On Letting Go

Recently, I didn’t know when to let go, and I paid for it in skin.

At the top of the Palm Springs aerial tramway, lies a popular summer climbing area — cooler temperatures and plentiful boulders make for an easy and fun getaway from the scorching heat in the valley below. On the last boulder problem of the day, my feet lost purchase and I, confident in my grip on the rock, held firm knowing that I would place a foot and continue up the slab. Only I did not place a foot. And down I came, solidly feet first onto the crash pad beneath me.

Except for one important thing: I did not let go. My right hand held a firm grip on a sandpaper granite crack and when I refused to let go, off came quite a bit of skin. I am fortunate and thankful that the bleeding held off long enough to scramble for my trusty bandana and a search for the first aid kit. There are lessons to be learned here.

Maybe I’m not really looking so much for a lesson in climbing (perhaps I should; I could stand to improve), but that’s not where I’m going with this.  I was thinking it over, rolling around what happened in my head — it all happened so quickly that I couldn’t even say. Why didn’t I let go? Why did I let the pull of my weight and the friction of the granite sandpaper my skin clean off?

It’s simply not in my nature to let go of things. There is a mental game in climbing, and it translates well to many other areas of my frazzled life. One such specific area is knowing when to let go:  To let go of preconceived notions of who I am, what I should be doing with my life, what I think that others think of me. It’s all bullshit. I wrestle every day with wondering who I really am, and how I might best define myself — whether I am defined by my nature, or if I can chose how I am defined. Why do I even need to be defined? What good does any of that do? What purpose will my definition serve?

I was reading an old post on a wonderful blog that I recently discovered, and this quote from Alejandro Jodorowsky reached out and slapped me (translation from blogger, An Odd Geography:

Eres tú mismo, precisamente cuando no sabes quién eres y ni te importa saberlo.

(You are yourself, exactly when you don’t know who you are and you don’t care to find out.)

So. I have chosen once more in my life to let go of trying to define myself. But why is it so difficult for me to let go and just be myself? I’ve been through this before. It’s something that Joan Tollifson speaks to extensively in that book I adore, Bare Bones Meditation. Letting go. 

Even in my meditation class this week, I was reminded to let go. I was instructed to map out my tomorrow; guided to imagine positivity in my morning. I found this to be a significant struggle — in my daily grind, I have been feeling entirely negative. I am constantly reminding myself how much certain things bring me down. I’ve allowed myself to be convinced that X, Y and Z make me unhappy, therefore shutting out any chance of being satisfied by, happy with, or even just content with certain situations. It’s not that X, Y and Z are making me unhappy … but rather, that I have convinced myself of such.

As I was visualizing my next day at the office, the negative thoughts kept rolling through. What a challenge it is to dismiss them … but yet, I must. I must, because there is no way I will do anything about any negative situation until I change my mind about it. I’ve been here before. I ask myself why have I become so foolish as to fall for this trick again?! I have already defined my workdays as negative experiences. I have defined myself as a person who has preconceived negative thoughts about something. I roll in with an expectation of having a terrible day. For the love of all things holy, let that shit go ….

So yes, I realize my ponderings have rambled a tad bit. But as my muddled mind grasps at any semblance of clarity, I find that I have taken take two things to heart when practicing the art of letting go:

  1. Let go of preconceived notions of self. Stop defining.
  2. Let go of preconceived attitudes toward the world around me. Stop expecting.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Photo Jul 13, 10 40 52 AM

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