The Practice of Being Present
How many times have you read, or heard, or been told, that you need to "let go"? To let go of what someone said, to let go of something that happened, to let go of what you wish had happened, but didn't.
It isn't hard to understand that when you're holding on to past hurts, regrets, or wrongs you are not able to be fully happy; you are not able to be fully in the present. Part of you - a part of your thoughts, your feelings, your energy, your focus - is preoccupied with something that has already happened, and is in the past, which means that you are not able to fully live and enjoy your life in the present.
But even when you know yourself that it is true that you need to let go, even when you know that "holding on" is causing you some degree of suffering, or at least making it difficult to live in the present and to be happy, why is it so hard to actually let go?
Of course, there are many and varied answers to that question. The answers vary according to who you are, your personality traits, your history, the nature of the specific experiences that you are holding onto, and the meanings that you have built up about them.
But that's the key: meaning. It is all about the meanings that we create about our experiences. We are really holding onto the meanings we have given the experiences, and not the experiences themselves.
But even if we are not actually holding onto past events, but to meanings, it keeps part of the energy of our thoughts and feelings, part of our life energy, trapped in the past.
It doesn't really help when people are telling you that you should "let go and "move on". That's not helpful to hear when you're not ready to move on, or when you don't know how to let go. It's certainly not helpful when you know that that is ultimately what you want to do, and yet you find yourself unable to.
A lot of people have the same problem with the idea of "letting go" as with the idea of "forgiveness". Many people have ideas about forgiveness or letting go that "It's like saying it's okay that it happened." Or even, "It's like saying that it never even happened". But I don't think of either letting go, or forgiveness, in that way at all.
My experience of holding on or of being unforgiving – and I have lots of it – is as much about what other people have said or done, as about things that I have said or done - or not done.
Whether it is about things that other people said or did, or about things that I did or didn't do, my experience of holding on is twofold. On the one hand, it's an experience of non-acceptance. And the non-acceptance can be deep and complex.
On the other hand, that non-acceptance either creates, or is rooted in, a fantasy that holds me stuck in the past.
Regardless of how complex the situation might be, when I engage in non-acceptance, it comes down to one very simple problem: I am not accepting reality.
Maybe I am not accepting a mistake I think I made. Maybe I am not accepting that someone could have been so uncaring, or disrespectful to me. In whatever way I am not accepting whatever it is I am holding onto, I am believing that I am not okay as a result of it happening.
Therefore, to be ok, I need that it didn't happen.
Whether it is conscious or subconscious there is a narrative that says, "I am not ok because that happened." This narrative also says, "The only way for me to be ok, is for it not to have happened". (Or, for something to be done to correct the fact that it happened - an apology, retribution, compensation, etc...)
So then I am stuck with feeling "not ok", unless I get an apology or acknowledgement, or compensation, that satisfies that need for correction. Sometimes that is possible, and sometimes it is even healing. (This is the principle of Truth and Reconciliation processes).
But sometimes it is not possible to get an apology, acknowledgement or compensation. (Especially if I am holding onto something that I did!) Or even if it is possible, it may not result in feeling that "I am ok". I may be stuck with the narrative that "because it happened, I am not ok". And that prevents me from being a whole, integrated person who is inherently ok. It prevents me from healing, from being in the present.
And, in fact, it is true that I am not okay. But the reason that I am not okay is that I am holding on. My own energy is stuck holding onto this "thing" which prevents me from being "in the flow".
So, for me, letting go and forgiveness are one and the same thing. They are both about choosing to be well; they are both about letting go of stuck energy, retrieving my own energy from whatever it is I am stuck on, and letting go of other people's energy related to that, so that I can be well, and so that I can live in the present.
(These are the principles of Logosynthesis, a fantastic method for letting go, acceptance and forgiveness.)
It doesn't mean that I forget that it happened; it means that I am well despite the fact that it happened. It means that I am able to choose wellness in the present, over a fantasy of redoing the past.
Because when we are holding onto things, there is one ultimate reason for that; a fantasy of being able to change what happened. If we refuse to accept that it happened, then we are holding on to a fantasy of being able to somehow make it so it didn't happen.
So, I have learned to practice accepting whatever happens. That means simply accepting that it happened the way it happened. That doesn't mean accepting that it is ok, that it happened; it means accepting that I am ok - or I will be ok - even though it happened.
It means also accepting all my feelings about it, and recognizing whether there is something I need to say or do in the situation. Is there something I can do to correct it? Even if there isn't, is there something I need to say, that will help me feel that I have corrected it in some way?
Sometimes, just saying how I feel allows me to feel that I have corrected an imbalance that occurred from not having had my say, or from people acting as though nothing has happened.
I have learned to seek recognition when possible, and to whatever degree possible, either in myself or from others, of what happened that was not ok, but not to make my well-being dependent on that.
I have learned to question and to suspect the meanings that I would put on things, that would make it "not ok" that it happened. I have learned to breathe deep, to let go and choose to be in the present moment to the best of my ability.
And if I can learn about myself through the experience, that makes it all the more worthwhile to accept it, and then to let it go.