A friend posted an article on Facebook and asked for my reflection. The gist of my comment being that in our society we tend to evaluate circumstances and habits in terms of (a) our consumption of them and (b) the return on investment we receive. In other words, the accepted metric in our society can be captured by questions like: how does this benefit me? In what way does this enrich my life or move me forward? Is this circumstance or habit revealing my authentic purpose, my best and most empowering life, or distracting me from it?
Even if considering social justice, environmental impact or deeply compassionate motivations, we tend to make decisions based on that kind of cost-benefit analysis. Even when we can encompass a holistic inter-connected perspective intended to benefit all, our way of understanding tends to stay rooted in the idea of encouraging as much freedom as possible while incurring as little restriction as possible.
I wondered if there was a different way to examine and reflect.
A few weeks later, one of my best friends in the world Cindy Ashton (who also happens to be an amazing performer, television producer & host, inspirational leader and fantastically unconventional speaker and presentation skills trainer) popped this bit of encouragement up on her Facebook timeline.
“It is in the willingness to let go that something greater can appear.”
I scanned through the feed and read the comments of the wonderful people on her list. It was a beautiful example of our accepted metric and how it works.
And it struck me: letting go is a skill. It is a real, meaningful and needed skill. It supports our capacity to know difficult things and to keep faith with life, out beyond that point where life stops going the way we thought it was supposed to go. It is necessary for any authentic practice of grief and patience, but also of love and gratitude.
And yet, the learning and use of this vital skill is often encouraged for one reason. Essentially, to cleanse or heal our lives of what is no longer serving our good and encourage something better for ourselves. I wonder, are there other reasons to let go?
Let go because this is life being itself
Loss, ending and even destruction are integral and meaningful parts of life. “Letting go” is a skill that attunes us to these patterns. It is a way of honouring and affirming life, without turning from what feels unpleasant or pushing against what acts as an obstacle to our desires. In its truest form, letting go doesn’t keep us open to the next greatest expression of our purpose. It simply keeps us open to life, as it is. May we learn to know it well.
Let go because it makes you more human
As a skill, letting go instills both stamina and vulnerability. From that point of view, we could easily argue that it does us good. Due to its benefits, it is worth the effort of learning and using. But since this is intended to be a different kind of wondering, let’s stretch in another direction. If letting go is a skill that attunes us to the changeable, difficult, finite aspects of what life naturally is, can we imagine that learning and using it doesn’t make us better versions of who we are, so much as it makes us more natural versions of what we are? We form attachments, bonds and relationships. While these skills and physiological responses undoubtedly need to be nurtured and learned, the instinct to do it so natural. It is part of our humanity. Perhaps letting go is also part of our humanity. Perhaps the instinct to do so is also natural. By learning and using this skill, perhaps we are training ourselves in another innate physiological response. Perhaps we are made more human by it. And perhaps that is enough to keep us challenged and inspired for a lifetime.
Can you imagine other reasons to learn and use the skill of letting go – without speaking in terms of cost and benefit? I’d truly appreciate and enjoy hearing about them.