When you’re trying to let go

I’m happy to say I’ve been meeting new friends on my morning walks again. Just last month, I had encounters with a porcupine, owls, armadillos, hawks, foxes, a crested caracara, and coyote. I always try to play it cool, gently slowing down without making too big a deal of it, wanting to greet the animals in a natural way. As you might imagine, they don’t often hang out for more than a few moments, and I find myself feeling wistful each time they leave. Not knowing when or if we might meet again, I’m left with a fleeting joy, better nourished by the connection.

If you’ve been involved in spiritual, self-help, or personal growth circles, you’ve been hearing the phrase “let go” anywhere you look and listen. Lately, I’ve been curious about what I’m calling “letting leave,” a concept best taught by our wise companions and caregivers, the trees, in this new fall season. Letting leave is a less active, more receptive process than letting go, one that honors a timeline beyond human will. The leaves of a tree are not hustling and on the go; rather, when their time comes, they simply fall to the earth. A gust of wind or a big storm may also blow through and accelerate the process of leaving. Life is like this too, isn’t it? Smooth or sudden, ready or not, when change wants to happen, it will. 

In the healing arts, we often begin with what we want to let go of. What’s wrong, what’s the presenting concern, what are you struggling with? A problem focus is helpful in knowing what needs attention, but concentrating too much on the issue can sometimes hinder its release. As I see it, one of the key aspects to actually receiving help and letting support in is being able to let suffering leave. On the surface, we all want that. But when you’ve been struggling with something for a long time, be it physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, the question of “Who am I if I’m not a person with this pain?” feels almost incomprehensible. There’s no easy bypass here; instead, we might keep asking the question. At a deep level of consciousness, we “let leave” the attachment to knowing what we are or how change will occur.

The letting leave process doesn’t often happen in one fell swoop; everything has its season, and seasons come and go too. It can become a bit easier to trust the natural cycles when we notice the subtle shifts happening all the time. Have you ever found yourself telling a familiar painful story, and realized it’s not actually true or still happening in this moment? Healing may be the recurrent “in the now” experience of letting the resistance to what’s hard leave. It is also, as the Buddhists know well, the loosening of our clinging to what feels good. I watch those trees rooted down into the soil, and see how they allow more powerful forces to weather and therefore strengthen them. We have this capacity too, when we are grounded and willing to hold lightly what we think we have to do.

The invitation I’m hearing this fall is to soften and find courage in letting what needs to go leave when it’s ready, whether that’s old patterns, beliefs, or something more tangible. There will be grief, and sudden loss especially will need plenty of time and love to integrate. In holding sacred the leaving times, may we also find deep appreciation for all that is here with us now.

Until next time, thank you for reading,

Julia Aziz

I was able to catch a photo of this cutie pie, thought you might appreciate 🙂