Don’t you just hate it when you’re talking to a friend about a problem that’s really troubling you, and they tell you, “Just let it go.“
You know they are right, because you’ve been on the spiritual path for a while, but you also want to dump your half calf double decaf on their lap, twist of lemon and all.
If letting go is the answer, why do you only feel like you can really do that during shavasana at the end of yoga class?
That’s another annoying catchall phrase, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, it’s true, though. You want what you want, you know you’re right, and if you tell the truth to yourself, you’d rather be right than happy. You already know you need to let it go. You just don’t know how, and now you need another coffee, without the twist of lemon.
So what do you do?
Ever hear the story of the monkey and the banana?
The monkey’s in a cage.
The banana he wants is just outside the cage.
He reaches out and grabs the banana, but the bars are too narrow for the monkey to pull the banana back through.
But he won’t drop the banana because he really wants it.
The monkey is stuck.
He is caught between what we wants and the bars that keep him from getting it.
Do you ever feel like the monkey?
You want the job, but the people drive you crazy.
You want your employees (partner, contractor, waiter) to do things differently, but you don’t like to criticize.
You want your ex to pay the alimony, but you think that if you talk to him one more time, you’ll scream.
You know what you want, and you are trying and trying to get it, but nothing works.
There is a solution for our primate friend, though, and for us, too.
What the monkey doesn’t realize, is that the cage door opposite the banana is open. All he has to do is walk out of the cage, go get the banana, and chow down.
If it’s that easy, then where is the cage door?
How do you do it? How do you let go when you’re in the middle of the argument? How do you let go of the anger, disappointment, and hurt and get back to the happy, healthy conversation?
The obvious answer is to shift your attention. Look around and see where the open door is, right? If you knew it was there, you could let go. After all, you’re not a monkey.
So often when we are stuck, we can’t see any other solution. Better to keep clutching the banana than to risk losing it. But if someone could tell us the cage door was open, that would be different. We would let go immediately.
The someone we need is our body.
You see, there are two parts to being hooked: focus and tension. You won’t let it go in part because you don’t know there is another way to get what you want. But you also don’t let go of the tension of gripping the banana. Tension lives in your body.
Think about it. When you are in the argument, you’re upset. Your body is full of the tension and energy of resisting. You know you are right, and they are wrong. If they would just DO what you suggest, life would go so much easier. After all, you are guided, right?
If you can let go of that tension, your grip loosens, the banana falls to the floor, and out the door you go.
So how do we release the tension?
Let it flow to let it go.
Dr. David Hawkins, a doctor and modern spiritual teacher, shares in his book Healing and Recovery, to just experience it out. Focus on the sensation of the stuckness, let go of labeling it, and just pay attention to it without trying to change it. Then it will start to move on its own.
From the book—
“ We say (to ourselves), “Let’s have more of it.” As we do that, we will discover, much to our surprise, that there is a limited amount of that sensation. “
That’s important: There is a limited amount of stuckness.
Nobody ever told me that before. When you’re stuck, it feels like its going to last forever, so you just escape from it. Start thinking about solutions, or distract yourself from the situation. But the minute you remember it again, what comes up?
The tension and frustration.
Shifting your focus alone won’t resolve the pattern. But if you put your focus on the tension, and just sit with it, letting it be, it will run its course because there is a finite amount of it.
Hawkins says that they’re going to come up, the uncomfortable feelings. And when they do, you ask for more of them. That may seem masochistic at first, but it’s actually a brilliant way of stopping the argument with reality .
If frustration comes up inside of you, then that’s what’s real for you. Plain and simple. Trying to suppress it is just Arguing with Reality.
“But if I yell at someone, that’s just going to cause more problems, Will!”
I can hear that little voice in your head freaking out.
Experiencing your feelings it’s different then expressing them. I’m not sure why they didn’t teach us that in grade school, but they should have.
Feeling sad doesn’t mean you call up everybody you know and whine and complain and tell them how awful your life is. It just means feeling sad.
When Hawkins says ask for more and experience it out, he means let your feelings be. Stop pretending they aren’t there. Let them have their way with you because that’s what they were designed to do. The very nature of sensations and feelings is that they change.
If you do this, you will actually have to engage with what’s real for you. You will actually feel the tension, and may express the emotion. So, you may want to do this in a place that doesn’t make you feel vulnerable, a place that’s safe. Take a deep breath or two as you connect with what’s really going on, and let it flow.
Here’s how I do this:
I notice that I’m stuck. When this happens I usually rev myself up, working harder to solve the problem until I’m frustrated. That frustration lives in my neck and shoulders, and in my lower back.
Put my attention in those places, acknowledge how I’m feeling, and breathe. I ask for assistance from Spirit.
I stop judging the experience, by just noticing the sensations. Naming them can help. “Oh, my shoulders are tight. It’s in my neck, too. Hmmm… Now it’s different. Oh, I just took a deeper breath. My body wants to move or stretch… (so I let it). It’s still tight, but a little better….” You just keep naming your experience without judging it.
In a few moments, I start to settle down. When the thoughts of clutching the banana show up, I just put my attention back on the sensations. I might let out a sigh or even bark out the frustration if I’m by myself. Sometimes tears come. Often, my body will move of its own accord as I release the tension. This helps to Let it Flow.
This practice is most fruitful if you stay with it to the end of the experience. You will be tempted to move on with life once you feel a little bit better. That’s fine, but you will likely discover that there is more inside you later. Just come back to the sensations whenever you can, and you’ll let go of yet another layer.
Stick with it, keep letting the experiences flow through you, and with time and self care, you will really, deeply, let go of what’s troubling you.
Your life and your happiness is worth it, so give this process a try.
To let it go, Let it Flow.
- When you are stuck, notice that there are some uncomfortable feelings and sensations in your body.
- Take your attention away from the banana, and put it back on yourself, the only thing you can ever change.
- Watch the sensations associated with the stuckness without judging them, and they will simply run their course.
- In time, with loving attention, you will be free of this situation.
When you Let it Flow, you stop resisting what’s true and alive inside you. You give yourself permission to be who you are. That gives you freedom, and it leads to authentic power and real joy.
“But Will, what about my banana?”
Right. This is not a lesson in how to get what you want, but it is a lesson in how to let go. You have to ask yourself if you would rather be right than happy? If you would rather keep pulling against the bars, or find another solution? This is a “through the experience” process, not a bypass around it. Bypasses don’t get to the root of the issue, and ignore the truth inside you.
I believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way, pun intended :). But it’s not the will of the ego, it’s the Divine Will of surrender. Let’s face it, God is much smarter than us, so if there is a solution, She can find it. If you drop the banana, it’s easier to listen.
“The person who is involved in spiritual work is always looking at what is occurring in life, seeing it as the teacher, as the grist for the mill.”
-Dr. David Hawkins, Healing and Recovery
So there you have it. Letting go is as easy as dropping the banana, but to do that you have to let the uncomfortable feelings and sensations flow through you.
Give yourself time to be with what’s real for you, and your own vitality will set you free.
Let me know how this works for you in the comments, and if you have a friend who could use some help letting go, pass this along.
Blessings to you as you create the capacity for change!