You Have To Practice Letting Go

Learn with the small stuff, so you’re ready for the big stuff.

Image: Damien Schnorhk

Almost every last one of us lives with the assumption that if something is not right for us, it will simply be pulled away in time. We linger, we wonder, we grasp onto what’s so clearly not a match and we wait for the universe to do the dirty work — and feel devastated once it’s done.

We think of letting go as a last ditch effort to our own progress and sanity — we will let go only if we have to, only if we are forced, only if the world truly proves to us that something is not meant to be.

There is an easier way to live.

Letting go is not an event, it is a practice.

It is something we learn to do with the small stuff, so when the big stuff comes around, we know how.

We have to learn to let go of thoughts, of moments.

We have to learn to let go of acquaintances, care for others’ opinions, so many petty arguments and fights we can choose not to pick. We have to learn to let go of the items that serve only as relics of a time that has past, the clothes that dressed the people we no longer are. We have to learn to let go of the dreams we chose for the people we eventually outgrew, we have to learn to let go of the idea that other people are meant to live up to our expectations of them, rather than their own unpredictable truths.

We have made the process of letting go seem like this superhuman feat only attainable for the truly enlightened. We find so many ways around it. Revenge bodies, gaining closure, proving them wrong. We find so many ways to at once make it seem as though we have moved on completely, and yet remain precisely where we used to be — living through the gaze of what we imagine someone else might see.

Letting go is as effortless as an exhale.

You do it all the time.

There are so many thousands of things you have simply released, and only a few that you’re still clinging to.

Sometimes, letting go is an action, sometimes, it is a decision, and very often, it is simply a matter of distraction. We let go not when we think we are supposed to, but when our minds move onto reciting different stories, building new realities. We move on not when we have adequately picked apart the pieces of what used to be, but when we begin to think more about what we’d like to build in its place.

We aren’t really letting go.

We are just accepting what’s already gone.

So what we are actually releasing is just an idea.

An idea we had about who we were, or who someone else could be. An idea we had about how the future would unfold, and how we would arrive into it. An idea we had about the world, and how it works, and whether or not we are safe.

You see, letting go is not a process of simply releasing into nothingness. It is a process of profound growth. In place of what no longer serves, we are forced to reach for what will finally heal.

This piece was originally sent out as part of my weekly newsletter, Thoughtful Reminders. Sign up to receive new writing.

Author of 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think and six other collections. Visit to shop for books and more.

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