Beliefnet
Letting Go with Guy Finley

Each time we see the need to let go of something – a bad habit that drags us down, an unsatisfactory relationship, a career choice that can’t complete us in the way we dreamed it would, or maybe unrealistic expectations of ours about others that eventually spoil our partnerships with them – whatever it may be: what is it that’s actually happened in these moments of honest self-examination? See if this simple answer doesn’t describe our situation:

Aren’t we being “asked” to give up an existing relationship in order to make room in our lives for something higher? Of course we are. Then why is it so hard to act on our intuition? After all, who doesn’t want a life that’s better, brighter, and truer?

Here’s why we hesitate to make this exchange, as so many of us do: the real challenge in such moments is that what we must choose in favor of can’t be seen by our physical eyes! Can we see the truth of this, no pun intended?

Inherent in any true spiritual surrender is this one inescapable fact: we can’t hope to realize the actual nature of that new and “greater” relationship we seek until we have released the old one. St. Paul, author of numerous New Testament accounts, best describes what is, ultimately, an indescribable moment: “Our faith must be in things unseen, and not in things seen; for who hopes for things (already) seen?”

When it comes to letting go and growing beyond who and what we have been up until that time, the deal is non-negotiable: first comes our gradual awakening to what no longer works for us, followed by the inner work to release the same. Then, and only then, dawns the discovery and realization of what is – in all cases – a new and higher order of our Self; our life is transformed. Confidence, contentment, and compassion become our constant companions.

To the point: letting go follows our unwanted realization that “holding on” is of no further use! In one way or another we start seeing how all of our old, tried and true solutions have proven themselves to be “false friends.” A few examples will shed light on this last important idea.

For instance, it’s become clear that blaming others for our painful reactions has proven worse than useless; that answer has turned some of our friends into enemies!

Instead of delighting us as they always did in the past, our newest schemes and dreams only taunt us with their emptiness; we’re tired of running nowhere fast.

Whether wanted or not, we stand at the threshold of that unfamiliar and innermost territory called the “dark night of the soul” by St. John of the Cross; for we now know that of ourselves we can do no more for ourselves.

And so we wait there in our uncertainty, caught, as it were, between two possibilities, neither of which is wanted: in one hand there is the “rock” of not wanting to go through what we know must be done; in the other is “the hard place” of seeing that no other options are available — our one great fear being that if we do let go, our fate is sealed. We will fall into that dark yawning abyss before us called, “not knowing what will become of us” – a forbidding place from which we believe there may be no escape!

But, this is a false assumption based upon an equally false perception. It’s a lie produced by the false self to keep us from answering the call to leave it behind. Here is the truth of the matter, which you will know from yourself each time you dare to let go: You do not fall.

Instead, you rise!

How is that possible?

Ask yourself, what happens to a kite when its string is cut? Up it goes! It climbs into the open skies above it because that’s its nature; it was made to rise. So are we: we are made to be free. Anything less is just that . . . not enough!

After nearly 35 years of writing and teaching, if I have learned one thing it is this: We each have right here, right now, everything we need to succeed with finding the lasting wholeness and happiness for which our heart of hearts seeks. Our problem is that we’re sure we have to do something to be free. Strangely enough, the only thing between us, and a life without limits, is this mistaken idea.
The spiritual work of letting go and of growing into our native holiness is unlike any other kind of effort one will ever have to make. It starts with embracing – and then daring to act upon – the understanding that nothing can be added to our True Self. Just think for a moment what such knowledge could mean to us if we were to take the trouble to make it our own.

For instance, rather than spend our time struggling, in vain, to make others into what we want them to be, we would be able to see the inherent flaw in this kind of thinking. So that then – rather than trying to change others to suit our needs – our choice would be to simply drop this false idea that someone else is responsible for our fulfillment.

Freedom from the burden of false responsibilities – real reconciliation with lovers, friends, and family – the grace to forgive old foes completely – a growing sense of a loving and compassionate Intelligence unbound by passing time: these gifts and more come to those who learn to let go.

The missing half of our lives is letting go. Make this spiritual discovery and be fulfilled; be fulfilled without effort, and be free. Breathing in would be worthless without its opposite of exhaling; think of letting go as learning to take part in the breath of Life itself, something that is as natural to who you truly are as it is for the sun to shine.

Question: When we have a negative experience and we want to let it go, why is it so difficult to just drop it? We wouldn’t hold on to a hot iron if we grabbed it!

Answer: Because the pain, the problem, isn’t the event itself. If there was a you involved in the moment of whatever the condition is, then the condition wouldn’t play out the way it does. I am half the equation I don’t want in my life. What I can’t let go of isn’t because it can’t be dropped, but because something in me is clinging to it. Only the awareness of this part of myself that is fascinated with what it doesn’t want can bring the end of that fascination and free me from that level of self.

Question: How do we make letting go a daily practice?

Answer: The first thing that everybody has to understand is that letting go isn’t an idea; it’s a necessity.

When the fall comes and it is time for the trees to let go of their leaves, the tree doesn’t have to think to itself, “What do I do with these leaves?” There is a natural relationship between the environment, the tree, and the leaves.

Letting go is the most natural thing on the earth. It’s what happens when I realize that something has served its purpose and is of no further use to me -– for instance my anger, my impatience, or my fear. But I have to be present enough, aware of the fact that these old forms are coming out on this tree, and recognize, “You know what? That is no longer of any use to me.”

The clearer I can be of the uselessness of the old states that used to define me, the easier they fall away. There is no struggle in it. It’s a recognition of what is useless and what is useful, and nothing is more useful than letting go of useless negative states.

Anger or resentment toward someone who has left us does not prove we love and they don’t. It proves we don’t understand the true nature of love, or we wouldn’t be ripping ourselves apart because someone tore from us something to which we had become attached. This momentary hole in our soul—created by such losses—must be left empty and not filled with negative states, otherwise we will never see the birth of a new and higher order of love within us because we’ve no room left for it to appear.
blouse, hand, key on chain

We have all been hurt, left with a heart wounded by others who seem to go on just fine without us. In moments of such loss, our emptiness doesn’t stay empty for long; we are soon filled with anger, guilt, regret, or grief. These dark thoughts and feelings usually accomplish two things at once. At their onset, they bind us to a negative certainty that we will never again love or trust, but that’s not the worst of it. They also blind us so that the real purpose behind our pain goes unseen; as such, we miss the following lesson. Hidden within it is the power to transform our tears into a new kind of triumph over sorrow:

It isn’t love that has hurt us.

Once our inner eyes are open and we can read the story between the lines secreted away in our suffering, we’re able to see one spiritual wonder after another. For instance, we realize that real love can’t hurt us any more than the light from a lamp can turn a room dark. We understand without taking thought that the nature of light is to reveal, not conceal. It’s clear: love heals; its celestial purpose is to integrate all that it embraces and all who choose to embrace it.

The birth of this new inner wisdom delivers the aspirant to a spiritual crossroads. The left-hand path leads to unrequited sorrow. The one on the right leads to revelation; from its elevated view, we see our heartaches—whatever their nature—as heralds of a higher order of love that bring a celestial invitation to realize a level of ourselves that cannot be diminished by any loss. The following insights bring these last important ideas into focus.

This world of ours, and all that transpires here, is a school for our spiritual education. Like any institution of higher learning, it has teachers, lessons, and many levels of learning; all serve to make possible the revelation and eventual realization of a timeless love that both creates and maintains the cosmos. Now, let’s take the light of this same insight and shine it on that dark moment when life seems to take from us something or someone that we love.

Whenever we find ourselves hurt, left behind, or feeling undone by someone’s negligent behavior toward us, life seems to be telling us that it’s time to suffer. But this perception is as false as the lower level of self that falls for it. As we will see, the truth of these moments is far and away another story.

In any and all unwanted moments, life asks of us a single question: are we ready to see that our pain isn’t because something has changed, as it obviously had to do, but rather we suffer because of a part of us that desperately fears change? As challenging as it may be, we must acknowledge this revelation if we wish to realize the lesson it brings. Only then can we take the true action for which this new understanding calls: we must let go of any part of us that clings to its pain as proof of its love.

How can we be sure that letting go can help us outgrow our suffering, let alone learn to welcome those unwanted moments that seem to deliver us into its dark hands? A quick review reveals all:

Our own experiences have proven, time and time again, that the lessons we need in order to transcend our present level of understanding ride in on the back of events. Yet, in the midst of all these individual revelations lies hidden a single lesson greater than all of them combined: any truth that we come to see about ourselves is—and always has been—a part of our consciousness. Experience proves this divine discovery.

Whenever we finally learn the lesson in some moment and see the truth of it, the feeling is more like we’ve suddenly remembered something than one of having stumbled upon something formerly unknown to us. These moments of illumination are like running into a long-lost friend—and, in a way, that’s what they are: the remembrance of any timeless truth reunites us with our immortal Self. We are led to these moments by a loving Intelligence that waits within us to show us that we have never been alone—and never will be.

This means that our life lessons appear as they do, when they do, to serve a beautiful single purpose: to release us from the painful illusion that when something we love comes to an end, love itself comes to an end.

What punishes us in these moments is our identification with a lower level of self that’s trying to hold onto a form of love that can no longer be sustained in this world. This false nature suffers as it does for one reason only: it fears that the end of its relationship—with whatever it has become identified with—spells the end of its existence as well. And so it clings, denies, and decries all that passes because it believes that it’s nothing without its designated “other.”

Yes, it hurts to be left behind; there is always grief when a loved one passes on, as surely as we feel anger and sorrow upon learning that someone near and dear has betrayed or lied to us. This is why if we hope to realize the timeless love that lives within us, we must not only perfect the following understanding but also practice its truth in any moment where love seems lost:

In the worlds above us—that dwell within us—we are the other.

The indwelling love of the Divine never dies; it only assumes new ways to teach us this truth so that we may share in its ceaseless rebirth within us.