The Union Path Podcast
Using Times of Letting Go Wisely
[0:00:21] John Coleman: Certainly seems to me that there are very clear times in our life of where the task at hand or the lesson is to let go is to learn how to let go but learn how to let go in a healthy way, learn how to let go in a way that actually is creative. It's kind of one of those paradoxical spiritual ideas that oftentimes, usually, in hindsight we realize that in order to grow, in order to have or do or be more the first step was actually letting things go. The first step was actually becoming smaller, becoming less, either doing less or being less. And when in these times come, it's really easy, it's really natural to feel like these are setbacks, these are a bad thing. This is unwanted. This is unwelcome. This is the opposite of the direction I want to see my life move in. But like a lot of things, it's not usually that simple. A lot of times what happens to us? Isn't that obvious? Isn't that cut and dry? Isn't that final, though? What happens to us, the meaning and the value can really change over time, can really evolve. Can it sometimes be what we would call a good thing? Can sometimes be what we would call a bad thing and maybe flip back around again after that.
[0:01:56] John Coleman: But whether we would label what's happened to us good or bad I think there's no denying that going through life is a series of ebbs and flows, is a series of times where things are happening and at times where things aren't. Times of new creation, in times of opportunity, anyway to slough off and shed the old, the unhelpful that are no longer needed, the no longer useful. I was thinking about this today because it's this time of year where it's almost Easter and one of the practices around Easter and this isn't unique to what Christians do is this idea of Lent, this idea of this 40 days before Easter to go through some sort of abstinence, to go through a process where something is given up, whether it's physical, whether it's a behavior, whatever it is. But using the opportunity leading up until Easter to intentionally get a little smaller, to intentionally fast a bit, if you will, to intentionally give something up in order to gain the value later. I think it's interesting to dive into, well, what what this value be? Why is this tradition endured for so long? Why do other cultures why do other traditions have similar sorts of ideas? And what is it about this idea of fasting before springtime, at least in the Northern Hemisphere where these traditions were presumably invented? I think it's interesting to just look a little bit deeper and it doesn't require an adherence or even an agreement with what the traditions are. But I think it's useful to look at why do these traditions exist? Why do people keep doing this? Because surely there must be some sort of value. There must be some sort of gain. There must be some sort of good above and beyond just rote repetition year after year after year of the same thing. And so what I think about with this idea of Lent coming before Easter is easter is the symbol of resurrection.
[0:04:22] John Coleman: Looking at it, stripping it out of the dogmatic or Christian lens. It really is a celebration of spring, a celebration of rebirth, of growth and creation starting again, rising from the dead. Fall, going into winter. All life and plant life anyway, seems to be stilled and much of it dies. But then something magical comes along in the spring where things come back to life, where things are resurrected, where new growth happens or growth continues from where it was after a period of dormancy. I think it's interesting to look at the symbolism behind this and look at the symbolism in our own lives that we can use the winters of our life to prepare for and enable and to create a better spring. Because one of the things we can do during this winter period, during this fasting time is let go of what is no longer helpful, let go of unhelpful or unhealthy habits, let go of things that we don't want to be anymore, we don't want to do anymore. We don't want to have anymore to really lighten our load and get back to ourselves, get back to the core of who we really are. So that when growth happens again, when growth starts again, we can grow from that place where we won't use the growth of the spring just to continue growing our bad habits just to continue growing the unhelpful parts of ourselves. That we use the opportunity presented in the winter that's presented before the spring as an opportunity to shed as an opportunity to strip ourselves down, as an opportunity to get back to the core of who and what we really are, of what actually matters to us. Contemplate these ideas of truth, integrity, meaning, identity and contemplate these ideas through a lens of knowing, through a lens of self awareness, through a lens of introspection, through a lens of honesty and mostly honesty with ourselves. Mostly honesty. With really being able to look at how our lives have really gotten and really honesty from the perspective of how have our lives really gone? Who have we really been? What have we really done?
[0:07:03] John Coleman: And use that awareness to ask ourselves on a deep level, well, where do we really want to go? Who do we really want to be? These are really important questions and a lot of times these questions can't really be properly pondered, properly given them their due attention during times of growth. But a lot of times we have to stop before we can really change direction. We have to cease doing what we're doing before we can really do something different. Can be very difficult to change from within something else. Sometimes we need to be without it for a minute. And so if we look at these winters of our lives, which we can obviously go through at any time of the year and we can go through for time periods far greater than seasons of a calendar year, and these times can be really grueling, these times can be really difficult. These times can be very difficult to get through and go through because this shedding process, this stripping away, can be very uncomfortable. These times of dormancy, these times of stillness can be really discomforting, can be really uncomfortable, because we're really forced to look at ourselves, we're really forced to be with ourselves, we're really forced to be with our life as it actually is, rather than living how we think it is or rather than simply living from how we want it to be. At these times of reflection can be really useful. But oftentimes before they're useful, they can be pretty grueling. Sometimes they can be absolutely excruciating. Especially if we've been ignoring something, if we've been ignoring aspects of our life. Just wishing things were different, just trusting things to be different even though we actually were doing the same things over and over and over again.
[0:09:10] John Coleman: Thinking that the change that we wanted started with someone or something else instead of the change we wanted actually starts with us. That we can use these reflection times to really reacquaint ourselves with ourselves, to refamiliarize ourselves with our own life, to really get to a place where we can see things as they actually are. Stripping away the illusions and facades that we've constructed or perpetuated just to get by. And going through these periods of stripping away, going through these periods of stripping down, it really is vital to go through this sort of process because it really is clarifying. It really is purifying. It really does help focus us towards where do we actually want to grow? And that is such a critical step to take before we start growing again. As much as we'd love to make progress, as much as we'd love to just continue racing down the path of whatever journey we're on, sometimes we have to stop. Sometimes we have to reflect. Sometimes we have to reevaluate. Sometimes we have to renegotiate. Sometimes we have to reroute our ideas of what we want because our ideas of who we are have changed. And although it sounds clear, it sounds simple. Going through these sorts of processes can be anything but. Especially if we desperately want some sort of change.
[0:10:50] John Coleman: It can be so grueling to sit through the process of pre change the process of what needs to change before change is actually possible. It can be really difficult to really acknowledge that there's more to this change than we thought. That there's more to change than we thought. But the process is what the process is. And it doesn't have to be grueling. It doesn't have to be excruciating to the extent where we feel it's grueling or excruciating or exciting or really hard work is really illuminating. Just how tightly we're holding on, just how much we're resisting letting go, just how much we're resisting the very change we're asking for. Because that change is asking more from us than we expected. The bargain we're trying to strike, for whatever reason, is a little different than we originally thought it was. And so our gripping, our forcing, our needing this deal that we've made to follow only a certain line, to work only a certain way, well, that just causes us stress and strain because the stress and strain is the resistance. That resistance is getting manifested in that feeling of arduousness. And when we realize this, it doesn't mean we can immediately flip a switch and turn it off, but it does mean that we can do something about it. It does mean that in these times of reflection, in these times of shedding, in these times before new growth happens, that we can make the process so much easier on ourselves if we can get better at letting go. If we can get better at focusing on who we really are and what we really want and letting our death grips and how we believe things are supposed to be start to release, we can practice holding life more lightly. We can practice going through life more gently.
[0:13:09] John Coleman: We can learn to flow. We don't need to dig our heels in and get bounced from here to there and back again. We can move with life. And sometimes when life doesn't seem to be moving when it seems to be dormant and stagnant, that's the perfect time to move internally. To move internally, by going deeper, by really getting to know ourselves, really getting to know what we actually want, really getting to look at everything we've been doing and ask ourselves, is this actually me? Is this actually useful? Is this actually helpful? Is this actually what I want? Because spring is coming. It always does. And we can set ourselves up for a much better spring by going through this shedding process, this fasting process, this focusing process first. We can go through these processes in the most helpful and useful way by becoming more of the ideal of who we really are, by letting go of the artificial, letting go of the false, letting go of the unhelpful. Letting go of the unusual, letting go of any detriment that we participate in, that we perpetuate and move towards a more perfect version of ourselves move towards a more perfect expression of ourselves and do that before the next growth phase comes. Do that before the next spring. Shed all of these unhelpful, untrue, undesirable parts of ourselves and our lives so that when growth returns, so that when spring comes, those won't be the parts of us that get fed, that get nourished, that grow more.
[0:15:18] John Coleman: We can diminish these aspects of our lives by discontinuing their feeding. But in order to do this, in order to withdraw the nourishment of these parts of ourselves, we'd rather not grow sometimes these parts of ourselves we'd rather not have at all. The first step is being aware of them, and the second step is letting them go so that when that nourishment returns, those parts of us won't be on the receiving end. We will have used this opportunity, this dormancy, this fasting, this shedding process to become a more idealized version of ourselves, to construct a more idealized version of our life, so that when the nourishment and the growth of the spring comes, this will be the being, this will be the expression that we'll find ourselves growing more into. And this attitude of using these quiet, reflection fasting periods to actually make our future growth much better, much more effective, much more full, much more real, is a skill is a skill that we have to practice. It is a skill we have to do on purpose. We are the gardeners, tending ourselves. We choose what to grow. And the more consciously we make those choices, the more we'll see that expressed not only in ourselves, but in our lives. And we can choose to use these times of letting go wisely. We can choose to shed what we don't really want. We can choose to let go of what actually doesn't serve us. And when we do, we'll find what's real, what's really us, what we really want to be, what actually ends up growing.