When you’re stressed out and someone tells you to “just let it go,” you may feel any range of emotions from mild contempt to murderous rage. And that’s not because you’re a hormonal a**hole (at least, not all the time), it’s because the whole concept of letting go is kind of unnatural for the human psyche. To the less evolved part of our brain whose whole entire job is to protect us, letting go of emotional pain, a grudge, or any kind of negative experience seems to leave us vulnerable to attack. It might even make us feel like we’re ignorant or naive or condoning bad behavior. But let’s really consider this: when you hold on to anger or continue to re-live past upsets over and over again, who is it actually hurting? I’m sure we don’t need to spell it out, but it’s you. It only hurts you. Helloooo suffering.
But what does it mean to let go, and how do we do it? Some people take the psychotherapeutic approach which helps air out difficult emotions over time, which can be very beneficial, but we here at DEN Meditation also recommend trying a mindful approach to suffering, which enables us to take back some of our power and start to see ourselves as separate of pain, and therefore not at its effect.
Here are some mindful mechanism for letting go:
Step 1: Just HAVE the feeling
Don’t try to change it or avoid it or shut it up. Don’t vent it or attempt to moralize it. It’s just here. Say hello, and surrender all attempts to change it in any way.
Step 2: Ignore all thoughts
When you’re having a difficult emotion, your thoughts are likely to be skewed and maybe even untrue. These types of thoughts often make the feeling much worse than it needs to be. Try and set them aside for now.
Step 3: Check things out
What sensations does this feeling/situation bring up in your body. Is it warm? Cold? Solid? Porous? Where do you feel it? Does it move around? By investigating with curiosity, we can start to see that our emotions are like passing weather patterns… an energy passing through us.
Step 4: Drop all judgement
You are allowed to have a feeling. This does not make you weak or bad. In fact, it’s a big flashing neon sign that your heart is in good working order and your discomfort is proof that you’re doing your best. Give yourself some loving kindness.
Difficult emotions can come on hard and fast, and before you know it you’ve blown up at your sweet old neighbor for parking in your spot (again) or seething at your partner for something that happened last year and has long since blown over. The impulse to react harshly may never vanish, but by employing this technique, we will at least be given a choice in the matter. And that choice is where our true power lies.