The Problem with “Letting it Go”.

How often do you hear in your yoga class, or Facebook news feed, or perhaps even from your well meaning friend, “Let if go”, or for a just as dangerous alternative:“Breathe it out”?

Although the idea is nice it’s also flawed. The concept of “letting it go” is disjointed from mindfulness in multiple ways. Firstly, it assigns judgement to whatever it is we are going through. Mindfulness is the practice of being present to the moment, whether we like it or not. Being present whether we find it painful, uncomfortable, disenchanting or even enraging (perhaps a bit like the current political environment). But by saying, “Let it go”, we are quite literally telling ourselves, “What you are going through right now should not be experienced: it is wrong and therefore bad.” This is not the practice of mindfulness. We must teach ourselves to examine and be with discomfort, the ugly in this world, and particularly the ugly we confront within ourselves. Do not breath it out or let it go. Examine it. For it is a great gift if we allow it to be.

Which brings me to my second point. Discomfort, those moments of pain, or fear, or intimidation are moments that hold the key for growth. By avoiding them, making them wrong, trying to “let them go” we miss out on an opportunity to see where the wound festers, where we are out of alignment with our goals, our dreams, our intentions. These moments of pain are perfect. They are red flags for an opportunity to develop deeper compassion for ourselves and our world, opportunities for self-examination and therefore growth. They are red-flags to enhance our world view and our tangible world. By embracing rather than breathing them away, we have the opportunity to ask: What is this pain REALLY about? What am I really upset about? What is not working? It is through these questions that we become able to make changes in our lives, in our daily habits and patterns. If we are too comfortable we do not grow evolutionarily, biologically, spiritually. Just like when we lift weights and train our bodies, we only get stronger through stress to our muscles. It is the same with our internal world. By staying present to our current “ugliness” we lay the ground work for our future beauty.

There are those that will ask,“What about forgiveness?” Let me be clear that I am not saying, “stay angry” or “don’t forgive”.  Forgiveness is perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves. I am simply making the argument for really experiencing that which makes us uncomfortable- whether it is pigeon pose or a hard conversation. Avoiding it does not make it easier. “Letting it go” doesn’t really allow you to work through it, to digest the experience. Avoidance coping is not really coping. It’s only a missed opportunity to ask: What are we really scared of? What’s not working? Do we need more time to mourn, or heal, or cry, or laugh, or make connections? Do we need to be more compassionate with ourselves? With others? As the spiritual teacher Adyashanti asks, “What is underneath that emotion?” I find that if I really sit with my own pain I discover that the answer is typically love.

Why would you want to “let that go”?

Art by: Jody Edwards


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