Personal Growth - Learn to let go
by Akila Jaikumar
Let go,’ two simple words, easy to
understand, should be easy to
practise as well, I thought smugly.
Yet, from my own personal experience,
I have found it difficult to
practise and integrate. It is easier to believe
that things happen to us, rather than that we
attract them. Taking responsibility for circumstances
in our life, which may be necessary
for our spiritual growth, requires letting
go of our own story line, our perception of
the issue, and instead, looking at it objectively. But that requires us to change, which we tend
to resist. Depending on your current life situation, ‘let
go,’ can imply many different things. The simplest and
most widely applicable meaning would be to stop
expecting people to behave as we want them to. In
other words, we need to drop the word ‘should’ from
our vocabulary. We cannot control external events
and people. It may be as simple as wanting my grownup
son to do certain things my way, while he may
choose to postpone them to his own preferred time
and style. No reasoning or coercive tactics are going
to help. Hence, it would be wiser to focus our energies in the only area where we can, and where it
pays maximum dividends – our own responses. As
Stephen Covey says, “Between stimulus and
response, there is a space. In that space, lies our
ability to choose our response. In our response, lies
our growth and freedom.” In simple terms, we
change our response to the situation, rather than
trying to change the outcome of the situation.
Letting go implies detachment and patience, the capacity to allow matters to resolve and evolve in their natural course of time. It is non-judgmental acceptance of the situation at the moment. Acceptance of your own limitations and imperfections is the first big step. Whether it is your illnesses, being kicked out of your job, or a stressful relationship that you cannot resolve, you will have to let people and things be as they are at the moment, however much you may wish to change them. Acceptance does not mean inaction. Acceptance indicates that you think constructively to manage the issue. Acceptance means that you have a different starting point for the race of life.
My personal challenge
Letting go implies that certain belief systems, such as the belief that life is unfair also needs to be reexamined and let go as you gain greater understanding that everything happens for a perfect reason. In my case, I had developed a feeling of not being appreciated from my childhood. Small incidents reinforced this feeling. As an example, when I passed my X board exams and obtained the 16th rank in the state, the first time our convent school ever got a rank in its entire history of more than 25 years, I went happily to school expecting to be congratulated by one and all. Imagine my surprise when instead, the principal, and all the teachers had the same comment to make – that if I had obtained two more marks, I would have got the 10th rank, and the school's name would have come in the list of the first 10 rank holders published in the newspapers. They had their valid view, but at that time, their comments took away my joy at my result.
That childhood pattern continued at college, work and even after my marriage. It reached a peak in my last assignment, when I was shortchanged at work, not given my financial dues, and had false court cases lodged against me by my former employers. I took the entire matter so much to heart that I fell extremely ill, with a relapse of my rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and mood swings. I received sensible advice from family and friends, “Move on. Do not be stuck in the past. You are only making yourself doubly miserable; firstly you have been treated unfairly, and secondly, by constantly dwelling on the negative past events, you are falling ill.” I could acknowledge the advice on the intelletual level. However, emotionally, I struggled to get over the feeling of being wronged. I was unable to let go of my pain.
The connection to my illness and my mental pattern was so obvious on reading Louise Hay, who said that the mental pattern for knee problems, which I was acutely suffering from, was, “Inability to let go of the past. Pride. Ego.” Perfect advice spot on. But still I could not let go!
Why is it so difficult to let go, I often asked myself. Blaming others for all the current ills of my life was easy. My victim mentality and illness gave me an excuse for not moving on, for not addressing fears that were deep within. Fear of standing up for myself, fear of conflict, fear of change, fear of failure and so on.
I was being given the opportunity to face my fears, an opportunity to change my behavioural patterns, an opportunity to learn karmic lessons. Yet it was so amazing to me that though I understood everything intellectually, I found it difficult to internalise and change my mental chatter. When we went from a double income to a monthly pension, as both my husband and I retired from our jobs in the same month, it took a long time for me to adjust to the new scenario, though by God’s grace, we were still very comfortable financially. The fear was more in my mind than seen on the ground. Like a child who has fears of the dark and creates bogey men of these fears, and refuses to believe that there is nothing to fear.
“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted,” says Randy Pausch in his book, The Last Lecture. Given my situation, I asked myself what the experience I was getting could be. It was to learn the art of letting go.
The voice within
Letting go could happen only if I changed myself internally. I had to hand over myself to the Higher Intelligence. Letting go implied trust. Trust that everyone is doing their best, and intends to help me, not to take advantage of me. Trust that the world is a safe and happy place. Trust that the Universe is taking care of me, and my experiences are to be taken in the right spirit for my higher good. Trust that I am divinely protected and guided.
I did not change what I said or did overnight. However, by watching myself closely, by becoming more conscious of what I am feeling at the moment, not just what I am doing or saying, I am learning to become aware of mental patterns that prevent me from letting go of the past. I am learning to voice my feelings objectively rather than suppress them, especially when I am not pleased about something. I am learning to accept things not going the way I would like them to go. I am learning to trust in the Higher Intelligence to guide me through difficult times, especially when I face criticism and disapproval. I am learning to be in the moment.
Externally, nothing has changed from what it was one and a half years ago. Not a single rupee of my salary dues has been paid to date, the court cases are still on, and my arthritis is still persisting. Many things are still not going well.
However, internally I am much happier. I know I am responsible for my inner energy space. I nurture and guard it against negative emotions and thoughts. Let anyone be what they want to be. I am learning to go within. I am learning to be.
It is like a pendulum swinging back and forth. The amplitude and the frequency of the swings are decreasing. Sometime in the future, I trust and believe that the pendulum will remain in the centre. Then I would have truly learnt to let go.
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