The article is a reposted reflection piece written by Ms. Therese Pelias during her time as a Grade 5 Guidance Counselor and a member of the XS Web Team. It was originally published on the XS website on Nov. 6, 2006.
How does one really learn to let go? Letting go is by far one of the most difficult things we people have to learn to do in this life.
I found myself talking to a student of mine yesterday who simply had to approach me a few minutes before their quarterly tests saying he was distracted by his dog’s death. Such things are small things for adults like us but to kids like this one, it means the world to them. And if we remember the deaths of those little doggies we considered sacred in our youth, we do remember our first trial session on the experience of letting go.
Letting go is associated with death, that is, death of any kind. It can be a person, an idea, a relationship, a position, or a situation in life which cannot persist to exist anymore. It is all about freeing oneself of any attachment to anything, even our own very lives.
As I write here, a significant figure in my mother’s family just passed away. The theme of each day’s discussion touches on these topics. We cannot help but reflect on life and how it is supposed to be lived when someone very dear to us departs. It has always been a common experience to learn how to speak to the dying about how things are already in place and that he or she should go and embrace the afterlife. It is some kind of a way of releasing him from his life on earth. Then and only then are the dying able to die in peace.
Letting go seems to be all about release. There is tension when we cling on to something and a great anxiety when one is faced with the unknown. Sometimes it is just healthy to let go because, the tension, although better than the unknown, can become a source of great anxiety in itself. This tension I speak of is usually clothed in our common language as our comfort zones, the very things that provide us security which can ironically become the very things we want to move on from but cannot quite get the strength to.
There is fear in between the two points I described much similar to that point of actual death – that millisecond instant when life ceases. When the fear subsides, the release happens and we are able to really let go.
I recently went back to working out in a gym and found a machine I never worked on before. It was slanted at an acute angle with one’s feet anchored on to giant rolled pads. In no way would one really fall either backwards or forwards while bending one’s back. It was so designed that way. And the safety of the machine has of course been tested and guaranteed for in no way would it find itself in any workout gym if it were not so. And yet in all strangeness, with my feet properly anchored in place, with an instructor and a trusted friend watching my every move, I was stiff as a stick, able to manage only a very slight bend. I felt like I was about to tumble head on and fall over which was greatly ridiculous.
In a flash of an instant I saw a great metaphor to how I am when I am not able to let go. And I suppose not only me but every one of us who have not really figured how big and strong God’s hands are, always ready to catch us when we fall.
Letting go has something to do then with learning how to trust. When one trusts another, there is some hold you transfer from yourself to another person because you are sure of what the other promises or presents to do for you. It is really much better and safer to trust only oneself because you are never likely to betray yourself and go against what is favorable to you. But in that way, you build walls around that do no more than isolate you. You are never able to share and enjoy the happiness which comes from having someone there.
When we let go in this manner, we put ourselves in another’s hands totally. Truth to tell there is no telling whether that can bring us more good than bad. We defy life’s rule when we cling to what is familiar and never really learn to let go. There is really nothing absolute in this life even for the wealthiest person who seems to have his life written down for him already nor for that lowliest person who doesn’t have nary an ounce of hope that his life will change.
So why not let go and run the risk but at the same time put your life in the hands of something as totally secure as God? Trust in God translates to faith. Our clinging to God becomes the image of a child holding on to his father. And who on this earth would doubt the love of a parent?
I write these things down and realize in the motion of sewing these ideas all together, that I should have let go a long time ago. Everything that happened seems so silly given these realizations. But then all of that was a necessary process especially for stubborn people like me. Oh, but let’s not talk about me. There’s always a stubborn voice within all of us with different degrees of loudness. Often that voice clouds the very voice we should embrace within the act of letting go. Like any of life’s paradoxes, letting go is not easy but not really that hard. It can come wrapped in tears and fears all combined with certain painful realizations sprouting from different places in your life. Oh yes, it is never easy but once you accept it is so, everything else will follow suit… as easy as that. (Now I have to make sure to remember all of what I just said.)