There is no a better time to make resolutions than the New Year. Celebrations all around–which as far as we know date back four millennia–acknowledge the end of the year as a circle coming to a full close, while infinite possibilities lay in front of us. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes signal the wishes for good fortune for the twelve months to come.
The inevitable end of the calendar year is the perfect time to start a new practice of “letting go.” Letting go starts with making a choice. Whether you want to let go of weight, material stuff, feelings, or that box of old sentimental stuff taking space in your basement, letting go has to be a conscious decision based on the belief that you will feel better and lighter, healthier and happier, without all that baggage.
What do we want to let go of? Well, I have few ideas for myself. What about you?
My first step in letting go is simply to pay attention.
I have to pay attention to the way sometimes my breathing is very shallow. This happens to many of us through the day. In fact, take a moment right now to breathe really deep. Come on, close your eyes and take at least three deep breaths through your nose! Let the air circle around your chest, your stomach, your back, and let go of the air through your mouth. Remind yourself to do this several times a day. Letting go consciously of the carbon dioxide is a good reminder to also let go of all of the toxins in our lives.
Second, I have to let go of the nagging voice in my head that pushes me down constantly; voices that say I ate too much yesterday, or that I did not finish that project this week, or that I did not call my aunt to wish her happy holidays, or that I am not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or young enough or skillful enough, or the best mother or lover or daughter. Anything that we constantly tell ourselves but that we would never tell our best friend… has to go. Every time you start thinking about something that will push you down, press an imaginary CANCEL button, and stop right there. This takes awareness, and sometimes we are not even conscious of the way we limit ourselves with our own beliefs. So pay attention, and start talking to yourself with kindness and compassion.
Third, I need to let go of the preconceived expectations I have based on the results of previous experiences. Yes, the past teaches us, if we are paying attention, not to trip on the same bump in the sidewalk that twisted my ankle the last time. Instead, I’ll walk just a little to the right of it or step clearly over it. However, those past experiences sometimes prevent us from going out again altogether. Let go of those worries. Approach every situation anew. Follow your intuition and your heart, and trust that the outcomes are going to be beneficial, even if they are not what you wanted at the moment. Remember that for the flowers to bloom they need dirt and compost first. Who knows, you may be surprised that the bump in the sidewalk has been fixed.
Fourth, forgive and forget. We have to start with ourselves, because when we are at peace with who we are, and how awesome and unique we all are, whatever others do to us become really their problem and not ours. But to be able to pull that off one needs a lot of self-love and self-esteem, and time, which heals, if you cooperate with it.
To truly forgive and forget we need to be able to accept that we only have one part of the story, our own perspective. It really helps if we can change our perspective, our limited point of view, and put ourselves compassionately in the shoes of the other person. It just feels good to let go of resentment, because we are really only hurting ourselves. Some tactics that may help with that are: smashing eggs against a fence or in your own shower (so the mess is easier to clean), breaking bottles in the recycling bin, or writing what we feel on a piece of paper and then burning the words together with our resentment. I also do martial arts. Kicking, punching and screaming are very therapeutic. These physical activities help us to overcome painful strong feelings and the stress caused by them.
I have always had a nostalgic dimension to my persona (it is part cultural), and oftentimes I have found myself feeling a wistful yearning for the happiness that could have been but was not. These feelings assault me with more intensity when I see my two daughters growing up. Now one is a teenager, and the other is getting there faster than I can hold her hand. I often miss their childhood and wish that I could have been in a better place to enjoy it more fully. Struggling with cancer diagnoses, surgeries, fear, and the shame, insecurities, and powerless feelings of living with an alcoholic in the family, at times makes me hold on too tight to guilty feelings about their childhood.
My daily Qigong practice, deep breathing, talking to myself with respect, and feeling powerful and adequate, are a few of the things that help me overcome my own nostalgic, delirious feelings on a daily basis. I have to remind myself of the cancel button when my mind goes off to negative places. I have learned to enjoy my family for who we are today without much worrying about where we will be tomorrow. It is a very freeing way of living. Whatever the situation, we have power to do something for ourselves.
Little changes are much more doable than a long wishful list of impossibilities. Start small, but start today. Happy New Year!