me, letting go is about discovering the granularity of daily moments. It’s about stopping long enough to notice what it is I’m feeling deeply. It’s about taking some of what I teach to kids, and teaching my own inner child.
Here’s what I learned this year, and how you can practice letting go.
1. Close the chapter.
Be done – as in complete, closed chapter, nothing else to say or add … done. Make a list of all “loads” you still carry. What needs to be completed? Is it something you did, something you said, something you did not do or say? Whatever it is, do you know what needs to happen to feel completely done? Reach out, communicate, forgive. Make peace. Close the chapter.
2. Conflict has no meaning.
Make friends with disagreement. Notice when and where confrontation and conflict show up. Look at what you are doing. Understand your relationship with confrontation and conflict. Notice the underlying concern it brings forth. Don’t give the conflict any meaning. Wondering why this conflict is happening to you, will not offer peace. Conflict has no meaning. It simply is a present force in your life. Acknowledge and see it as it is.
3. Love your vulnerability.
Appreciate the parts of you that allow you to be vulnerable. Celebrate them, and celebrate you. Create a practice to anchor your vulnerability. You could talk to someone who knows you well, who loves and supports you. Loudly express that you feel vulnerable. Create a writing practice. Journaling is a powerful tool for reflection and self-discovery. Be honest with yourself and admit to feeling vulnerable.
4. Reset your awareness clock.
Are you haunted by “shoulds”? You should finish your work, should volunteer more. Should spend more time with your kid. Should go on more dates. Should be more patient. Your kid should do a better job in school, should pay attention, should get more sleep, or should play less on the computer? Who do you have expectations for, and what exactly are those expectations? At the heart of an expectation is a desired future outcome that you hope you’ll get. Expectations are not rooted in the now. Be in the now, with whatever it brings forth.
5. What do you get out of not letting go?
What is NOT letting go worth to you? For example, perhaps letting go of an argument with someone in your family is difficult because, like it or not, it’s the only way you and that family member can stay connected. Or perhaps, it’s the only way to avoid disappointing more members of your family. Be honest. Why are you not letting go? What’s your payback?
6. Love and adore yourself.
Where is your self-love rooted? Trace back to the time when you first noticed how much you love yourself or, if that has not happened yet, then start today. You are magical, beautiful, perfect, on time, and on track. Everything is as it needs to be right now. You are love. My mentor, Louise Hay, has a powerful practice. She looks at herself in the mirror and says: I adore you. I love you. Give yourself some LOVE.
7. Practice, practice, practice
Give yourself permission to make mistakes, and be proud of yourself for taking a step towards letting go. Create your own practices and rituals for letting go.
8. Find wonder.
It all started here. If you let go, what will you find? There is magic in front of you when you practice letting go. You need to develop a keen willingness to be curious and open, and fine-tune your ability to read your feelings. Learn to notice how you feel in the smallest of moments: when your kid gives you a hug, when you sip your warm coffee in the morning, when your cat purrs in your ear, when the sun shines on your face, when you move your body. Join me on Instagram and post a picture of your wonder moment. You’ll find many of mine under #LetGoFindWonder.
With love and wonder,