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  • Writer's pictureAntje

The lie of "Letting Go" or How to peel the Sticker off

"Just let go and you'll be free of all suffering".

You find this one and many other similar "slogans" in the esoteric scene, in the yoga world, on coaching platforms, in love songs, in religious traditions of all forms. It seems to be the one way to achieve a happy and sorrow-free life.

Simply live in the here and now and everything will be fine....

The more these affirmations cross my way, the more aversion creep up within me.

Living in the Here and Now - easier said than done

As much as I relate to the idea of experiencing and genuinely living in the Here and Now, as much as I practice it in meditation, in every-day-life, as much as I struggle with it (whenever the past keeps hitting me through the back into my face), as much I disagree with the oversimplification of the idea of "Letting Go".

Yes, I do agree it's all about letting go of the future and the past, of experiecning every single moment, sensing your body, your breathing. Nothing else I am teaching in my yoga sessions. Nothing else I am practicing, struggeling, and then succceeding yet again.

Letting go works easily when you don't need it

BUT: Most of the time I succeed when life is easy with me. When everything is in a flow anyway.

What about the times when it doesn't flow? When the crisis is on?

What helps me 'letting go' when I need it so badly?

Then the mind kicks in: Letting go is so hard, nearly impossible.

Let's turn it all around - have a look into the opposite direction

What if I simply stop trying to let go and have a closer look at what I am holding on to?

There will be at least one very good reason (in that moment) to hold, to keep the grip.

Not an obvious one. Not one that is widely accepted. Yet still a very valid one... in that moment.

If I keep trying to let go (maybe because I was told so, maybe because I am convinced it's good for me, or maybe because I hope the suffering will stop), I neither respect that very part of me that obviously has a big need to keep holding. Nor have I understand what it is that makes me clinch.

As long as I am not even aware what it actually is I am hanging on to (probably with a quite tight grip) how am I supposed to let go?

How can I let go when I am probably not even aware that I am holding onto something at all?

The safety net

Once I got to know what the thingy is I am clasping so tightly, I will sense and feel something good, positive about it.

Maybe it gives me some sort of safety, because it's so familiar. Maybe it saves me from taking a decision I am afraid of. Maybe it shows an aspect of myself that I do not like, that I do not want to realise (the famous blind spot).

Whatever it is - it protects me somehow from what wants to come.

And suddenly it has earned my respect.

That does not mean that it has validity to remain there for the rest of my life (as actually... I want to let go of it, right...?)

It simply needs to be recognised and ... appreciated. As what it is: a feeling, an emotion, a part of I how feel. NOT a fact that is unchangable.

Letting go cannot be done. It happens. By itself

This is one way of letting go. It just happens.Once you are aware of what you're holding on to. The grasping feeling will subside, once you recognise the existance of the feeling associated with what you're clinging on.

That's paradox!

Once you allow, respect, feel (sense with your body) the emotion, something actually magical happens: Letting Go.

This is part of what the Gestalt Therapy, which connects deeply with ZEN, calls the Paradox of Change.

What if it doesn't work?

Recently I struggle with exactly what I describe above. Does that mean it's all nonsense and I have to work hard and go back to all those wonderful positive affirmations (which were recently called "happiness lies" in a wonderful article of Yoga Journal Germany).

Nope, definitely there is another, more genuine and healthier way.

The glue, the sticker and the right solvent

Ever tried to get a sticker off a glass jar, your car, from a piece of furniture...?

Depending on the sort of sticker, the sort of glue, the time the sticker had been on the surface it can be tricky to get the stuff off, right?

In the end you might have managed. Most probably by damaging the sticker, throwing it away, by leaving some traces on the surface or even by slightly wrecking it.

That all depends on how much care, expertise, patience you put into the whole project.

Let's assume the sticker is YOU (Your identity, your personality... your Ego...).

And you're glued onto what you want to (or are expected to) let go off.

The one who is to taken off the sticker is your inner self . Call it your higher self, your essence, the devine, life - that doesn't matter. It depends on your intellectual, your spiritual, worldly, religious background). I just call it inner self to distinguish it from what we call 'Me'. or 'You'.

This inner self respects everything and everybody. This inner self is love actually (no I don't mean the film, although it's a really good one) that does not judge, that does not divide. This inner self respects all aspects of life. This inner self unites everything and eveybody.

It's what we want to achieve when practice Yoga.

The question is:

Would this inner self take just any random kind of (in case of doubt aggresive) solvent to get rid of the sticker? Rip it off, no matter if the surface it's been glued on will be harmed?

Being oblivious to the sticker itself that will be thrown away afterwards, severly damaged?

Would this inner self neglect any of the factors involved - the sticker itself, the surface, the glue that keeps the sticker on the surface?

I very much doubt it.

Something tells me that this Inner Self rather even recognises that at some point the sticker had been glued onto the surface for a good reason. It might have looked really pretty and had all good reasons to be where it still is.

For sure the Inner Self would consider all these elements and make sure to keep as much harm away from everything and everybody involved in the process of solving (freeing) the sticker from its surface.

And it is aware that there is something else needed than just meditating on 'letting go' .

Me personally I have never seen a sticker coming off by positive affirmations.

Maybe you have? Let me know. I atm curious o learn this magic.

It will take years, decades, milleniums. And then yes, eventually the sticker will come off.

But hey let's be honest with ourselves here. Who's got the patience and passive equanimity to wait and see?

The challenge with letting go is that it is a purely passive (non) act.

How to get the sticker off efficiently. Without doing harm


Frst of all: get to know the sticker, the glue and the surface.

Once again: The surface is what you're holding on to. The sticker is your personality, or current state of awareness. This personality or ego will always act within its current spectrum of awareness.

It needs all the respect and permission to be what it currently is.

Get to know what you identify with. With all neutral curiosity.

Like a scientist wo just wants to find out. Who wants to explore.

The bad guy that needs some pity

The poor Ego has such a bad image. Especially in the yoga world it's all about coming over your ego. Meditate, practice, and your ego will disappear. The ego is what makes you suffer. the ego is always the bad guy that needs to be conquered.

Once again: I absolutely agree with the idea. And I keep making the very same experience whan I keep my practice up. We do overcome our ego with yoga practice.

Yet we do not overcome it by conquering it. But by casting light on it. By acknoledging it. By allowing it.

The glue

Then have a look at the glue. What sort of glue is it?

The glue are all the good reasons that make you hold on to what you're holding on to . These can be and are different for everybody and can involve feelings like familiarity, of safety, even of relaxation, (I do not need to change, to go into the unknown, etc.), of righteouness (yep, that's a feeling too), of pride, of 'what makes you who you are'. And many others.

You'll be surprised what and how many good reasons you find once you start your investigation.

The trick is to stay alert enough to recognise as what they are: emotions, not facts. They are not whar you ARE. they are what you feel and what you identify with. Once you allow them, respect them, see them, recognise them, they loose their power over you and guess what - the very glue becomes a bit less sticky.

What sort of solvent and tools does it need?

The solvent is your kind and gentle but very alert awareness.

You apply it whenever you realise it. Whenever you manage to sense your body, your breathing. Whenever you catch a thought and realise the emotion, sensation arising in your body at the same time.

Remember: Your inner self will do everything to keep the sticker (your personality) alive without creating (unnccessary) harm. Your inner self will apply the appropriate solvent in the right way for the right time to free the sticker and spare the surface it was glued on.

What's next?

The sticker becomes more and more lose. And at some point, probably when you least expect it, the rest of the sticker will come off. By itself.

That's the moment the Letting Go happens.

You haven't forced yourself into any unwanted change. You are gentle with yourself.

You allow yourself to hold onto what you want to get rid of. You avoid the harm of lying to yourself.

Your intellectual mind might say that only the one or the other is possible. Wanting to hold on OR letting go. But the logic of the heart is different: Both desires can live peacefully side by side. As long as you stop identifiying with either. Then the inner battle stops.

The sticker has come off and it will have changed. It won't be damaged. But it might have altered its colours. It might be of a slightly different shape. It might be thinner.

Your personality, that which you have identified with, part of your ego, has been changed. You have changed and have become more what you might call YOUR SELF.

And the surface?

The surface will have changed too. It's texure or colours might have changed, might be more sensitive, open, delicate.

Yep, the situation, the people involved in the issue you were holding onto will change WITHOUT you changing it and them.

Peeling off versus Letting Go

The act of letting go is purely passive and yes, it will happen eventually. It is an art in itself that works in its own magic. But only if I pay genuine attention to what it actually is I am holding onto.

The act of mindfully 'peeling off the sticker' rather than waiting for it to let go is the oposite perspective. Often a much easier and more powerful way to deal with life issues we desperately want to change.

I feel and use my own inner power. I am active. Become creative.

Have fun with this creative process of "Letting Go" ;-)

And let me know about your own perspective and experience with stickers, glues and surfaces.

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