How to Let Go

In your youth, letting go is naive. You do it  – blithely, even carelessly – because you do not know the costs.

Gain some years, years pockmarked with goings you did not want, years dented by goings you did everything you could to prevent, and letting go becomes an art you must learn, a discipline that divides those who grow from those who petrify.

I have let go of much in my life although far less than many. 3 or 4 books (one with a signed contract). Several partnerships. Successful projects. Spokesperson gigs. A fancy house in a fancy town. A brother-friend. Cherished dreams. A marriage.

Along the way I’ve realized a couple of things:

When letting go comes without your wanting, meet it. You will save yourself so much time and suffering, more than you can imagine.

When you want to let go and cannot, let desire lead you. Ask “What do I want?” Start with lunch and build from there.

When you know you need to let go but can’t see what needs to go, ask your most trusted friends, coach, spiritual teacher. Look for the pattern.

It is okay to start small. You do not need to burn the barn down* until you are ready. You can face what needs to go without committing to action.

That said, hiding from what you know to be true erodes your ability to trust yourself and take action on your behalf.

Your fear of losing it all is the barbell you lift to be strong enough to create what’s next.

You can’t let go without mess. Someone will be pissed. Someone will take it personally. Someone will never speak to you again or buy your stuff. If you wait to do it perfectly aka everybody loves your choice, then just go ahead and invite Miss Havisham to move in with you.

Learn to discern between letting go because you desire perfection (the grass is greener syndrome) and letting go because your heart is dying, you are hurting someone else, you can’t bear it one more moment.  The discipline of letting go sometimes requires staying put and working harder.

Drop the victim story.  Let go (or stay) as a creator.

Let the pain of what you are letting go of soften your heart. Sidestep the bitterness, the blaming, and if only thoughts. Let them slide on by.

Fear blocks renewal. Find ways to experience deep rest and safety so you can have the courage and energy to let go. It’s okay to gather yourself.

Ask for support, ask for courage, ask for forgiveness. Then drink it in.

Please add your wisdom. How have you learned to let go?

*Barn’s burnt down —
now
I can see the moon.   ~ Masahide

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  • MarkHeartofBiz

    I love that Mashide quote. And so grateful you wrote about this, Jen. Letting go… letting go… not easy.

  • jenlouden

    thanks! @carolynsolares @jenlouden: You do not need to burn the barn down* until you are ready. http://t.co/h2vUWEMI

  • spiritualsemaphore

    I so needed this today…Hits me right where I’m living. Thank you. :)

    • jenlouden

      happy thanksgiving and thanks for being here @spiritualsemaphore

    • jenlouden

      happy thanksgiving and thanks for being here @spiritualsemaphore

  • kiwibok01

    Letting go, I think begins only when we are willing to ask WHY we are holding on..and from the asking comes an understanding – and then letting go is a natural result. I’m slowly learning that something only stays in my life while it has something to teach me. And only when I am willing to learn the lessons it brings does its grip loosen and it either leaves on its own without effort, or the letting go becomes effortless.

    Thank you Jen as always for your wisdom.

    • jenlouden

      thank you for yours @kiwibok01 I never thought to ask why am I holding on? beautiful! love it!

    • jenlouden

      thank you for yours @kiwibok01 I never thought to ask why am I holding on? beautiful! love it!

  • viviane

    thank you jen

    • jenlouden

      thank you for being here @viviane

  • epapaluap

    “Start with lunch and build from there.” Never thought it could be that easy. And I was on the verge of inviting Ms. Havisham in….

    • jenlouden

      @epapaluap or even a snack :)

  • ClaudetteChenevert

    Such a timely piece for me Jen, you have no idea. I need to let go that some people in my life may never be a part of it the way I want them to be. It hurts, really bad but not as much as trying to hold on. Being part of a stepfamily, it seems we’re always having to learn to let go, letting go of expectations, dreams, people. Taking the time to be quiet and reflect what is truly important is the first step for me in learning to let go.Thanks for the wonderful gift of insight.

    • jenlouden

      @ClaudetteChenevert you are so welcome!

  • http://www.MidlifeFairyGodmothers.com/ DinahMidlifeFairyGodmthr

    I let go of trying ot be a success. I am now moving forward with my work from a place of exploration, fun, adventure. I let go of being so darn serious with my work!!! Serious meant important to me and I wanted my work to be important!! I wanted to be important! As I kept letting go of this I received my training to be a Conscious Dance Instructor. Since then I am soaring, many women are interested, and the program I created 4 Gateways To Re-enchantment(tm) which I was soooo serious about is folding in with my dance very organically!! It’s still scary, but I keep letting go through the fear. Thanks for listenting.

    • jenlouden

      @DinahMidlifeFairyGodmthr Dance will do that for you, won’t it! it’s funny to think of you being so darn serious, when everything about you is lightness itself, but then we are often the last to see ourselves clearly… dammit! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • mythreesons

    So timely Jen. I was thinking of this yesterday as I watched my 5 year old give up his “lovey.” And how seemingly easily he did it, when all of me thought he would fall apart. He was ready to let go. And I compared it to all of the letting go I have had to do lately – and how it seems to get so much harder as I get older, like I never feel ready, like I feel “short-changed” in some respects. I am going to work on “meeting it” like you said. Letting go to get on with it. Letting go to “see the moon.” Thank you.

    • jenlouden

      @mythreesons My short changed shows up as wanting to go back and change the past, make it right, then i can let go and move on. That’s been a huge lesson for me. thanks for your comment!

  • irlondon

    Hi Jennifer,

    Such good thoughts on letting go, especially at this time of year. With people, I ‘let go’ best when all has been honestly and gently said or otherwise acknowledged, and all involved are able to ‘hear’ each other and honor each other’s right to their own point of view, without blaming. Not always possible, I know, and it takes courage and time. Sometimes the ‘mess’ stays messy, but at least everyone knows the whole story.

    I wish all the best to you in the holiday season, the new year, and onward.

    Thank you for your hard work with the Cafe and Forum. The group of women I have met there are so special to me.

    Ilene London

    • jenlouden

      @irlondon Thank you Ilene! without blame does seem to be the key… sigh. LOVE!

  • Karly Randolph Pitman

    Jen,

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There’s so much in this post that I need to let sit and stew in my heart.

    These past 2 years have been a season of loss for me, of letting go of just about everything. It has been difficult, painful, beautiful, surprising, tender – the whole gamut. And one of the things that has sustained me has been the moon, and the very quote you referred to here! So thank you for the beautiful reminder…

    Letting go, for me, is more passive than active. The seeds are planted in quiet, prayer, meditation, listening to the voice within. Carrying out those actions come after. Sometimes I don’t want to listen because I may not like what I hear.

    And yet surrender brings a happiness that goes beyond surface desire, as well as its own peace. Earlier this year, as I sobbed in my shower over a loss that I absolutely did not want, I felt this peace come over me as I realized, “I can trust even this.” As Rilke said, “Life holds you in its hands and will not let you fall.”

    Letting go for me means….

    shedding – shedding the expectations, thoughts and “stuff” of others that I have internalized and taken as my own, as well as shedding some of my own

    seeing the world from another’s point of view – especially when I think I’m right and that person has hurt me. (Tthis one is a real hairball for me right now.)

    rememberance – remembering who I am and not getting so caught in my sticky humanity

    dropping the expectations I have for others – loving them for who they are and not who I imagine them to be or what I project onto them

    forgiving

    letting go of expectations for self – accepting some challenging aspects of my humanity, like a high sensitivity and a tendency towards anxiety and depression, without shaming, labeling or feeling less than, while also giving myself what I need to thrive

    In gratitude, Karly

    • jenlouden

      @Karly Randolph Pitman beautiful my friend, especially the “when I think I’m right…” that has been so hard for me as well!

  • Giulietta

    Hi Jen,

    More folks need to hear this. I’ve been letting go for years, just taking the reins and leaving them on the neck of the wild horse I’m galloping on through life.

    Letting go turns life into the adventure it was always meant to be.

    Want to see the note pad I designed called, “Let Go and Enjoy The ride?” It’s got my painting called Freedom on it. Think you will enjoy the energy of it.

    http://giuliettathemuse.com/powerful-products/

    Thanks! Giulietta

    • jenlouden

      Beautiful notepad to remind you to let go by @Giulietta

  • http://www.rachelgurevich.com RachelProDaydreamer

    Lessons I’ve Leaned about Letting Go…

    Sometimes we can’t let go because of the story we tell ourselves about what that might mean. For example, letting go of one particular painting/story/novel/book doesn’t mean we are incapable of being the artist we hope to be.

    On the other hand, sometimes we think we need to let go of something because it defines us in a way we are ashamed of or think isn’t “good enough.” Knowing when to let go and when to keep going is a skill and one that requires deep heart talk and strong support. As

    Jen wrote, “Letting go becomes an art.” So true.

    Letting go requires a surgeon’s care. One must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Letting go can be frightening, we are afraid of who we will hurt, afraid of burning bridges (between people or opportunities). Letting go takes courage.

    Letting go can also be a pattern. Letting go can be a symptom of a lack of courage. Knowing when to keep going and when to let go is, again, difficult. An art.

    Letting go sometimes means believing the universe will offer new opportunities, new pathways, new relationships. Sometimes it can feel like the world ends the moment after we let go, and there will be no more building, no more love, no more contracts, no more inspiration. And yet, the day after letting go, the sun rises again, a butterfly flaps its wings in some distant corner of the world, and life goes on.

    • http://www.rachelgurevich.com RachelProDaydreamer

      (Continued)

      Letting go can hurt people. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let go. It does mean letting go must be done compassionately. It means remembering that the one letting go has thought and processed the “letting go” for hours, days, weeks, maybe months, but that isn’t always true of the “one being let go.” Compassionate letting go means allowing space and time for the one cut loose to process, to come to terms on their own times, just as the one letting go took the time they needed. Letting go with compassion means having the kind of patience and understanding that you hope to be granted.

      Letting go means taking responsibility. Responsibility for our actions, not blaming them on anyone or anything else. Our choice, our actions, our consequences.

      Sometimes, before we can let go of an emotion or hurt, we need to be heard. We need to be understood. Unfortunately, that hurt is not always going to be heard by the one we most need to hear it, in the time frame we want it to happen in. Unfortunately, we may never hear from the other person, “Yes, I hear you, I understand.”

      This makes letting go so much harder, but it’s still possible. It requires the most difficult kind of hearing – being willing to be the witness of your own hurt and emotion. Being willing to whisper sweetly to our own soul, “I hear you. I understand you. That is enough.” I am enough.

      • jenlouden

        I so learned this with my divorce – I have yet to hear “I get it” or why from him – thank you again @RachelProDaydreamer

  • karriflatla

    Would it be okay to touch this conversation with that really sticky stick called injustice?

    How to let go of an injustice — and the deep humiliation that comes with having your trust and dignity used and abused — is one of the hardest things to let go of. I use the word “injustice” not accidentally either because you and I have talked about this thing before and it’s SUCH A FREAKIN’ HARD ONE.

    Sometimes when I think I’m letting go, that I’m really “moving beyond something,” my wounded self gets pissed again at the injustice. Like a FIRE BURNING in my throat. I want “justice” to be the water that extinguishes this inferno!! But to what end shall I seek justice? Will it heal?

    The only thing I can think of in these moments is to seek shelter in grace, the grace of knowingness I suppose … of simple awareness.

    xoxo

    Karri

  • karriflatla

    Would it be okay to touch this conversation with that really sticky stick called injustice?

    How to let go of an injustice — and the deep humiliation that comes with having your trust and dignity used and abused. This is one of the hardest things to let go of. I use the word “injustice” not accidentally either because you and I have talked about this thing before and it’s SUCH A FREAKIN’ HARD ONE.

    Sometimes when I think I’m letting go, that I’m really “moving beyond something,” my wounded self gets pissed again at the injustice. Like a FIRE BURNING in my throat. I want “justice” to be the water that extinguishes this inferno!! But to what end shall I seek justice? Will it heal?

    The only thing I can think of in these moments is to seek shelter in grace, the grace of knowingness I suppose … of simple awareness.

    xoxoKarri

    • jenlouden

      I hear you @karriflatla and it is these moments of letting go that can most strengthen our character and compassion for they are the most difficult, esp. for justice seekers like ourselves

  • MairaHolzmann

    There are so many fabulous nuggets of wisdom in this post!

    I am reminded of the birth/death/rebirth cycle, which is how I frame letting go. Our culture teaches us to fear death and feeds into our anxieties about dying with such supernatural force that at times, it’s hard to even enjoy living in the present moment. Yet, what I’ve learned about letting go is that in that process of “dying,” what is wanting to emerge is so much bigger, grander, connected and joyful.

    As I have gotten older, my ability to let go has gotten stronger. I find that when I am most afraid and most resistant to whatever is in front of me, means that it’s time to allow that death cycle to run it’s natural course. I am also learning to step into the dark unknown. Trusting that the darkness is actually growing what I need has been huge. Fear does indeed block renewal.

    Thanks for a lovely post!

    • jenlouden

      @MairaHolzmann so beautifully said and so true!

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  • http://twitter.com/elderyogini carolyn grady

    Oh Jen, this post is so filled with wisdom that I am quivering with the truth of it all. So many pithy wise words here! I am going to save this one  and try not to quote you so excessively folks get sick of your name :-)

    As I have left my comforting yoga teaching home of seven years and moved into a new space this very week (where I have to pay rent…meaning I have to drum up more students etc etc…responsibility YUK) the fear and grief burbles, floats, dances in and out of consciousness. ALSO feeling  as if that old elephant Ganesha is spraying me and laughing at my small thoughts. It’s time, I hear her whispering, to move into a bigger life.

    A life that is present with the fear AND the richness.

    Barn’s burnt down –

    now

    I can see the moon.   ~ Masahide

    The moon of course is our SELF. So glad yours is shining. Thank you for this eloquent post.

    with love to you (and also missing being in conversation!), carolyn

    • Anonymous

      I miss being in conversation with you too!!! Here’s to our moon bright self.

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  • L.C. Griffith

    Jen, This is just what I needed to read today. If I’m going to move forward I need to  let go so that my hands and heart will be free to receive the beautiful things that life is holding for me. 
    I may need to re-read this a few times, and that’s okay, but I’m determined to let go and move forward.
    Happy New Year. You’re such an inspiration.

  • Anonymous

    this is very comforting to read, and appears like wisdom, on the surface. but it is so on the surface. i believe that the voices we hear inside of us asking us to take others into consideration before or instead of letting go, or the voices asking us to face our fears in a true and deep way and moving forward with more commitment before or instead of letting go, or the voices suggesting that maybe it is important to consider that when you’re feeling that “you just can’t bear it another moment” it may actually be what you fear – an egregiously selfish response that should be explored before or instead of letting go. you jennifer louden let go of me at a moment in my life when i needed support more than at any other time in my life and absolutely could not be let go of, especially by a professional. perhaps you “couldn’t bear it another moment” but you letting go of me, virtually without an explanation (“it’s me not you”) left me with yet another thing to need support for, at a moment when i was literally drowning. what you have written above may be true or it may not be. is it possible that it is sometimes important to hang in there, precisely because another person needs you to? i had forgotten about you but recently received an email asking me as one of your multitudes to attend to your website because of some info-tech type mishap. and i find myself here, saying the things that i should have said to you long ago. i engaged you in a professional capacity and you entirely let me down by “letting go” at an outrageously inopportune moment. for that reason i ask you to reconsider the advice you are sharing with others here. it may be very bad advice indeed.

    • Anonymous

      Ivy I would love to discuss this via email. I’ll send you one thanks!

  • Jaymia

    I am still trying to let go. The resentment and bitterness doesn’t seem to go away. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/nikki.maki1 Nikki Maki

    This point is so true. Examples of a parent dying, and learning to go on with your life is so hard, but you owe it to yourself to make things happen in your life and making this parent(s) proud of what you accomplish.