Everybody talks about “letting go.” Then why don’t we?
In October a delivery truck hit the stone wall at the entrance to our driveway, doing modest damage. For months I’ve been calling the company owner to respond to the repair estimate he requested. Every time I call, the receptionist says Ricky is out, but will call me just as soon as he gets back. But he doesn’t call.
Yesterday I phoned and got the same message from the receptionist. I said I was really tired of this run-around. Yes, she said, but today would be different. But it wasn’t. As the day wore on, I found myself getting angry, agitated. Checking my phone for messages from this guy. Talking to myself. Finally I snapped out of it. Why was I letting this random guy, Ricky, rule my life?
Author Michael Singer has remarkable insight into how and why we hold onto troubling experiences and emotions. On any given day, most all your encounters pass right through your heart. On your way to work you might meet dozens of people, have brief conversations. You don’t hold onto any of those experiences. They pass right through you. But if an annoying co-worker makes a joke about the color of your shoes, you hold onto that. All day.
That’s because deep in your heart space, Singer says, are two grasping hands. They seize and hold onto whatever experiences you’ve programed your mind to retain. You could just as well let the co-worker’s joke pass right through you, like all the other exchanges of the morning. Everyone knows Brian makes crazy comments—not worth taking seriously. But those grasping hands won’t let that one go, because you’ve tasked your mind: Seize and retain all uncomfortable experiences, even if they’re only in my imagination.
What I’ve come to learn is that “letting go” is not really possible if we are living in constant clenching. We can’t store up hundreds and thousands of painful memories—small and great—and then ask God to help us let go. The key is to stop grabbing, holding and re-living that stuff in the first place!
Late afternoon, when Ricky had still not called, I realized what I was doing and stopped. I said out loud, “I don’t want to hold onto this.” Then I put my hands out in front of my chest and waved them in a sweeping motion, as if I were pushing the experience through me. It’s a crazy ritual, but it works for me. Doesn’t mean I am not calling Ricky again and giving him an ultimatum, it just means right now I am not going to make myself suffer needlessly.
Letting go is the magic key to spiritual growth, but it’s much harder the longer we wait, the more pain we grasp and store up. Just drop it. Now.