Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky. — Hafiz
“Let it go,” sings Queen Elsa in Disney’s movie Frozen. Winner of both the Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy, the song’s popularity shows how powerful it can be to let go!
Easier said than done.
How many times have I wrestled with unresolved thoughts and feelings about a situation, usually involving a relationship with another person? Things eat away at me until I can come to understanding. When another person is involved, I feel compelled to talk it over but sometimes they don’t.
What to do in those situations? You can’t just “let it go.”
Ruminating makes it worse. Rehearsing conversations in your mind seems to make the uneasiness increase. Sometimes writing about it helps, but often I want to write to the other person and if they don’t respond, then I feel even more unsettled.
I have discovered some ways to approach these tangled-up, unresolved thoughts and feelings. Sometimes holding on until I find resolve works much better than trying to let go of something sticky.
1. Walk away for a little while.
Sometimes it helps to breathe, to allow some time to pass. This doesn’t mean permanently avoiding or running from the situation, but allowing some time for the intensity of the distress to lessen. It is impossible to reason when emotions are stirred up, so deep breathing exercises and walking in the fresh air can allow some calm to enter.
2. Turn the other cheek.
Once I gave a sermon on this passage from the Bible: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39). As I was preparing, I saw something I had never seen before. If you focus on your opinion or position, you are looking in one direction. When you turn the other cheek, it requires turning your head. So now you are seeing in a new direction.
The insight came to me that “turning the other cheek” doesn’t mean passively letting someone mistreat or hurt you. It means looking at things from a different perspective, seeing the situation from their point of view.
For example, I was trying to help a friend with chronic shoulder pain. He kept asking me for advice. I favor energetic types of healing like chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga, or EFT (tapping.) He has found relief through more mechanical means like surgery or medication.
I offered to give him a type of intuitive reading as a gift. He was skeptical but sounded interested. I had previously suggested a chiropractor/acupuncturist who had helped me. When he did not find immediate relief from that practitioner, he called him a quack.
I asked what he wanted to get out of the reading and what might happen if he went into it doubting its value. When he said he didn’t know, I got irritated, saying that I didn’t want to repeat what happened with the chiropractor. He said, “Okay, let’s forget it then.”
At that moment I realized how selfish it was of me to offer a gift (the reading) with a condition that he use it for a particular purpose. A gift should be given freely without strings. He did not know what to expect and was open to receiving something, but for me to dictate how helpful it would be meant I was trying to control him.
We have different experiences and different perceptions of what causes healing. My lesson in this is to accept him and his way of healing rather than trying to force my perspective on him.
How illuminating! When we view a situation from another person’s perspective, we can understand that person. This resonates with the St. Francis prayer, “Seek to understand, not to be understood.” While this may seem challenging, it goes a long way in changing our perspective and diffusing any kind of anger, self-righteousness, or desire for revenge.
3. Identify your cause in the situation
When we blame another person or external circumstances, we fail to recognize that we always have some part in causing situations to be as they are. Sometimes this can be hard to admit. We like to be right, to win, to be the smart or wise one.
Admitting how we have had some part in causing a situation requires being humble. It also brings freedom, enabling us to learn and to let go of old patterns of thinking that keep us stuck. In the situation with my friend, I was attached to relieving his pain. That is my cause, something I need to heal in myself. I was trying to make it his problem by forcing him to believe in something he didn’t know anything about.
So I needed to let go of my attachment to being a savior, being able to relieve his pain. If I really want to help, I can give something (in this case, the reading) and release it, letting him choose how to use the gift. This enables me to let go of the compulsion to control everything and everyone, respecting their choices even when they may be different from mine.
4. Practice methods of clearing the mind and emotions
If you are the kind of person who thinks all the time (like me!), unresolved thoughts are like food that stays in the stomach and never digests. Thus the saying, “it’s eating away at me.” To begin the assimilation process, it helps to spend some time clearing the mind.
Writing about the issue in a stream of consciousness is a great way to begin the process. Get a journal or sheets of paper and a pen (do this long hand for the best results rather than using a computer.) Set a timer for 20 minutes. Then, write the subject at the top of the page, like “Conflict with XYZ.” Start writing, whatever comes to mind. Don’t stop to think too much, punctuate, or even write what seems true. Just write.
If you feel stuck or paralyzed, write, “I don’t know what to write” and keep writing. If you think that your writing is stupid or doesn’t make sense, write that. Just keep writing until the 20 minutes is up.
Then go back and look at what you’ve written. There will be some junk, but among the seeming nonsense, you will also find some nuggets of truth. Highlight these. It will give you a place to begin understanding.
Once you have done this brain clearing, find a quiet place. Sit or lie down and focus on your breath. Just watch it. Don’t try to force it or make it do anything. Just watch the breath as it comes in and goes out. Then, notice the exhale. Watch the breath as it goes out, and allow yourself to let go of any thoughts or concerns along with the outgoing breath.
You can say this mantra to yourself (from Henry Reed’s Intuitive Heart training): “I am aware of my breath and letting it be. I am learning to let go and let the spirit breathe me.” Keep silently chanting that and watch your outgoing breath.
Allow yourself to stay in this relaxed state as long as you wish. You will emerge feeling much more centered and perhaps ready now to really let go of what has troubled you.
If you try these methods, please leave a comment below to share what you discover. If you know other ways to let go that seem effective, share those too!