It seemed both mesmerizing and calming all at once. Each time I started to avert my gaze, another drifted slowly to the ground. One of my favorite autumn past times of watching the leaves fall held me captive. Each year the leaves remind me of the beauty of letting go. Watching them elegantly drift to the ground appears carefree, easy. At just the right time, the leaves “let go”, no struggle, no clinging to what was before. Their purpose completed, they need not linger, risking harm to the tree. For the tree requires bare branches to endure the winter’s harsh winds and snow.
I remember an untimely blizzard one Halloween before the trees could shed their leaves. Sticking and accumulating on the leaves, the snow and ice so weighed the trees down, that huge branches broke off and full trees fell to the ground. The leaves, once so life giving to the tree, now brought danger. Sometimes we can hold onto things that weigh us down and actually cause more harm than good.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Where we learn some easy ways to be more present “in the moment” at our jobs, in our homes, with our families and friends.
Learning to recognize God and what He has for us in each divine moment He offers. We acknowledge the belief that God is with us always.
We confess His presence is available to us, lifting our spirit and helping us with power and grace. Learning the art of “stillness” so we can hear His voice and view ourselves, others and our surroundings through His eyes.
Why Do We Need to Let Go?
Watching the leaves fall that afternoon reminded me of a beautiful mindfulness technique used for seasons of overwhelm or life’s “heaviness”. At times, life can pile on worries, cares and demands that have us feeling weighed down. Learning the beauty of letting go, affords us freedom from things that no longer serve us or require our time. Just like a messy garage or basement, holding onto things that have completed their purpose in our lives creates clutter.
Physical clutter causes anxiety, but so does emotional and spiritual clutter. Refusing to clean out that garage or basement of old memories can keep you from moving on with your life. Storing broken, outgrown or outdated items takes up space that could be used for more practical and productive items. Likewise, clinging to old memories in our minds, with the hope of recreating that time again keeps us from embracing the life we have. Retaining broken methods of coping, immature mindsets or behaviors that do not serve us, keep us from personal growth. Ignoring sin patterns stifles spiritual growth and hampers our relationship with Christ.
preparation for letting go
In the same way the trees and leaves prepare for autumn and the eventual “letting go”, we must prepare to release what we can no longer hold. We easily identify overwhelm or express we feel “burdened” or “heavy”, but knowing why often proves elusive. Truly experiencing the beauty of letting go involves some soul searching. You can’t let go of something you don’t know you have.
Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to “lay aside every weight and the sin which hinders us.” I emphasized “and” because weight here is not talking about sin, there are weights and there is sin. The weights consist of something that hinders and weighs us down, but not necessarily sin. In preparation for “letting go”, let’s explore some of the weights that may cause us overwhelm and heaviness.
Let Go of a Story
We all tell stories to ourselves. Sadly most of the stories are negative self talk that creates overwhelm and heaviness. Additionally, some of the stories are cognitive distortions that hold little truth.
- Failure and Inadequacy Stories. Do you replay past failures? Is there a particular area of failure? When a difficulty arises in a relationship do you push the replay button with “I’m not good enough” or “things will never change”? Do you have a story for financial difficulties, work problems, or health issues? Think about the emotions that arise when you tell these stories to yourself.
- Emotional Baggage. Are you holding onto resentment, bitterness or anger? Do you replay stories of every time someone has hurt you, disappointed you or treated you unkindly? Do you struggle with entitlement or self focus? Holding onto to toxic emotions fills our hearts with negativity, which eventually spills over to others. (Luke 6:45)
Let Go of the Past
Too often we spend so much time in the past that we can’t enjoy our present life. Or sometimes we can’t accept the past is over. I wrote about dealing with past wounds here. Seeing the beauty of letting go involves a proper view of the past.
- Grief and Regret. Are you weighed down by regret over outcomes in your past? Do you spend time replaying situations, wishing you could change the outcome? Does past grief have you focused on what you lost rather than what you still have?
- Denial. Do you refuse to accept a life change like divorce, job loss, broken relationships or chronic health issue? Do you hold onto hope for a last minute miracle or that it’s not as final as it looks? Denial prolongs the pain of these circumstances.
- Nostalgia. Talking about or reminiscing about the past is fun. But longing to actually be in the past creates overwhelming sadness. Are you so focused on how good your perception of the past was, that you cannot enjoy the present? Do you spend time trying to make things exactly as they were at some point in the past?
Let Go of Behaviors
Sometimes we develop patterns of behavior that complicate our lives. They become comfortable in one sense because we’ve done them so long. On the other hand they keep us from personal or relational growth.
- Procrastination. Actually procrastination is a byproduct of anxiety, but it also manifests as a bad habit rooted in laziness. Fear of failure, perfectionism and poor organization contribute to this malady. But the bottom line is, it ruins productivity and causes frustration.
- People Pleasing. This is a form of self abandonment. You sacrifice your own needs to please others or have them think well of you. Over time this feels heavy because it saps your energy and builds resentment.
- Poor Self-Care. This encompasses many things, let’s list a few to get you started. Too much or too little entertainment or relaxation. Misuse of technology, poor sleep hygiene and nutrition, or lack of exercise. And a big one, not making your needs known. All of these can result in “martyr syndrome”. Do you expect others to meet personal needs and become resentful when they don’t?
Let Go of Expectations
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and others with expectations. I think of expectations as entitlement. Expecting something to happen is the same as feeling entitled to having that result. Expectations rarely manifest realistically, leaving us constantly disappointed. No expectations = no disappointment.
- Busyness. As a culture we tend to find our worth and identity in our busyness. The number of things we do means we’re in demand and therefore valuable. This leads to over commitment and burn out. We can also use busyness as an escape from painful circumstances or emotions. In this case we allow toxic emotions to fester which over time creates emotional, spiritual and physical damage.
- Performance. Not only do we gain worth and identity from busyness and how many things occupy our time, but how well we do them. Sadly many of us learned love through performance growing up. If you do well, you receive love and acceptance, if you behave a certain way, you are loved and accepted.
- Worry. I don’t have space to address this here, but worry and anxiety are very different. In this case I am addressing the mind focused activity that is transient, specific and more reality focused. Worry can trigger anxiety, but generally focuses on the problem at hand. Bills that need paid this month, work projects due, arrangements for an upcoming event or getting everything done on the To Do list. Consider how much time you spend preoccupied with “borrowing trouble” or obsessing over details. Worry is controllable.
The beauty of letting go
Spending some time considering the above categories brings awareness to stories, behaviors, expectations and past memories burdening your life. This contemplation reveals areas of spiritual and personal growth hindered by things you can release.
If you’re like me, you may see all of these things in your life and wonder how you could possibly “clean all of this out”. Don’t allow overwhelm to discourage you. The number one reason people never clean out their cluttered basement or garage is feeling overwhelm. I recommend you use a journal or a simple sheet of paper and jot down the areas and items that speak to you first. While we may think we need to deal with everything, often we do not.
These items will come to the surface of your mind quickly, without “racking your brain”. Simply jot them down without judgement, Then as you begin the practice below, you can ask the Lord to bring to mind the things you can release in that moment. (Psalm 55:22) You may not release everything in one sitting; you can make time to repeat the practice at a later time. Experiencing the beauty of letting go, creates ease, peace and freedom.
Mindfully Letting Go
- Mindful Check In. Always begin by finding a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and spend five minutes of mindful breathing. This provides a transition from activity to stillness, and settles your mind from excessive activity through focusing on your breath. Simply sit quietly breathing, with your eyes closed, to limit visual distractions. As you focus on your breath, your thoughts will come and go. During this time you can ask the Lord to bring to mind the things that you can release that are creating the most burden for you.
- Letting Go. When you feel ready, you can begin releasing whatever God has revealed to you to let go. I like to use various visualizations to help me with this. Sometimes as I think of what I am releasing, I picture in my mind releasing a balloon into the sky, watching it float upward and out of sight. Other times I envision the leaves falling from the trees or gently placing each item in the hands of Jesus. Maintain deep breathing throughout the time, perhaps releasing an item on the exhale.
- Gratitude. When you feel like you have completed all you have for this time, end the session in prayer and gratitude. Thank God for removing burdens, emotional baggage, debilitating behaviors, everything that you released. Express gratitude for the lightness and freedom you now feel and ask God to reveal new directions for you. When you feel ready, open your eyes and resume your day.
freedom in letting go
You can use this practice as often as you like. The first time may take a little longer for you because it is new, but once you experience the beauty of letting go this way, you will want to return to this practice often. I use this a few times each week, especially for emotional baggage. Whenever I feel anger, frustration or resentment, I make time to mindfully let go of these toxic emotions. Any time I feel burdened, I take a few moments before the Lord, to examine my heart to see what I am holding that I can release. (Psalm 68:19-20)
Each time you use this practice will look different. Sometimes most of what I let go involves emotional baggage, other times expectations trip me up. I’m getting better not accumulating “stories” by filling my mind with scripture and all of the wonderful things in Philippians 4:8.
Yes, the trees have taught me that there is a season for letting go; and just as the leaves nourish the ground for new growth, letting go of stories, the past, behaviors and expectations, brings nourishment to my soul allowing God to bring new growth into my life. Are you weary and burdened today? Come, experience freedom and intimacy with Christ as you gently relinquish each burden into His hands, this is the true beauty of letting go.
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