The Art of Acceptance and Letting Go

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Why is it important to practice acceptance and letting go? How does the inability to accept things as they are eat away at your chance of finding happiness?

Life is unpredictable, and it will throw curve balls at you sooner or later. Being able to accept and let go of what happened is a necessary life skill everyone should cultivate. 

With this in mind, here’s how to practice the art of acceptance and letting go. 

Letting Go of Resistance to the Present

Much of the pain you experience is self-inflicted because you’re not accepting reality as it is. The circumstances of your life can be unpleasant, but begrudging them does nothing to change the situation. 

If you are resisting some aspect of your current reality, your focus is on how you wish the situation could be, or how it might improve later. Acceptance and letting go are the only way to get through a difficult (or any) situation in life. You can’t go around it (avoidance) or go backward (time travel), so you must go through it, moment by moment.

Engaging only with each moment—and not with the past and future—allows you to break down problems to a more manageable size. When you isolate problems to just the present moment, you start to see that most problems only exist in the context of time

For example, you are stressed about your pile of bills. These bills are due in the future. Granted, you can’t pretend like they don’t exist and delay action until your electricity is being cut. However, you can make a plan to budget your expenses or take on some extra shifts at work to make ends meet. Then, accept that there is no more that you can do at this moment. Recognize that your worry and stress are doing nothing to pay down your balance, only making you unhappy and potentially pulling your energy away from productive action.

TITLE: The Power of Now
AUTHOR: Eckhart Tolle
TIME: 28
READS: 30.1
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-power-of-now-summary-eckhart-tolle

Letting Go of Attachment to the Past

As mentioned, accepting your reality—however unpleasant it might be—is the first step to overcoming any misfortune life might throw at you. However, it’s also important to accept and let go of all the mental junk from your past: painful memories, grudges, regrets.

According to Michael Alan Singer, the author of The Untethered Soul, clinging to the past creates samskaras—mental imprints formed as a result of unresolved past experiences. For example, if driving past a mustang like your ex-girlfriend’s disturbs you, that’s a manifestation of a samskara—you’re affected in the present by something that happened in the past.

When you fall into samskaras, you fail into unawareness. You encounter a trigger—some sight, sound, situation, or other experience that’s linked to one of the Samskaras stored in your heart (such as the smell of the perfume your ex-wife used to wear before your marriage imploded)—and this trigger pulls you down into the disturbed energy. From there, you see everything through the negative energy’s distorted haze. Eventually, the negativity plays itself out and subsides, and you rise again. However, if your life hits another blockage while you’re already fallen, and you make life decisions from that negative inner state, then a series of cascading crises can occur, resulting in a downward spiral. 

When life inevitably hits your stored negative stuff (your Samskaras), let go of the negativity by 

  • noticing your energy flow starting to tighten into jealousy, anger, or whatever it is.
  • relaxing and remembering yourself as the self, the objective witness of experiences.
  • practicing non-reactiveness: Just let the memory flow through you and out of you without any resistance; recognize this as an opportunity for healing.

TITLE: The Untethered Soul
AUTHOR: Michael A. Singer
TIME: 31
READS: 101.3
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-untethered-soul-summary-michael-a-singer

Letting Go of Trauma

Trauma can be extremely difficult for us to process and let go, like an unexpected death in the family, a miscarriage, or being in a war zone. This is because traumatic memories don’t vanish: They get stored in our bodies and our unconscious. Then, when anything even remotely similar to the trauma occurs, we often experience the same panic and distress as during the initial incident. This can influence our lives in unexpected ways. Maybe last year you were mugged while you were leaving work. Now you break out into a cold sweat near the end of every workday, you can’t bring yourself to go anywhere new unless someone goes with you, and you flinch when your partner reaches for you. 

According to Mark Wolynn, the author of It Didn’t Start With You, to let go of trauma, you should capture your experience and feelings in words by simply talking about it. Until then, Wolynn says, healing will be elusive—focused only on managing symptoms rather than healing the pain at its source.

TITLE: It Didn't Start With You
AUTHOR: Mark Wolynn
TIME: 17
READS: 51.3
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: it-didnt-start-with-you-summary-mark-wolynn

Letting Go of Grudges

When we can’t let go of grudges and emotional burdens, we become stuck in the past, unable to fully move forward with our lives. According to Greg McKeown, the author of Effortless, the first step to letting go of grudges is to ask ourselves what emotional need our grudges are filling. If we can better understand why we’re holding a grudge, it will be easier to accept it and let it go. Here are a few key reasons we hold on to grudges:

They give us a sense of power: When we hold a grudge, it’s often because we feel we’ve been wronged. Holding the grudge makes us feel like we’re in the right and superior to the one who wronged us. In reality, the grudge holds power over us, not the other way around.

They garner sympathy from others: Grudges can also be used to express our victimhood. When we share our grudges with others, it can help us feel supported in a time of vulnerability.

They justify our fear or mistrust: Sometimes we hold a grudge so we have a reason to hold on to negative emotions like fear, anger, or resentment. But if we can’t let go of the grudge, the negative feelings we associate with them will stay with us, as well. In the end, the only person a grudge hurts is you.

Final Words

No matter what unresolved issues are stored in your heart, you can break the pattern of suffering by practicing acceptance and letting go. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially if you’ve been deeply hurt or lost something that was very dear to you. However, not being able to let go and move on will hinder you in many ways, preventing you from living life to the fullest.

If you enjoyed our article about the art of acceptance and letting go, check out the following suggestions for further reading: 

Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance is a meditative practice wherein we acknowledge what we’re experiencing—positive or negative—and welcome it. It’s a powerful tool that allows us to be fully present in each passing moment. It helps us avoid getting stuck in our own heads.

Tara Brach, a practicing psychologist and devout Buddhist, discusses how we can use Radical Acceptance to live our lives more fully by always bringing our full attention to the present moment and accepting it for what it is. You’ll learn how we get trapped in the stories we tell ourselves, and how practicing acceptance and letting go can bring us out of the trance.

Loving What Is

When we feel emotional pain or discomfort, we often blame our experiences—the people and situations in our lives—for not being exactly how we want them to be. Since life rarely plays out exactly as we want, this means we always have reasons to feel bad.

In Loving What Is, best-selling author and spiritual teacher Byron Katie argues that you don’t have to resign yourself to living in a constant state of misery. She explains that life experiences don’t cause emotional pain, only resistant thoughts that judge experiences as somehow wrong or unwanted. Therefore, practicing acceptance and letting go of resistant thoughts allows you to accept and feel at peace with life, no matter what happens.

The Art of Acceptance and Letting Go

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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