I love Fall! I love the smell of the mornings, warm afternoons turning into cool evenings, and the changing colors of the falling leaves. Even the mess of leaves on my patio and in my pool, which can be frustrating, is a reminder of this season which is all about letting go and change. While there is 100% certainty that the trees will become barren, I am also confident in their ability to sprout something new and beautiful in just a few short months. This cyclical cadence is a great reminder of the natural rhythm of the year, paralleling a rhythm of our lives in the process of letting go leading to renewal and growth.
And just like with the trees, new growth can’t occur until the old leaves have dropped. Nature knows this, and while we know this intuitively, it’s easier said than done; we get stuck.
We get stuck in habitual patterns that are no longer serving us. We get stuck in relationships that don’t always allow us to grow or be our authentic self in the here and now. We get stuck in jobs that prohibit true fulfillment. We get stuck in living in a way that is familiar and known, but not always the best for our soul, our evolution and our own personal freedom.
So, why is it we get stuck? Well, it’s a habit. Even if we don’t like it, the “known” is comfortable and safe because it’s familiar and we know how to do it. Conversely, we get stuck because the “unknown” is often perceived as scary and feared to be a worse alternative to the discontent or unhappiness many feel in their known, current position.
We also get stuck because we don’t know how to let go, which requires surrender and a release of the grasp to those patterns, habits or stories that we are so used to. Often what we are holding onto is a beautiful experience of the past, grasping to the way things used to be or clinging to an ideal that lives in our heads. Paradoxically, that gripping is frequently what increases our current pain or distress. The wisdom comes in learning how to release what we hold on so tight to, and allow the natural course of letting go bring with it new opportunity for renewal, growth and positive change. Nature shows us that the leaves aren’t afraid to fall, nor does the tree hold on so tight so as preventing them from falling.
In my work as a marriage and family therapist and a mindfulness educator, I work with my clients in acknowledging their fear of letting go, and creating a safe environment in which to allow and accept it. I have a few favorite stories illustrating the power of our ability to release what’s holding us back to free us up and allow for change. Here’s one of them:
Hold a glass of water in your hands. If I were to ask you how much it weighed, you might respond, “Hmmm, I don’t know, maybe 12 ounces.” If I were to ask you, “Is it heavy?” you’d probably respond, “No.” If I said you had to hold it for a minute, then repeat, “Is it heavy?” you’d still probably reply, “Not so bad.” If I had you hold it for 10 minutes, then ask, “Is it heavy?” you may say, “Yeah, a little.” Then if I asked you to hold the glass of water for an hour, you might then say, “Yeah, it’s getting heavy.” What if you had to hold it for 5 hours, a day, or a week? Yes, it would definitely be getting heavy! If I asked, “Has the weight of the glass of water actually changed?” You’d respond, “No, of course the weight of the glass hasn’t changed!”
Moral of the story: The longer you hold onto to something, the harder it is to carry. So, you have the choice to put the glass down.
Choosing to put the glass down is an act of letting go. While we don’t always have a choice in what is arising, we do have a choice in how we carry it and in what we allow to weigh us down.