The Art of Letting Go to Create Space for What’s Next

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As we mark the end to this crazy chaotic year and start a new one, I invite you to reflect on what you want to keep and what you want to let go of before jumping feet first and anxious into 2021.

While we all reflect from time to time during the normal course of our day, setting aside time for intentional reflection can yield insights you may not uncover in typical day to day passive reflection. Herein comes the art of gracefully letting go, the art of creating essential space for what you want to bring into your life.

This post explains why this week is the perfect time for this letting go and shares insights on different techniques that can be used depending on whether you are letting go of negative thoughts/energies, beliefs, excess things around the house, projects or when necessary, people in your life.

A process of intentional reflection can help you more clearly and more intentionally decide what is useful in your life and what would be better off discarded or left behind. Taking steps to create space in our physical, mental and emotional houses is so advantageous in helping to lay a firm foundation for new dreams and future projects. 

In addition to this being the end of a year, there are a couple of other good reasons why this week is an ideal time to contemplate what may be beneficial for you to release in your life. First of all, winter beckons us naturally to go inward and with the winter solstice occurring just a week ago, we are firmly within the midst of this season. With its slower pace and more time spent indoors keeping warm, winter provokes more moments of reflection as well as a tendency to dream about what you want to create in the coming year.

And I emphasize here that new creations require new space, more energy and more time to bring them to fruition without becoming overwhelmed or exhausted in the process.

So just as you begin to ponder what you would like to materialize in the coming year, it is wise to pave the way for success in your future endeavors by making space and ensuring you will have sufficient time, resources and energy to cultivate these projects. Doing so will better allow them to grow robustly and bloom fully.

The other reason this week is well-timed for unshackling yourself from stale projects, excess things and negative energies is that Tuesday is a full moon. We are all aware of the gravitational pull of the moon’s energies on the tides and you likely have heard that the lunar cycle is thought to impact fertility and menstruation. Many people are quite sensitive to the energy of the full moon, feeling heightened emotions and perhaps finding it difficult to sleep soundly. For these reasons, it is believed that the energy of the full moon can help illuminate and reveal what is blocking you or what you are subconsciously holding onto in your inner world. This moon energy, while strongest at the time of the full moon, can also be felt in the days leading up to and following the completion of the lunar cycle. 

So, this week we have the perfect trifecta of the end of a year, a full moon and the winter season for contemplation upon us all at once. What are you waiting for? Look at your plans for this week and set aside time to intentionally reflect on what you can release to help you open the doors to an amazing new year ahead.

Are you with me? If so, let’s talk about how to go about this. I’ve noticed over the years that the art of letting go depends on what it is you are letting go of. I like to break these down into categories, using different techniques for introspection and releasing for each of them.

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Letting Go of Projects & Activities

Let’s start with the projects and things you are doing that take up time in your life. I like to begin by reviewing any written goals or dreams I had most recently put on paper. For those not yet accomplished, I reassess and consider if thinking about realizing each of these gives me the same spark of inner joy as it once did when I originally set it. Things change, and what once may have been exciting may now feel ho hum. If it doesn’t currently make your heart smile, it may be time to leave it behind. Know and assure yourself that it is okay to change your mind and it is okay to cast aside projects that fall into this bucket.

Next it is good to evaluate if you are spending your time on what matters most to you. To facilitate this, I like to take the following steps:

  1. Make a list of where you currently spend your time or on what you intend to spend your time on in the coming months. This should include things that you do repeatedly that take a decent amount of time such as work, going on a daily run, or cooking meals.

  2. Make a list of the top 5 or 6 things you value most in your life.

  3. Then go back to the list of where you spend your time and rank each item on the list in accordance with how much it contributes to the things you value most in life, with 0 being it doesn’t contribute toward any of what I value to 5 being it contributes greatly to one or more of my values.

  4. Step back and consider if you want to make any changes to where you spend your time based on the results of this exercise.

Note that there are some things we must do at certain times in our lives even though they aren’t in clear alignment with what gives us joy and what we most value, but think carefully as to if this is really true before you decide to toss something into this category.

Are you able to discontinue any projects after considering how you spend your time and what you value simultaneously? Life is too short to allocate your time unwisely, and remember that too many projects can keep you from doing and completing what you truly value.

Letting Go of Things

(energy /space / clutter)

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I think this is best accomplished in chunks - perhaps one room in your house or one drawer at a time. Attempting to tackle this type of excess all at once is likely too overwhelming for most. And if the thought of even tackling one room seems overwhelming, there are plenty of people you can contact to help you in this process. Just Google “clutter” and you are bound to find plenty of professional organizers to guide and support you in this process.

Here is how I like to tackle a room:  

Find a comfortable place to sit where you can get a good view of most things in a room. 

Let your eyes slide over things in the room, noticing if your attention “sticks” anywhere.

Look for anything that feels out of place. Look for items that 

  • No longer bring you joy,

  • Have lost their significance (functional or emotional), or

  • Don’t bring beauty to your space.

If all three of these apply, consider why you are keeping it and if you can let it go. See if you can recognize and appreciate the joy the object once gave you. Acknowledge that it no longer is useful to you at this point in your life. Then box it up to be discarded or given away to someone who could find a use for it at this point in their life.

Letting Go of Negative Energy (arguments, negative thoughts, anxiety etc.)

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Let’s first note here that with life’s bigger challenges such a physical trauma, divorce, loss of a job, etc. there are often multiple layers of emotions that need to be worked through and this typically needs to occur over a period of time. Talking to a close friend may help and often it may be wise to seek help from a therapist to work through the complicated nuances of recovery in these situations.

Here are a few suggestions for releasing the negativity you feel capable of taking on yourself.

For arguments or random negative thoughts, sometimes releasing these can be accomplished as easily as mentally saying silently to yourself, “I am choosing to let go of this. This is not useful or important to my well being.” 

Other times a little more effort is required. I find that removing myself from wherever the argument, betrayal or infraction took place can be helpful. If possible I get outside and take a walk, as it seems to soothe my frayed nerves even more. 

Sometimes even this is not sufficient to allow me to fully let go. My angry mind wants to stay on repeat, replaying the scene and the lines over and over again as I stomp down the street. In this case even more will power and effort is required. I’ll ask myself if I am even ready or want to let go at this time. Sometimes the answer to this question is no and I allow myself to continue to feel anger, hurt or whatever emotions are currently surfacing. I acknowledge that I am choosing to allow myself to feel this way and that at some point I will choose to feel differently. If it is a minor infraction, sometimes I’ll even give myself a time frame and say to myself, “I’m choosing to feel like this now, but tomorrow I’ll let go of being angry (or hurt or whatever applies). 

Lately if I notice I feel anxious or stressed as the day winds down and I can’t seem to shake it, I prioritize spending a little extra time taking care of myself. Abhyanga (a warm oil massage popular in Ayurveda) can be very soothing, or simply giving myself a nurturing massage with a luxurious scented body cream can soothe frazzled nerves as well. 

You could also make use of symbolism to assist in the letting go process. Do this by writing down all the unwelcome thoughts, beliefs, issues and challenges you are currently experiencing or for which may have occurred in the past yet still trouble you. Then place your list in a fire pit or tin can so that you can burn and destroy the list, at the same time making an intention that you are releasing these things from your life.

 

Letting Go of Beliefs that No Longer Serve You

One of the reasons I included space for reflections at the beginning of each week and at the end of each month in the JMB Living Journal is that when you regularly note what is working for you in your life versus what is not, over time you if you look back on your notes, patterns will begin to emerge.

If you find you keep having this same argument over and over again, or if the same challenge keeps coming up in your life, you may want to consider if there may be anything you need to learn from this situation before it is able to be fully released. 

See if you can consider if there are any beliefs that you hold that may contribute to the issue arising repeatedly.

If a repeating issue or aggravation involves another person, you may also want to consider if in any way, shape or form you do the same thing that you are finding aggravating. Quite often you may be mirroring the offense upon another person, perhaps in a slightly different way. Finding this can require some intense self-reflections and brutal honesty, but if it stops the cycle it is so worth it.

Look at the areas in your life where things aren’t going as well as you like. Can you find any negative beliefs or beliefs that are not empowering you toward success in this area?

Sometimes just recognizing you hold an unwelcome belief and no longer wish to do so can be enough to let the belief go. Other times you may need to reframe your perspective to work toward changing the belief enough to move you toward a place where you are able to let go of it entirely. One way of re-framing your perspective is to acknowledge that you are working toward something. 

As an example perhaps you have a belief that you have a very bad temper and you no longer would like to feel this way. You could do a little research to find some positive steps that you could take to control your temper and re-frame the belief in your mind to “I am making progress toward controlling my emotions in a healthy manner.”

 

Letting Go of People

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Relationships are complicated and the reasons for the need to move on or let go can be numerous and just as complicated. The grief that often follows isn’t something you can give someone a prescription for and it is important to realize that everyone grieves differently. The length of time that one is consumed by grief varies too and how deeply each person feels and processes the emotions differs wildly from one person to the next as well. 

My father passed away last week. He is the first person I was truly close to that I have lost in this way. I had often wondered how I would react when a time like this came to pass. I’m pretty certain he will truly be missed for the rest of my life, but his passing wasn’t as hard on me as I anticipated. One significant reason for this is that the last three years of his life he was on bed rest and his quality of life had diminished significantly. He had also begun to struggle with the onset of dementia and the physical pains he had suffered through most of his adult life as a paraplegic had only increased in intensity. Understanding and acknowledging that he is no longer suffering certainly eases the feelings that accompany the loss. Remembering and feeling gratitude for the good times helps as well.

While this is sometimes easier said than done, intentionally choosing positive perspectives when letting people go can sometimes help ease the process.

Make Space for Joy and to Create new Dreams 

In closing, while I know each one of you that has taken the time to read all the way through this longer than the usual post is capable of handling everything that life throws your way, I do hope that you will take the time to find places that you can make space in your life in the coming year.

The more space you are able to create, the more time you have to enjoy what you choose to keep and choose to newly create. 

And please don’t hesitate to share any suggestions for other ways you have found helpful in letting go. That one differing idea and new perspective may be just what someone needs to get them over the hurdle of something they have been trying to release for a while now.

In love and light, Julie

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