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The Art of Letting Go

by Sylvia Clare(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 59 - December 2000

What do those two words mean to you? Letting go. For me there are really two questions that spring to mind here. What are the kinds of things we want to let go of? and Why should I do this? i.e. What is the benefit for me?

Letting go is simply making a decision – no longer to allow something from the past to influence your life now or to reduce your inner sense of peace and well-being. So all we need to do is to let go of the beliefs and attitudes that prevent us from experiencing the joy of the moment. The problem comes in identifying exactly what that means; we have so many beliefs that prevent us from being in the here and now, from being content and peaceful within.

Taking Responsibility for Our Own Lives

One of the worst attitudes is 'Things happen to me', not from me but to me; a degree of victim mentality. At any level we really need to accept the full responsibility for whatever happens to us.

Or we can take the responsibility to accept that what happened to us five minutes ago is no longer of any importance because that was five minutes ago and this is now. If we are holding onto the incident, we continue to hurt ourselves. What happens subsequently is important but not what happened in itself. Something happens, and it sets off a sequence of events. So let go of the bit that happened back there and deal with the bit in the sequence that is actually occurring now.

The important thing is not holding on to anything any longer than it actually lasts. In reality, all we need to do is experience the learning and move on immediately.

Holding on causes tension and restricts freedom

Holding on causes tension and restricts freedom


Letting go does not mean losing or having to give something up

Letting go does not mean losing or having to give something up


Letting go means allowing things to exist as if they were in the palm of your hand

Letting go means allowing things to exist as if they were in the palm of your hand


Learning from Experience

Sometimes we convince ourselves that we need to 'hold on' in order to extract the learning from it. If you are repeating big patterns, you can retain the memory in terms of what not to do next time, but not the emotional content it aroused in you. Thus you can get the maximum amount of learning but ultimately that's still part of the letting go process. If it's a traumatic experience that's teaching you a lot, keep it as something to learn from, while letting go of your attachment to it, let go of it emotionally. That's the basis of letting go of our beliefs and attitudes that anything happens to us, that we are a victim of anybody.

Making Choices

Life is a series of choices of how to behave. Often we make these choices automatically, without really being aware of what we are choosing or why. But no matter what anyone does in any aspect of their life, it is still a choice they have made. And, of course, in making choices we also make mistakes. It is from those mistakes that we learn about ourselves and others. And we learn how to make different choices next time if we remain open to the process of making mistakes. But one thing stops us learning from choices and that is fear. Fear of judgement and criticism, which is usually felt as shame or guilt.

So the second thing we have to let go of is all of our judgements and values and ideas of what should be or what shouldn't be. We should have no values, no judgements, no morals, no criticisms, no ideas of what is or should or shouldn't be. None at all. Because if we have an idea of what is or what should or shouldn't be we are making a judgement on something that is as it is, as God or as the Universe intended. It is as it is, and it is perfect as it is for the people who are involved in that scenario. That applies to us in our lives, but because it is a principle it applies equally to the people in a war crisis, for instance. And that's where the understanding becomes really difficult to accept. You may say, "Hold on, this is not right" but it is, it's right for them, and I'll go back to a previous point. The angrier everybody gets about a situation, the worse it gets. This is not at all pleasant or emotionally intelligent but judging won't improve it either; it will make it worse. If everybody stops being angry about a situation it disappears; the war will not happen.

Keeping Neutral, Learning Acceptance

If we see something and make a judgement or a criticism about it we are adding our angry 'energy' to that situation. We are actually increasing it. If we collectively say, "What is happening in this war or that country now is terrible", we are adding to the energy of that event; we are making it worse for the people in it. What we need to do is to stay completely neutral and know the highest truth i.e. what is happening there is as it should be for those people, however traumatic.

We've all been through equivalent experiences one way or another, so we've got to let go of the idea that it's right or wrong; that's just the way it is for those people. The most important point to make here is that making choices is not making a judgement. It is just saying, 'choose not to behave in this way'. Eventually, if we allow everybody to learn without fear, then the mistakes stop being so terrible and the results stop being too damaging and dramatic on individuals and society. But it has to happen that way round – that we suspend the judgement before others stop doing whatever we originally judged. We cannot expect them to stop before we stop judging.

What we can do is make our own structure for the choices we would make but without saying we are right, and that is wrong. It is saying this is what we would do as far as we know at this moment. Period. Not that it's right or wrong.

So what if we saw an old lady being mugged in the street? Should we just walk on?

No. If possible, and not to the detriment of your own safety, you can choose to intervene with the action but what you mustn't do is add your judgement or criticism to it. You must not judge either party involved. That is the tricky bit. Saying 'that's not my choice of behaviour but I accept their right to do that – and I will intervene because that is my choice'. We have to accept the consequence of that choice, which might be that you get mugged.

People and Behaviour are not the Same

Something that gives a depth of understanding is to recognize that the action is not the person. You can say that action is not good, but the person is perfect, they are perfect in as far as they have got in their own learning about life. We cannot possibly see what the master plan for the Universe is, so if we start judging and criticizing we are saying we know better than God, the universe, energy or whatever, and we don't. We have to let go of the assumption that we know.

The trouble with a little bit of enlightenment, a little bit of spiritual awareness, is that you suddenly get into a kind of spiritual judgementalism: 'I know, and you lot all don't'. It's a very difficult ego state to get out of. Eventually you do get kicked out of it because you realize that you're not that much different to them. You just realize a little bit more of what you're learning next, you're a bit more aware of it. It's very important not to assume that we have some greater understanding.

All spiritual teachings include a section about not judging because to do so would be hypocritical. None of us has always got it right, or, should I say, made the best choices. But if we learn from it and don't repeat it that is the most anyone can ask.

So we do have to separate the behaviour from the person and take that to the highest levels, such as a war crisis, which appears so horrendous. We can choose to keep our thoughts out of it and know that that situation will heal itself when everybody has learnt what they can.

Becoming More Emotionally Intelligent Helps the World Too

If we replace judgemental values with a sense of our self-worth, and how we wish to express that essence of us to the rest of the world, we choose to live in a way that helps to heal ourselves and other people. We accept it in a way that is unconditionally accepting of ourselves and of other people, so we drop our barriers in order to help heal the world. We help to heal everything in the rest of the world by dropping our sense of what is right or wrong. There is a fine line between making a decision about how to behave and making a criticism or judgement of behaviour in others. Once you can see where it is, you can stay on the one side of it. Just consider for a moment how differently you respond if you feel critically judged compared with being accepted as you are. That applies to the whole universe too.

Fixed Ideas of What Will Be

The next thing is expectations of outcome: if I do this, then that will happen. Our disappointment is always based on what we think should have happened or what we hoped would happen or what we thought the other person should do. It is never based on what has actually happened, it is based on our disappointment that what we wanted didn't occur. So we want to control the universe, thinking we know better than God etc. again. If we decide what we think should happen is right we are getting back into judgements. But God is neutral. It doesn't say, "You are bad because you made that mistake today and you are good because you did that". God acknowledges: "You are learning, you are going in the right direction and doing the best that you can do at any time" and that's what we need to start working from.

My understanding is that God is the supreme intelligence but is also an evolving consciousness, and as our consciousness evolves we contribute to the evolution of God-consciousness. We are all God, or spirit, having a human experience and when we raise our consciousness individually we are also, in a collective way, raising God-consciousness, because we are all God anyway. That is the point of creativity; that is the point of intelligence. Evolution occurs as a result of intelligence, not the other way round. So if God-consciousness is the ultimate intelligence that lets go without judgement, then we have got to emulate that by letting go without any judgement or questioning about anyone else.

God lets us go where we want, to expand our consciousness, including making some stupid mistakes and making some wonderful discoveries in human terms. If we are allowed to do that, so then is everyone else.

Interconnectedness and the Oneness

Why is it important for us to raise our consciousness and let go of our beliefs in order to help everyone else comes back to the connectedness of everything in the universe?

Some people want to move and grow faster and others grow more slowly. All travel. Some are trying to slow the others down and some are trying to speed the others up, but whatever each one does affects the others next to it. We are all units of vibrating energy, according to quantum physics. So our emotional energy will affect the people around us. Miserable people are a drain on us; we call them a drag, and they are dragging our energy down. We want to vibrate more lightly, more harmoniously, and they are slowing us down. By lifting our vibrations through our self-development, and releasing our sense of judgements, criticism and control, we are actually allowing everybody else around us to speed up as well. So ultimately we have one responsibility and that is to raise our consciousness sufficiently to help raise the other ones around us. So we have to choose to let go of the illusions of what was or what will be, of right or wrong, and to increase our vibrations. And then we automatically raise the vibrations of those around us.

The final belief that we need to let go of is that our individual humanhood really matters. Everything will be as it is. It doesn't matter how it is because however it is and wherever it is going it will get there because it can't not. Probably where it's going doesn't matter because there isn't a decision about where it's going to go. There is no limit to where it's going to go. If you decide it's going to go from 'here' to 'there' you are immediately placing a limit on where it can go to, but it doesn't matter where it's going. So we have to let go of the idea that humanhood really matters. We are in it and it is part of our experience and we do have to live with our feet in both human and spiritual worlds but we have got to let go of the idea that this matters.

Changing One's Perceptions

One of the best ways to deal with this is to think, 'will I feel this stressed about this situation tomorrow, or next week, or next year or in five years' time?', and the answer is usually no, not if you let it go. If you go straight to that feeling of detachment and let go of 'what I am feeling now', it becomes much more comfortable. Try using these statements in your life:

* I can't control what is happening in the world;
* I can say loud and clear that I want this or that to happen;
* I can accept that if it doesn't, there is some good reason for it though I can't see what that might be;
* I'm not God and I don't know what that good reason is now, but if I remain open then I will find it;
* I have to let go of what I think it should be and I will find it is far better.

So we've got to get away from what we think things ought to be and get to our free will. Our free will is our choice and we are affected by the wisdom of our choices. We are not right or wrong in the choices we make. It may not even be the same choice for the next day. You might make a different choice, but for that moment in time it is right and that is the same for everybody. We have to let go of a sense of being right or wrong and allow things to be as they are, to accept the process of change in ourselves and others and give each other the freedom to change and learn without judgement. We have to let go of our thoughts and learn to listen and wait. We have to let go of our expectations and let things and people be as they are and we have to let go of the need to do and simply allow ourselves to grow and change daily.

What are the Real Benefits to Me of This Approach to Life?

So what is the point of it all? This is easier.

* If we learn to let go we acquire a greater sense of being in the present. A greater sense that our needs actually are being met, because at any given moment they are, so don't worry about what's going to happen tomorrow because today everything is fine.
* If we let go of expectations and judgements, we find a sense of calm and inner peace, because we are not in conflict with what we think should be. We also have a far greater sense of strength, and respond to the moment instead of the past. Our vulnerability is never in the moment; it's in what we fear will be. Have you ever noticed that you are usually frightened after or in anticipation of what will happen but very rarely in the moment? So we get a sense of our strength because we are right in the here and now. We lose our vulnerability which is based on what if, not on the here and now.
* We have greater acceptance of others and therefore we make a greater contribution to raising their awareness, a greater sense of truly going with the flow.
* We gain a sense of fun and freedom in all we do. How often do we go out and dig a hole in the garden and then fill it in again just for fun? Adults don't often do that, kids do and really enjoy it but adults don't really do that kind of stuff, they want to be sensible. But that is what being is, digging holes and filling them in again, just for the fun of it.

So start thinking about what you're doing and have fun with it. It's a weird sense of just letting go and not having a reason for doing something. Do it because you really just want to. Have you seen how much energy people put into building a sandcastle, just to watch the sea wash it away? And you may think what a waste of time, but it's not, it's a wonderful thing, you're in the moment, you're there and you just did it for the hell of it. Live all of your life as if it was building a sandcastle. There can be no better reason for doing something other than you're enjoying it.

Actually it's the best reason for doing something. Enjoying something is our choice.

Becoming fully immersed in what you're doing, called mindfulness in Buddhism, is a very good way of letting go, letting go of all the other stuff around you, so that all your concentration is based on what you're doing. You're not making judgements; you're not having expectations of outcome. The key thing is that the more we let go of these attributes of victimhood and judgement, the more we move into our true nature. Living without judgement means living in a state of being.

Being reveals our true identity and oneness with creation. It allows us to release concepts of who we are and allow the spiritual identity to emerge. Being places us beyond the world's effects and allows us to live at a different level of consciousness. It allows us to have without fear of loss, without needing to control and judge, to live and be truly free.

So begin to let all your life become one big let-go experience and then see what happens next. Allow each day to unfold for you not as you would choose but to reveal to you your true nature. That is the true meaning of intelligence.

Further Information

This article is based on material from the book Living the Life You Want by Sylvia Clare and David Hughes. Published by How to Books, Pathways Series, price £12.99, published June 2000.

Drawings by David Hughes who has practised the psychological and spiritual principles of Buddhism for over 25 years. He illustrates books, co-presents workshops and co-authored Living the Life You Want.

For information about workshops and meditation retreat breaks on the Isle of Wight with David and Sylvia, based on the teachings from this and their other books, please phone 01983 537338


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About Sylvia Clare

Sylvia Clare lectured in psychology and child development for 16 years before setting up a private practice working with individuals and groups in development of emotional and spiritual intelligence. Her book titles are Raising the Successful Child, Releasing Your Child's Potential, Heaven Sent Parents, Trusting Your Intuition and Living the Life You Want. She works with spiritual psychologies including metaphysics, Buddhism and shamanic healing principles, Jungian and a range of humanistic approaches like NLP.

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