The Paradox of Letting Go

I’ve been getting a little bound up about things lately. Nothing is particularly problematic, and my life is far from stressful, and yet, I find myself  in a state of mild anxiety about certain things; little things, big things, anyTHING really. I’m not really talking about any particular fear that requires overcoming, but rather my default state of being which is to cling and grab life, to clutch and hold on for fear of what will happen if I just… let… go.

And here is the paradox for me: loving life and all it’s many opportunities and adventures SO MUCH that I fear I may not have enough of them or choose the wrong one or miss the REALLY good one, is just, well, kind of taking the fun out of it all. So obviously, operating on this level of control, that I must act, scheme and manage my way through this wonderful life of mine, is just, well, insane.

AND YET, another paradox is that without taking action, planning and having goals to achieve, does that mean I sit around twiddling my thumbs and staring at my belly button, doing nothing? Obviously that would be slightly insane too…

So I guess when I refer to ‘letting go’, I’m talking about having faith that things will turn out as they are meant to, not necessarily as I imagine them to be, but as the universe, or God, or the divine source that powers me, you, the birds, tides and trees sees fit.

I’m not sure why I seem to believe that I could do a better job of my life than the very source of my existence, who knows me better than I know me, who understands my true nature better than I ever will and who does a perfectly excellent job of circling the earth around the sun. I am not sure what part of my resume of blunders, mistakes, failures and successes deems me fit to manage things instead?

“Oh thank you, universal power, yes, yes, you did a great job with the whole stars, planets, mountains, oceans thing, really, I’m a fan of your work, I am, but when it comes to my life, I got this one. Thanks anyway!”

I mean, on one hand it’s kind of egotistical to think I know what’s best for me, and on the other, I believe we are all an expression of that universal power; we are all one and the same really, so if that’s the case then maybe I do actually have a clue how to run my life.

Hmm… confused? Well, me too…

Bubble head Eye pudding

Because I know there is this sweet spot of existence, where things feel in alignment and everything just… flows. I know this because I have experienced it. I have experienced freedom from worry and fear, not because of external circumstances, but because of an internal state of being that comes from trusting that a power greater than myself (the ‘me’ my human pea brain identifies with) has got everything handled.

Call it trust, faith, love, or acceptance, but I know there is a place of letting go I can get to when I finally get sick of trying to run the show.

And I’d like a bit more of it, thank you very much. I just gotta remember how I got there last time.

On a practical level, it means asking to be led each day. Rather than having the world’s (and my) problems sorted out by the time I get to the coffee machine each morning, it means asking for guidance instead, to accept whatever comes my way, and to make decisions in a spirit of truth, love and service (that includes service to myself, yippee!).

Kind of a ‘thy will, not mine, be done,’ which may seem a bit strange to some, but for me, I know from experience my day goes so much better when I start it in that spirit. I haven’t been doing that much lately, which is probably why I’m feeling a little burnt out by my own controlling desires. I know I’m not really in control, I just like to ignore that fact sometimes, but it always leads me back to being fed up and ready to let go again.

I came across this talk by Alan Watts last week, aptly titled ‘Let Go of Controlling Everything’ and just listening to it filled me with a huge sense of relief. He talked about the fact that we don’t need to tell our hair to grow or organs to function, and that we are perfectly capable of delegating those tasks, so why not everything else? It made perfect sense to me, even though I know it’s easier said than done.

For example, I started writing a book, and I think it’s something I really want, but the problem is, actually writing the damn thing (!). This afternoon I sat down for the first time in well over a month, re-read what I’ve written so far, deemed it absolute junk, wrote a clunky paragraph which was like drawing blood from a stone and proceeded to become very depressed that I can’t seem to be able to do this ONE THING I REALLY WANT TO DO.

But you see, I was then compelled to write this, which has been on my mind for a while, so maybe this was really the thing I was meant to write today, and if that’s the case then maybe the rest of my life will follow suit. After all, that’s been the way it’s gone so far. The things that were meant to happen have only happened when I’ve truly been ready for them, not when I thought they should.

There are so many quotes and sayings in the spirit of letting go, and an equal number espousing the importance of taking action. I guess that’s the paradox; letting go is a state of mind and heart, it doesn’t mean doing nothing but rather trusting that, in the end, things will work out as they are meant to. Acting with confidence that whatever the outcome, it will be right.

Perhaps it is also being grateful for the little things we experience on the journey towards achieving our goals, and not being blinded by the brightness of our glittering dreams and future plans. To walk our path with confidence, knowing that wherever it leads us will be the right way; perhaps that’s the true art of letting go.

I have a feeling it’s going to take me a lifetime to master it, if I ever do.  But I’m going to start practicing right now.


Let’s see what happens.

(Yes, that’s me jumping out of a plane, and yes, I will be using these photos repeatedly because… I jumped out of a plane yo!!!)

Artwork is by Tyrhone @ Eye Pudding.

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The Paradox of Letting Go — 39 Comments

  1. This is beautiful, Sarah. And I’m really loving Thyrone’s artwork. You have really, REALLY got to read “the war of art.” Have you read it yet? I also recommend “writing down the bones.” Both amazing and will help you move past that block (it’s normal and we all have it, I think, especially when undertaking a HUGE project like a book.) I find that I sometimes sit down and stare and stare and get overwhelmed and think ‘I’ll never do it.’ But the only way to do it is to do it, you know?
    Kim recently posted..Trees are the answerMy Profile

    • Thanks Kim. Yes, I do, thank you for the reminder. Also, Bird by Bird, the other one you recommended… I will get there! Sometimes I wonder if I’m just not ready to write a book yet, perhaps I don’t have enough perspective or something. But I will keep chipping away, and I will read those books, thank you!! xx

  2. Did a workshop to find my “purpose” in ’95. It ended up being “to eagerly and openly trust the Universe to heal, to bless and to connect”. Seems like we’re both forgetting how to do that in our effort to do, instead of be.

    • Hey Bonnie!! Very wise words, thank you for sharing. Finding a balance between being and doing is a constant challenge for me! See you Tuesday xx

  3. “loving life and all it’s many opportunities and adventures SO MUCH that I fear I may not have enough of them or choose the wrong one or miss the REALLY good one” – I hear ya! Great reminder to all us worriers out there.

    I have no doubt that when you’re ready you will find the words to start your book in earnest. Just look at what you’ve got on this page, real talent lady! My favourite thing about your writing style is your ability to write something so poetic and beautiful like this and then be able to switch to hilarious, rolling about laughing comedy tales. I love reading both voices so much.
    Maddie recently posted..Getting the best from Angkor Wat in 2 days – part 1My Profile

    • Thank you so much Maddie, I’m a bit schizophrenic like that, one day I’m like, “I’m just going to write funny stuff,” and the next it’s all deep and meaningful. I guess we all have different sides to our personality that want to be expressed… but perhaps all of us don’t give them names 😉

  4. Thank you for sharing Sarah. I too love my life but am feeling super stressed and it’s affecting my health. Those free radicals are invading and I’m gonna stop them in their tracks!!! Have great physical and nutrionist on my side…think you’re wonderful blog could be a great help in “letting things go”. Thank you from an old friend of Holly’s…Myra.

  5. Beautifully written again Sar. This human behaviour of wanting to control everything is definitely hard to let go. You have a wonderful way of identifying what I bet A LOT of people would be feeling without specifically knowing it! X

    • Thank you Eggy, it is an ongoing process, to realise we’re clinging, then actively let go. The paradox is, things go better for me when I do that… so why do I continue to try to control?! Beats me!

  6. I wouldn’t even know how to begin if I had to write a book. I think you are doing the right thing though breaking it down into chunks. I would write a little chunk whenever you feel inspired by something, i.e. your kids at school, Tyrhone’s artwork, the turquoise sea. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just write whenever you feel like it ad I am sure it will become an amazing book!
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Flashback Friday: The day I met my husband’s doppelgangerMy Profile

    • Thanks Tammy, you’re right, something tells me it’s not going to be written in chronological order, because I do write purely on inspiration and rarely have any sort of plan or system (which isn’t very conducive to book writing, I hear!):)

  7. Si! Oui! YEs to all the above…thanks for lettig me know i’m not the only one who gets into this…:) x

  8. I think in order to appreciate all things and gain perspective is to experience all the highs and lows. If we gear ourselves up to just pursue only the things that make us happy then we would just default to whatever is the easiest and sometimes the shallowest.

    Keep at it with the book if it’s a goal of yours. Trust yourself and surround (metaphorically) yourself with people who will help you get there. Our greatest achievements are never easy to navigate through and rarely a solo accomplishment, but we always get there somehow :)
    Jimmy recently posted..Losing track of time in UtilaMy Profile

  9. We so rarely get the exact thing that we want on any given day. But we usually get the exact thing we need.

    There’s an opportunity cost to everything in life and I think no matter what you choose, it’s about perspective. You can keep looking back wondering, or go forward, willing to be wrong, but confident in your choice.

    I posted something similar on Candace’s blog about fighting against something when it just isn’t going well (or as you put it, drawing blood from a stone). Sometimes when things aren’t going right, it’s time to move on to something else and come back when you’re ready to stop forcing it.

    The simplest things are usually the most difficult, huh?

    Loving Tyrhone’s artwork with your words!
    Carmel recently posted..BILINGUAL SUMMERMy Profile

    • Thanks Carmel, I’m kinda with you on this one. It’s not that I think it should be easy, but most things that I have done have kind of happened as a natural progression, and forcing things is just not my style. I guess that’s why it feels so weird. It just may not be the right time. I’m not giving up, just letting go of it for now till the right time comes xxx
      Sarahsomewhere recently posted..The Paradox of Letting GoMy Profile

  10. Lovely. I needed to read this today. Just started the Artist’s Way and am amazed at how much I try to control everything. I know I need to let go, but it’s taking a hell of a lot of practice to get there. Thanks for the Alan Watts link. I’ll be listening to that for sure.
    Victoria recently posted..A rare review: Mas Can BatlleMy Profile

  11. Oh, Sarah. It’s so weird when I open up my feedreader and see I post that was in my brain but has now been written by you! For the past two weeks I have been spiraling, caught in a web of anxiety and indecision, just completely paralyzed by the feel I needed to be doing something but also certain I didn’t know what that was and that any choice I made would be wrong. Traveling for nearly a year now, I have definitely learned to loosen up, but I have also realized that I’m never really going to be the person who has no plans and doesn’t scheme or dream or research the heck out of things. That’s just not how I’m wired. But I think I can find ways to channel those energies in a more productive way than I currently do and it definitely involves having faith that even the things outside my control will work out as they are meant to, probably better than if I had been pulling the strings the entire time. I’m certainly not there yet but I’m working on it. I always take such comfort knowing you’re walking this path right alongside me… we’ll make it to that happy place where we aren’t driving ourselves crazy some day!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Awestruck in AlishanMy Profile

    • Hey Steph, we’re on the same wavelength baby! Glad you got something out of this, I’m certainly feeling a lot better after writing it, and also actively putting this ‘letting go’ caper in to practice. Goals and dreams are wonderful, but really, life is too short to cling to them without experiencing the beauty of the ‘in between’ moments, because really, when all is said and done, these are the most important ones, I think. Life flows… if we let it, and if we are too focused on one thing ahead, we may miss the most spectacular moments along the way!

  12. If you take a step back and have a look, I think you’ll find you may have already started your book, and each new blog post is another chapter.

    The great irony in life is the human condition I think. Even when we have nothing to worry about, get wound up about, stress about, we will find something no matter how insignificant.

    It’s the yin to our yang, the night to our day. How can you truly appreciate a stress free life, when you never experience stress? 😉

  13. Hi Sarah. I have read your post very first time, It was too good. Never thought that pictures, words and imagination can comes out with this real dynamic truth. Great work and hope to see more kind of these posts. Thanks

  14. Pingback: HARMONY — The Journey Itself

  15. Hey Sarah!

    Great post as always. No matter what path we are on (and you are the right one, believe me!) we will naturally get self doubt and anxious moments. Just “being” is undervalued. You are in a beautiful part of the world so just kicking back and soaking it all in is allowed!

    Take care,
    Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap) recently posted..Here comes the sunMy Profile

  16. Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing this post.
    I love the moments when you let go and accept whatever it is, and all tension and resistance is released. All that is left is unconditional love, and peace.
    Somedays are definately easier than others, but I guess the days that it is difficult is because I am TRYING. By just stopping, acceptance organically happens.
    P.S I look Tyrone’r art, in particular the first one.
    Jill – Just Love Yourself recently posted..How Much Are You Worth?My Profile

  17. It’s really hard for me to let go. I mean, there are things that are certainly easier to let go of. But, when it comes to my life and my plans, I have to take charge of that. I’d like to believe that things just happen and that it’s fate. But, I know it’s just not true. Everything that happens is a matter of coincidence and an awkward happenstance of atoms colliding. So, I have to take control of things.
    nicole recently posted..Does “Off the Beaten Path” Even Exist?My Profile

    • Hey Nicole, thanks for your comment, I appreciate your take. I guess that’s the paradox for me – I want to control things and make sure they go my way, but in my experience, when I let go (of outcomes) and have faith, things go better than I ever could have orchestrated on my own. So now I prefer faith over control though it’s not an easy task to implement! :)

  18. Ah, how I know these feelings exactly. It’s funny, because so much of this felt like feelings I’ve recently been having, but didn’t know how to put into words. In fact, I wonder if I’m scared of putting them into words, because to me, letting go sounds so abstract and terrifying.

    To walk our path with confidence, knowing that wherever it leads us will be the right way; perhaps that’s the true art of letting go.

    Thank you for this post Sarah. If I really want to go forward, I hope to take that above sentence alone and truly internalize it (instead of letting it scare the sh*% out of me) :)
    Jessica Wray recently posted..Battle of the Scams in Vietnam: You Win Some, You Lose SomeMy Profile