Have you ever felt yourself spiral into despair when things didn't turn out the way you expected, you know, that crash and burn feeling of disappointment? I have, to varying degrees. Most intensely when my best friend's son died suddenly at the tender age of six because of an oversight by hospital staff, an oversight that cost a beautiful young boy his life and threw a whole community into shock.
That was the first time my faith in 'the universe' was completely shattered. My entire belief system was burned to ash.
Since then, whenever I catch myself becoming attached to an expectation there is a small voice in my head that reminds me I have no control, over anything.
So I let go.
I release my grip and Trust that everything is unfolding in its own divine order. Some days that feeling of Trust radiates throughout my entire being with such force that it eclipses all negative thoughts and emotions. But that isn't always the case, there are definitely days when I feel adrift in the river of life, sometimes hurtling through unseen rapids and using every ounce of energy I have to just stay afloat.
Letting go isn't always easy. And trust on its own isn't the solution to alleviating the suffering that comes with unmet expectations. Nor is eliminating expectations. Having expectations give us a sense of direction and creates an understanding of our trajectory. It's our attachment to a particular outcome that causes suffering. That's why we need to build our adaptability muscle and practice non-attachment.
My adaptability training started straight out of the womb. The result of being raised without any structure and very loose boundaries, riding the roller coaster of my artist mother's life. I never knew what was going to unfold from one day to the next. It wasn't until much later in life that I realized what a gift that training was.
Although, I don't necessarily recommend it, not all kids would appreciate the unpredictability and utter chaos of that kind of lifestyle. I enjoyed the challenge of it, the constant flux kept me on my toes so that change became more of a comfort than something to fear. But it left me without much of a foundation, no solid ground under foot as things were always being restructured. One of my challenges as an adult has been to build Trust in the fundamental structure of things.
Like a conductor who leads an entire orchestra without playing a single instrument (because he Trusts that the musicians will do their part to bring the piece to fruition) we must conduct our lives in similar fashion - with an awareness of our expectations and the ability to let go and allow the magic of co-creation to do its thing. By surrendering to the natural flow of each and every moment, Trusting in the divine order of things and allowing the mystery of the universe to unfold we are opening ourselves up to unseen opportunities. Because who's to say that there isn't an even greater vision for your life – beyond your imaginings!
Got that? To eliminate your personal suffering and actualize your best life, you need to; trust in the divine order of things, adapt to the natural rhythm of life, and be unattached to the outcome.
Heh, not quite. Mostly because attachment is built into our DNA. A new born baby can only survive with a mutual attachment between caregiver and baby, not only for the survival of the baby but for our entire species. Unfortunately, we seem to carry this survival instinct into adulthood and perpetuate it in all aspects of our experience - clinging to anything that feels good like our lives depended on it.
No wonder the feeling of letting go can sometimes be so disproportionately painful because somewhere in our psyche we believe we will die without it! Whatever 'it' might be in the moment.
Therein lies the root of our suffering, it's just misguided attachment, a false belief that our survival depends on it - on that person or thing that we have attached ourselves to.
That said, as humans we do need connection, it's an essential part of our make-up but connection and attachment are different. All things in existence are connected in one way or another and yet our movement throughout life is not hampered by these endless connections. Connection is fluid and free, it's an unseen union that has no bounds. Attachment, on the other hand is rigid and fixed, it has restrictions and comes from a place of lack - a need to fill something that is missing. It hinders our movement and creates pain and suffering in our lives.
This is where adaptability comes in. Adaptability, and an understanding of the impermanence of life. After all we are just tiny specks of stardust spiralling through the universe. Here's a great video to illustrate that point. If we can broaden our understanding of our experience, taking into consideration the magnificence of the universe and our comparative inconsequentiality then it can be much easier to let go of the fleeting attachments we get so hung-up on.
But when you are in the mire of disappointment, heartache or grief, no amount of rational thought will alleviate you of the pain you feel. Knowing that attachment creates suffering doesn't make the suffering go away. That is when all you can do is surrender and allow your emotions to roll through you, feel them, express them, communicate them with people you trust and every day find a way to connect with something greater than yourself and your experience of suffering.
Nature is a wonderful healer in these times, often the best medicine. Spending time with animals can also be quite soothing, and incorporating a meditation practice helps to get perspective on your suffering, creating access to lighter, more joyful realms of feeling.
And when you're ready, being of service in your community can cultivate healing in a much broader way.
No matter where you are in your life there is always something worth letting go of; a belief, an unhealthy relationship, a habit, an addiction, a material object that might be weighing you down... etc.
What could you let go of today that would create more freedom and joy in your life right NOW?