Ask Parvati 10: The Power of Letting Go

BY Parvati

May 1, 2011
Dear Parvati,
I am a bit type A, tending to take charge of situations. I feel good about how much I can get done even under pressure, but I find that afterwards I feel exhausted, headachey, stressed and grumpy. People suggest to me that I need to learn to let go, but I have a hard time relating to that. I think that if I let go, everything would fall apart and I wouldn’t know where to start again. Yet, for some reason, I keep hearing their words in my mind, to let go. How can I begin to let go of some of the stress and not freak out about not being in control?


Thank you for your question. It is spring and the force of nature is churning. As the trees sprout leaves and flowers burst into life, we can feel an impulse to get active in an attempt to shed physical and psychological winter weight from our lives. Whether you are a type A personality or not, we can overdo these times of seasonal transition and end up with colds, allergies and other physical symptoms, ways our bodies let us know that we had best slow down and learn to let go.
Because the mind tends to only know two ways of thinking, to move towards something we like or to move away something we don’t, we try to push away things we no longer want. Trying to push or pull at life is like trying to move mountains. Sooner or later we end up exhausted and come to realize that there is a force in life that is much greater than our limited ego or will. Whether we end up flat on our backs with a broken heart, a massive cold, a lost job or just plain wrung out from too much effortful living, the wise words “let go” or “surrender” start to come to mind.


For most of us, the notion of surrendering can be quite bewildering, conjuring images of “throwing in the towel”, giving in or even becoming roadkill to someone else’s overpowering will. From the point of view of the ego, surrendering may seem like we are giving up and somehow taking a loss. But when we look deeper, we see that nothing could be further from the truth.
The ancient text called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika speaks of sukha-sthira, finding a balanced yogic state that is neither just relaxed nor just alert, but a union of the two. Artists, dancers, athletes and business people have expressed finding that balanced flow when they experience peak performances. In that flow, the individual has tapped into a much greater whole. There is no defensive holding on to the ego. One has surrendered to ride within a force that is much greater than the limited sense of self.
When we are stressed, our field of perception narrows. This is a remnant of our past need to run for our lives when chased by a lion in the jungle. This focus serves our need to survive. But when habitually used as a day-to-day stress response, the narrow sight means we often tend to miss a lot. By allowing ourselves to let go of the fear of the proverbial jungle lion (be it our boss, our partner, our parents or whatever we fear), our field of vision expands and we see more fully. In so doing, we tap into a greater field of possibility and flow within a greater whole. In this way, we have access to more options, more choice, more power. As we learn to let go, we may find that the phone call we had anxiously been waiting for suddenly happens or cash for an outstanding bill arrives at our door. We may see the broken step on the stairs and avoid a painful tumble. As we let go, we get out of our own way and learn to receive the support that inherently exists within nature.


Let us look at nature. The chrysalis that transforms into a butterfly, does it doubt, angst and stress over the process it undergoes? Or is the cocooned creature in a surrendered state held perfectly within an intelligent whole? Really think about it. When the flower springs from the soil, is it thinking “gotta get it right” or “gotta work harder”? Or is it simply being, expressing a flow within the whole?
The same for the budding leaves on the tree branches, the thawing ice, the animals awakening. Can you imagine the hibernating bear coming out in a rush from its cave with the thought, “Man! I gotta hurry. I am going to be late again”? Yet how many of us wake up everyday, supposedly refreshed, already feeling stressed and having somehow failed? That is the baggage we carry. That is the story we place over our lives. That is not our fullest, most natural self, but what we have become habituated to be, usually as an expression of the ego to feel greater than or less than another as a distorted cry for love we perceive is not there. We tend to hold on to stress, fearing the jungle lion even when the lion exists only in our imagination. This fear exists because deep down we don’t feel love or loved.
But is there no love? Do we need to rely on that story of rush, push and pull to make us feel better? Ultimately, does not our push/pull make us suffer? Remember the chrysalis perfectly cocooned. Would nature take such perfect care of that caterpillar and abandon us? Or have we somehow, somewhere along our life path let go of our connection to nature instead? We believe our own distorted perceptions and go running because a coiled rope looks like a cobra to our dulled eyes. Nature is not doing that “to” us. We do that to ourselves. We place the disconnected story on each perfect moment. Ah! Beautiful butterfly that it does not have the busy mind we do, that surrenders to its magnificent transformation and flies free!
For nature, life just is. Resting into this “isness” is surrender. Surrender is gentle, quiet, powerful, active, alive, vital…because it relies on a state of feeling connected, interconnected, a part of it all. We are constantly held within the whole, cradled in a perfect life-force cocoon, completely loved, fully supported and totally cared for. Our minds may be attached to distortions that tell us otherwise, but that does not change the fact that the loving support is here, if we are willing to let go and receive.


Part of our human journey is the return to that One state, that flow, that sense of being rooted, vital and expansive within an intelligent whole. We tend to see ourselves as separate, either by expressing wanting through “craving this” or “repulsed by that”, or by altogether feeling fundamentally disconnected and alienated from all that is. It seems these extremes are deeply buried in our psyche, part of the human condition. As we move through life, we learn to meet the moment as an opportunity to purify our perceptions and eventually transcend the trickiness of our ego so that we may rest in the fullness of who we are. And who are we anyway, if not ultimately one with all that is, a playful expression of the Divine?
Next time you feel the impulse to rush to your next meeting, or feel that feisty urge that wants to make you right and others wrong, or you want to push through to the next to-do item on your agenda without really meeting the task at hand, remember that tiny cocoon and know that you are one and the same. In every moment, you are cradled by an immense love that fully supports you through whatever life process you are experiencing. That love is always available, 24/7, unconditionally. It is our human birthright.
If we could be a bit more like the trees, rivers, butterflies and flowers, we might find ourselves a lot healthier, happier and wise. And what better time to feel inspired to surrender to and be part of such immensity than during the bursting power of life now upon us this spring. Do yourself a favor and go say hello to the budding trees. Notice how they do not struggle to be, but are in a rapturous state of deep surrender. Rooted in the rich Earth, trunks strong, growing up to meet the sky, the tree’s leaves dance in the flowing wind. Watch carefully. That tree is flowing within the whole, just as you. Through nature we can see our true nature and learn the power of letting go.