Seventeen years ago this Halloween, I was in a car accident that left me hospitalized for five weeks. It was a bad time, physically and emotionally painful. However, to this day, I’m grateful for that accident, because it was also an awakener. It made me reevaluate my life, and gave me the gift of looking for what really mattered fairly early on in my life journey. I was twenty at the time. It took quite some time for me to align my life with my deeper purpose, but that accident was the beginning. I knew deep in my soul that having a life that looked “successful” wasn’t worth very much – it could be shattered in an instant. What matters to me is having a life that makes my heart sing, and in honor of that, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite tactics for creating that: letting go.
“in the pursuit of knowledge:
everyday something is added.
in the pursuit of enlightenment:
everyday something is dropped.”
To do this, I’m inviting you to try one of my favorite forms of letting go – creating a release ritual. I grew up Catholic, so rituals are in my blood. Though I no longer consider myself part of the church, I’ve kept my deep love of rituals and now design my own. You need not have any prior experience to do this – it’s fun and easy. I’m giving you a step by step template, and you can add flourishes and elements that make it your own.
Step #1: Pick Your Area of Letting Go
Usually we’re looking at some kind of behavior or thought pattern that is bringing us down when we’re wanting to let go of something. It might be anything: complaining, yelling at your kids, gossiping, believing you are worthless. Pick one thing.
Step #2: Choose an Action Step to Represent Change
Thinking about the habit or pattern you would like to release, choose any one action step that you are willing to do to “cement in” this change. You will be doing the action step later, but for the moment, you’re just deciding what it is. Examples of this – if you are forever yelling at your kids for not putting away their toys, maybe you commit to purchasing a new bin that they can throw everything in to clear the room quickly. Or if you have decided to give up gossiping, maybe you choose to symbolically recycle a celebrity gossip magazine or remove a gossip site bookmark from your internet browser.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Step #3: Find a Thought or Belief Drives that Behavior Pattern
If you don’t have any idea what I mean, you might want to check out some of my posts on thought work. Once you’re clear, find ANY thought that you habitually think that supports this destructive pattern. For example, the habit of yelling at your kids might be supported by the thought, “my kids’ dirty room makes me look like a bad mom.” Gossiping might be supported by the thought, “everyone at work gossips. If I don’t, people will think I’m holier-than-thou.” In all likeliness, the habit is supported by many thoughts, but we’re doing a ritual, so choose just one to represent all of them. Write this thought on a small strip of paper.
“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”
― Gautama Buddha
Step #4: Choose a New Pattern
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “nature hates a vacuum.” We’re going to assume it’s true for this exercise, and choose a new pattern to replace the one we want to release. For example, for yelling at your kids, it might be being in a cooperative relationship with your kids.
Step #5: Choose a Thought to Support the New Pattern
Taking our previous examples, this step might look like, “The quality of my relationship with my kids is more important than the cleanliness of their room” for our kid-yeller. It might be, “not gossiping speaks for itself; I don’t need to announce it to anyone” for a person who wants to stop talking about others. The only requirement for this is that you believe it.
Step #6: Design Your Ritual
You already have the key elements:
-The pattern you are changing
-A thought that supported that pattern
-An action item that represents the change you are making
-The new pattern you are creating
-A new thought to support the pattern
Now, you just need to pick a time, gather any ceremonial supplies, and start designing. The key thing is to release the old, take the action that represents this, and embrace the new. You can add flourishes to make it more fun at any of these points. Let’s take the example of the person who wants to stop yelling at their kids and create a sample ritual:
She already has the new bin purchased but not set up, and the old and new thoughts written down. At a time when the kids are not home, she could light a candle, some incense, or put on beautiful music. She could then say, “I choose to release this pattern of yelling at my kids. I choose to release the belief that the cleanliness of their room reflects on me as a mother.” She could then crumple up the paper with the old thought on it, rip it into shreds, or simply throw it out.
She could then take the action of setting up the new bin in her kids room to cement the decision to let go of this old pattern. Once complete, she can say “I embrace a cooperative relationship with my kids. I believe that the quality of my relationship with my kids is more important than the cleanliness of their room.” She could then cement this into place by writing that belief on a beautiful piece of paper and sticking it on the bathroom mirror, or by adding a phone reminder to pop up once a day around the kids’ bedtime with that message.
She could then blow out the candle, offer thanks to any deity she believes in, say “and so it is”, or any other method that closes the ritual.
Ready to try it yourself? Leave a comment with the area you’re ready to change and the thought you’re willing to give up.
Come back and let us know how it goes!