The main message in our culture is that we’re better off with more – more activities on the calendar, more money and material goods, more plans laid out for the future.
For some, an uptick in resources and plans may indeed brighten a dim future, but generally speaking, more isn’t a clear-cut path to enhanced wellbeing.
In fact, sometimes what we really need is less.
A lighter, clearer mind.
Releasing Physical & Mental Clutter
I’ve thought a lot about letting go in the last few years. It first came to me when I was on retreat. I saw how attached I was to finding the biggest, prettiest acorn in the forest to take home. After spending the better part of the morning searching the grounds high and low, I took a seat on a bench that overlooked a ravine. There, sitting on the ground next to me was a tiny, barely noticeable acorn that had lost half its top. I picked it up and chuckled at the irony. I ended up falling in love with it.
There was something empowering about letting go of the idea that I had to take home the biggest acorn. It became a metaphor for my life, showing me that I could choose less over more, simplicity over complexity, and giving over getting at any moment.
What’s more, I began to see that joy was a byproduct of letting go. Whereas holding on, whether to carefully-made plans, objects I own, or an idea of how things should be, was a source of tension, stress, and disappointment.
Do you notice yourself holding onto things – externally or internally – that cause more harm than good? Maybe initially they seemed satisfying, but over time they’ve led to disappointment, exhaustion, or frustration.
Some examples include:
A habit that no longer serves, such as checking your phone first thing in the morning.
A belief or story that limits your understanding of another and blocks self-expression.
A prior commitment that cuts into time for self-care or doing what you love.
A desire or impulse to buy or do something that doesn’t align with your values.
A material good(s) that merely takes up space and would be better off shared with someone else.
The way things used to be, such as a relationship or health/youthfulness.
Where Do You Hold On?
Letting go starts with a simple awareness practice. (That means you can set aside the pressure to do something and simply notice how it feels to hold onto certain habits, stories, objects, or commitments.) Do you feel more or less energy? More or less connected to people you care about? More or less cluttered? More or less true to yourself?
It’s important to remember that the things you’ve held onto – knowingly or not – have served you in some way over the years, so remember to notice with a lot of kindness. You can also think about how it felt to let go of things in the past. Whether you gave yourself the gift of time, released an unproductive habit, or generously gave something away, how was it for you? Do you have any regrets? Did you feel a sense of ease or joy? A heightened sense of contentment?
Letting go is a way to de-clutter the mind, heart, and physical environment. Releasing what no longer serves or is needed is like pulling weeds out of the garden so that more of the things you want can blossom to the fullest.