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I referred to the spiritual value inherent in the slogan, Let Go and Let God, in the last blog. I mention it again because it’s so important to free ourselves of stress and any time we try to take the reigns that either belong to some one else or to God, we are going to be met with frustration, stress, anger or, at the very least, resistance. No one wins when we are intent on trying to be in charge of the circumstances of some one else’s life. We may even have a very good idea for them to try, but if they resist, we simply must let go.
I have done a lot of thinking and writing about this concept over the years. I’m sure it’s “called to me” because of my own inclination to interfere with what others are doing or considering doing. My attempts at control frustrated me in my first marriage and even though I wasn’t successful, I kept at it. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Needless to say, I was insane.
The end of that marriage didn’t cure me of the defect, unfortunately, but I have improved, thanks to the help I have received in 12 step programs. But I blog about this today because I keep hearing from others that the concept of letting go is hard to apply and, in fact, elusive for many. The best way to understand it is to ask yourself the question: is what I’m focusing on truly my business or some one else’s business? I have learned, again in 12 step circles, that there are only two kinds of business: my business and that which is none of my business. This has clarified for me when I need to keep my mouth shut, which actually, is most of the time.
There is so much to be gained by letting go. We have our peace of mind. We can get more accomplished. We maintain friendships more readily. Our family relationships are far smoother. We feel a closeness to God because we are turning to him for help in letting go. Every thing about letting go pays big dividends. If you aren’t very practiced at it, give it a go tomorrow and let me know how it felt at day’s end. You’ll rest more easily tonight.
I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “it is what it is,” but it fits for so many situations and it’s used by every one. It’s not surprising to hear television commentators use it with as much frequency as the ordinary citizen. One reason it resonates with me is that it implies acceptance and surely, there’s much we simply have to accept. There is very little in our control at the end of the day.
The phrase reminds me of the Serenity Prayer, a shorthand way of saying it, actually. There are things we can change, for instance: those things that relate to ourselves, and the rest is either for our acceptance or for God to change. Either way, we have to butt out. Pretty simple. If we actually adopted this philosophy, our lives would be much smoother and far more peaceful.
The downside of what the phrase implies is that for some, it can lead to complacency. We all know people who resist taking responsibility for those situations that are clearly theirs to handle. Being complacent or lacking the willingness or initiative to be accountable for the work that is clearly theirs to do means that others either pick up the slack or the project gets derailed. Picking up the slack for others can actually be detrimental to them and the group, if it’s a work project, because allowing people to “slide,” rather than hold up their end of the assignment is not fair to others. But it is what is is. And some times we simply have to move on, accepting that others aren’t who we need them to be.
One time the phrase is extremely valuable is when we are getting stressed about a situation that we had envisioned happening one way, only to discover that others had a different idea in mind. One of the tools of 12 step programs is a slogan, Let Go and Let God. I rely on this every day. And in some ways it’s synonymous with “It is What it is.” They both tell me to walk away. To not let what’s happening out there control my reactions or judgments or frame of mind.
What’s the most important bit of shorthand you use to maintain your peace of mind on a daily basis? We all need some thing. Maybe we can learn from each other. Share your thoughts in the comment section and I’ll blog about them. What helps any one of us can surely help many more of us too.
It’s so good to get back to the blog. I have been letting other aspects of life get in the way and I have missed connecting with you. It’s an activity that keeps me grounded and I need the grounding, I assure you. I have multiple balls in the air on most days.
The really great news in my life right now is the release of my newest book: Let Go Now: Embracing Detachment. I am really excited with it. It was published by Conari and is available on amazon and can be ordered in all the bookstores too. You can always “see inside” when you go to amazon, you know. It’s a collection of 200 essays on how to let go of the others in our life so that they and we can live the journey we were meant to live.
People often ask me which of my books I like best and that’s not a question that’s easily answered, but I would have to say this particular one is extremely helpful, even to me as the author, because of the difficulty I continue to have letting other people live without my interference.
Interference is so subtle. It can be as small as a glance of disapproval that’s noticed. A frown when some one shares what his plan is. It might be something verbalized or only harbored in one’s mind, but the effects are felt, regardless. Our companions can generally tell what’s on our minds. Our attempts to control are never unfelt.
I have been asked to explain in a couple of interviews what detachment really means. Perhaps the best way to explain it is to talk about what it’s not. It’s not being enmeshed with others. It’s not being attached to the whims of every one around you, letting those whims determine your next move. It’s being free of the need to agree with the opinions of your companions. It’s allowing for the growth of those companions, understanding that what they do doesn’t define us. It’s allowing others to have their feelings and not feel compelled to feel them too, or try to change them or be diminished by them. In short, it’s respecting others where they are and expecting that same respect in return.
Being able and willing to live a life that’s detached from the turmoil that might be present in the life of loved ones, is the greatest gift we can offer them. And ourselves!
How effective are you at living a life that’s comfortably “detached” from others. Please share in the comment section.
I pose that question because I think it’s worthy of consideration in every conversation I have. I have tried over the past few years to let those words guide me when sharing my opinions with others. It’s simply so natural for me to think I have all the answers; that my assessment of any situation is the correct one. However, what may be right for me is not necessarily right for some one else. This is true whether we are talking about the action a person is considering or the opinion one is harboring. It’s not my right, or any one else’s either, to assume control over what another person chooses to think or do.
Learning to remain quiet when the urge to correct some one calls, takes a herculean effort in some instances. I know full well how hard it is to back away from situations and people when I think I know best. The need to control is insidious. I marvel at those men and women who appear to be truly unconcerned with the behavior and the opinions of others. I hope to imitate them one day. In the meantime, it’s a daily goal for me.
There are some very simple questions that need to be asked. Is what I am about to say going to be helpful? Will my words add value to the moment? Will they harm or help heal the other people present? If I can’t say yes to all of these questions, remaining quiet is the best contribution I can make.
Learning to be quiet is an art I think. And it’s one that begins to feel empowering when practiced. It’s one that can begun a new every day.
I was in a great conversation with some women friends this morning. In fact, we talk every morning about the spiritual journey we share. It’s not only a wonderful way to begin the day but it’s a great opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the world we share with so many others. Our conversations always center on leaving the world a more peaceful place than we may found it when first arising. This morning our discussion boiled down to doing no harm, even for a minute, when in an encounter with a friend or a stranger.
Making the decision to live “from this mindset” guarantees a peaceful unfolding of the day. It also is a great gift we are offering to every one else too. Deciding how to interpret some one else’s actions so we can calibrate our own can be dispensed with. Interpreting what others are thinking or even saying isn’t the job we are here to do. Our job is to respond to those who have “been sent to us” with love.
The next time you wander into a meeting or a party or even the grocery; look around. Every person you see is your next opportunity to do no harm. To express love, in fact, through a smile, a warm gesture, even a silent prayer. there are as many ways to do no harm as our heart can possibly imagine.
Yesterday was my birthday. Admitting my age makes me sound far older than I feel. I was 71. Yikes!! And I can honestly say I don’t feel any thing close to that. In fact, in many respects, I feel younger as the years pass. I find that curious but I know it’s true for many others too. Perhaps it has to do with how we are choosing to live our lives. Enumerating what’s been different in these later years is enlightening.
For one thing, I simply am not bogged down by worry any more. I am content with the life I am leading and feel as though I have been “called” to do what I do. God’s will has become clear, for now. Second, and this one is related to the first one, I feel passionate about my work. Writing and speaking to groups, sharing that which others have so freely given me, makes it exciting to get up each day. Having passion for any thing keeps one’s mind and body young. Of this I’m certain. As an example, having begun this blog site a few months ago has been extremely exciting and I love having a new way to reach like-minded people.
And this leads me to how I approach each day. Following that first cup of coffee, I am involved with a women’s spirituality group each morning in a conference call. Some mornings only 3 or 4 call in and other mornings we may have 8. We take turns sharing a short prayer; we read a section in a spiritual book and then discuss how we are helped by the reading. We seldom spend more than 20 or 25 minutes on the call but it’s a way to get right-minded before letting the day carry our minds into neighborhoods that aren’t fruitful.
Four mornings each week I participate in another conference call with some business associates. While this call leans toward business, there is definitely a spiritual overtone to it. I feel so grateful to have two infusions of productive thinking in my life every day before I even have time to let my own ego run amuck.
And then I take an hour and a half for exercise 5 days a week. Work calls to me next, and I move into it happily. My mind and body have been attended to and for me, that’s key. Having this kind of routine in my life may seem like too much structure for some but I have discovered, over the years, that routine keeps me on track. Without structure, I feel a sense of ennui too easily.
I do believe that we each have very purposeful lives. I have made a commitment to fulfill the purpose that has been assigned to me and I feel blessed. I hope that you are feeling right-minded today, and if you aren’t, perhaps you can say a prayer for some one you know. That action can change how we think more quickly than any thing else. We are in charge of our own right-mindedness. Are you feeling content today?
My mother passed away in 1998 but not a single day goes by that I don’t think fondly of her. I was particularly reminded of her at church yesterday. Our minister honored those mothers present and those mothers no longer with us. It’s a miracle that I think so fondly of my mother, actually, because we were not great friends in my early adulthood. We were more or less estranged after I left my home town with a husband they didn’t really like. And then in my early recovery I stayed away by choice, even though that husband was no longer a part of my life. I occasionally called my parents but for a number of years I didn’t let them know who I really was. It seemed best that way. Our conversations were superficial which left fewer opportunities to argue, a great pastime of my dad’s. He engaged me far too easily in those arguments because I was just as intent on being right as was he.
My mother generally looked on, not engaging in our struggles. I always felt she was secretly glad I was standing up to him though. She never felt strong enough to do it, except through her passive aggression. After my dad passed, my mother and I spent more time together. She stayed with my current husband and me for a few months every winter. It got her out of the cold but the real upside to her visits was the development of a friendship that I had never expected to experience. We shopped, went for lunch, had dinners out too. She loved sports and we rooted for her favorite teams together. She and I took up painting by numbers just as a lark. I still treasure the only one she finished. Mothers are an under-appreciated group. That’s for sure. I think of her as my guardian angel. Some thing tells me that pleases her, in fact.
She left this world knowing she was dearly loved by me. And that pleases me.
I mentioned in the last blog the joy of reconnecting with Ellen, a friend I had seen very little of since our graduation from high school in Indiana nearly 55 years ago. As I write that number, I am absolutely amazed at how quickly time passes, never to be repeated. Moment by moment our lives pass us by and then an event occurs that triggers a “look back,” and we’re shocked. The reality of who we have become startles us.
The mini-reunion we had in Chicago last week end provided that “look back” and I remain in a state of shock. We felt young yet, or so we claimed. For sure we didn’t feel our age nor did most of us look our age either. But the minutes had ticked by any way, slipping through our fingers like through a sieve, and the many fond memories of years gone by could only be recounted, not lived again.
There is some thing very special about reliving fond memories. For one, they can be “used” to lessen the hold of a conflict with a friend or family member. No one is in charge of what we dwell on but ourselves. Making the choice to think another thought rather than the one that is creating inner angst is a great choice to make. And one we can practice repeatedly with out announcing to anyone what we are doing.
The little joys that call to us for a show of appreciation can be as small as a barking dog, a chirping cardinal, that first cup of coffee in the morning with a spouse or a friend, or a child’s whimper to be picked up. That note of thanks from a friend that was entirely unexpected deserves our acknowledgment too. When ever we seek to notice the many opportunities for showing signs of appreciation, they will seem to multiply. Funny how that works, wouldn’t you say?
Today, look for the many times you can express appreciation. Many will be woven within the tiniest of experiences. The more we cultivate within us the willingness to really see, the greater will be our level of joy. Sign me up! How about you?