vulnerability

The Daily Practice of Letting Go

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“Letting go” can oftentimes feel like a loaded term. Used extensively in the personal development world (hello!), sometimes it can have subtle, condescending undertones.

Like, just do it already and get your awesome on!

I mean really, if we could just let go, we would. Trust me, I get this. And honestly, I run into this dilemma often---actually, pretty much daily.

So I’ve been thinking about this idea of letting go quite a bit. I’ve also been feeling through it.

“Feeling through” means leaning in, pushing into our sore spots and cracking open tightly shut doors. For me, it also means creating boundaries where barriers used to stand. All of this generally ignites feelings of fear, uncertainty and oh-my-god-am-I-going-to-die-now-because-I’m-letting-my-guard-down?-and-shit!-they-could-really-hurt-me-because-I-love-them!!!, kind of thing. My inner critic definitely has a flare for the dramatic.

As this is something I’ve been working on, I thought I’d share what I’ve discovered letting go means. And what I’ve found it doesn’t mean.

Letting go means: softening (as opposed to puffing up or feeling like you’re putting on your armor) allowingopeningbeing (as opposed to doing) putting our heartfelt intentions out there, then letting what may, happen (and not worrying or obsessing about the outcome) facing our fears and moving forward anyway (letting go of the past, our stories, or whatever we’ve been telling ourselves that’s held us back all these years…) finding real, deep intimacy with our partners wearing what you REALLY want to wear getting that tattoo (or getting that one removed) praying meditating moving your body trying the new thing saying no to things that make you feel heavy following your joyline, step by tiny step counting on the people in your life who remind you of who you really are (because sometimes, being in the thick of our own lives, we easily lose sight of our beautiful, authentic selves) forgiveness

Letting go does not mean: being lazy that we’re not taking accountability for our own lives becoming a victim of circumstance allowing all hell to break loose because we aren’t in control of our own lives being passive aggressive---saying one thing because it’s “right,” but really feeling another denying what we really feel and shoving it down/away allowing our lives to be ruled by “should’s”

Letting go, I’ve discovered, is a practice. Not unlike meditation. Not unlike yoga. Not even unlike any other practice you may hold near and dear to you---like running, that saturday morning ritual, writing, or creating. It’s like anything that takes perseverance, lots of failing, and picking ourselves back up to try and try again. Every day.

Let go.

Try again.

Keep going.

Rinse. Repeat.

Watch your life expand. Open. Allow. Things you never imagined possible will start showing up and taking hold. Let it happen. Let go.

Facing Your Fears And Discovering Joy. And Why It's Just As Scary.

fear_of_the_dark_that_casts_our_joy_to_the_shadows I’ve been thinking a lot about joy recently. I’ve also been feeling it. Knowing it. Experiencing it regularly.

These little bursts of joy aren’t necessarily from big, momentous occasions or occurrences. They are generally just here and there throughout the day.

Joy-bursts for me are: moments with my son, with Andrew, with a friend. A noteworthy passage in a book. A cuddle from my dog. Writing. A bite of dark chocolate. Holding a pose in yoga. Simple and very regular things.

Interestingly, it’s at night, before I go to bed, that I feel the most difference now that joy is showing back up regularly. It’s a subtle glow, as if those little joy-bursts throughout the day are helping keep my inner light stoked and alight all day long.

And into the next day.

It’s…wonderful.

But what I’ve come to realize is this: real joy is just as intense and vulnerable as fear.

Expressing our joys and successes is a vulnerable and courageous act.

Because, sharing our joy with others is an act of opening up. It’s again, showing up and being real. Criticism, apathy, or just blank stares could result just as easily as shared joy, happiness, celebration, and understanding.

Recently, I’ve been trying this out. When asked, I’ll share about how good things have been going. That I’m in a really good place. And all the toughness that I’ve worked through has ultimately become a springboard.

And it’s been such a relief to feel genuinely, overall good! This doesn’t mean that I don’t have frustrating moments or bad days---because I do. But I feel more elastic---resilient---with an easier bounce back than before. Hope!

This is a direct result of practicing a few things regularly:

kindness with myself (which then more easily extends to others from a heartfelt instead of dutiful place)

mindfulness (which I can only do if I’m in a headspace of kindness otherwise I get really really annoyed at just being aware that I’m feeling like shit in that moment) and

interconnectedness (girl, you are not alone in feeling this way)

Self compassion.

And it’s been a ridiculously wonderful perk to have these joy-bursts throughout the day!

Yet, there are times when I do share how I’ve been feeling, what I’ve been doing that’s working or the genuinely good aspects of my life---and in return I’ve received defensiveness, shutting down, snark, or passive aggressive criticism.

And it’s these precise instances that scare the hell out of me.

Because it’s in these instances where I can so easily crawl right back into old habits. Worrying about if I said something that hurt someone or was too uncomfortable for someone.

Or, just going down the rabbit hole of trash talking myself until the initial joy I felt has been squelched.

Good bye, joy.

The internal trash talking is precisely what keeps us from having real, honest connection.

For me, it’s been my first-line-of-defense mechanism for making sure outside criticism doesn’t happen, since I can remember.

And yet, whether or not I trash talk myself, the external criticism can and does occur. Me putting myself down or hiding myself does not stop external criticism one hundred percent. How could it? We don’t control what’s outside of us. So it’s a double whammy when the criticism does pour forth.

This is why being kind to ourselves gets us so much further. You are your first ally and friend. How empowering!

You can always count on kindness from yourself. And when you feel that support from yourself, moving forward in a positive direction is much, much easier.

In the past, if I felt like someone was shutting down because of my happiness, I would have played down how happy I was, skirted the edges of it or simply not shared those parts of myself. All for the sake of making sure everyone around me was comfortable.

In the present, however, I’m feeling the fear and sharing anyway. This doesn’t mean I don’t get hurt or bruised. Because I do. Often.

But the immediate self defeating talk, the worrying about what other’s will think (as an initial motivator) has stopped.

On the flip side, truly sharing in another’s joy takes courage, too. When we feel the twinge of jealousy or irritation at someone else’s joy or success, that is our inner selves asking us to take notice and do some work around those very things in our own hearts.

This has also become a practice for me---allowing someone else’s success to open my heart to possibility. As opposed to shutting it down out of jealousy or fear---because I want those same things.

Surprisingly, this has been easier than I thought. Past lessons and old learned family habits taught me that scarcity was king and there wasn’t enough. So when someone else got something great, it meant that that thing was no longer available to anyone else.

Except, I now know this is backwards.

When we share in each other’s joy, more joy is created. More love is shared. More kindness is activated. Community is strengthened. Abundance.

It’s just up to us to notice. And participate.

Sure, it’s scary to not know what kind of reaction you’ll get when you put yourself out there.

If an unsavory reaction does happen, all it does is help us redirect our energy towards people who do share these concepts. Hello, community! People who share in the value of living life from the heart and believe in the power of kindness and community. Love.

So, who are we to hold back our joy?

Your joy is needed. For you. For us.

You are needed.

Revel In Kindness, Change Everything

we_must_learn_to_treat_ourselves_as_well_as_we_treat_others Your best friend comes to you in grief after she went through a tough break up.

You see a scared child in the mall who is lost and help them find their parent.

You help the older gentleman at the grocery store pick up the bag of dried beans he accidentally dropped and scattered across the floor.

You do these things without thinking, without question. You not only listen, but you are present with them, as it is: feeling the pain, the fear, and finding the humor in the beans.

So, why is this so hard to do for ourselves?

(And if it’s not hard---bravo! But please let me know what your daily practice looks like! Seriously.)

When it comes to compassion, it seems much easier to do for others than ourselves. But what we’re missing here is that we, too, deserve our own kindness and compassion.

I think the term “self” in self compassion can be off putting for some. It can feel like it’s selfish or narcissistic to be focusing that much kindness inward.

After all, there’s a rut in our cultural thinking that goes something like this: taking care of ourselves means that we’re not doing what’s really important---taking care of others.

The idea of sending myself kindness and compassion in it’s truest sense, used to really turn me off. I used to think of it as just “positive thinking.” And straight positive thinking used to piss me off to hell. Already feeling unheard and unseen by myself and everyone around me (hello, law of attraction), I would start down the “positive” road only to feel even more unheard because I wasn’t saying what really needed to be said. Instead, I was sugar coating it. Yuck.

And not saying what really needed to be said---especially to myself---was a recipe for closing off and closing down.

For most of my adult life, I was pretending that everything was sorted out, fine, on track. Little did I know that this became a defense, like armor, that bruised and harmed others. It also kept me from actually pursuing what I love and enjoy. Because, you know, everything was so perfect.

This armor not only hid my true, vulnerable self the world but it didn’t allow me to see the vulnerability in others. It made me squirm at the fragility of my fellow humans---pull up those boot straps, for gods sakes, and get on with it!

I think that’s why accepting our own fragility---our most vulnerable selves---truly opens the heart. Until we can see ourselves, how can we really see another?

Once I started practicing vulnerability (and opening my heart), I was terrified, first and foremost. But then, something amazing started to happen. Because I understood what it honestly meant to wish myself well, send myself real kindness, and to truly accept my faults---it wasn’t hard to extend these same feeling to others. Even people who I’ve had a difficult time with in the past.

After all, even they want happiness at the end of the day, too, just like me. Compassion.

And happiness takes many different forms---not just the smiling-all-day-long kind of happy. Happiness includes joy, most certainly, but also a sense of purpose, meaning, fulfillment and peace. We could even go so far as to accept with peace our being unhappy---therefore still being happy in the face of our own unhappiness.

This hasn’t happened for me yet. I’ll let you know if and when it does.

We all want peace and happiness. We all want kindness and belonging. We all want safety and love.

Even the people we don’t like. Even they want those things.

And this is where self compassion comes into play. When you turn your kindness inwards and send yourself the same attentive kindness you would show your best friend, a scared child, an elderly person in need, you can feel and then take very tangible steps to alleviate your own pain.

When your own pain is attended to, you are caring for your most fragile self. Being vulnerable with yourself.

Then, you can offer that same kindness and attention (aka: compassion) to everyone---even those people who are difficult.

Want to be a great parent? Send yourself kindness. Often.

Want to be a great partner or friend? Feel each other’s feelings. Be each other’s container. Judgment only happens when hearts are closed. Open your hearts. Be vulnerable.

Want to be great at your job? Listen more. Respond thoughtfully. Practice good boundaries.

These suggestions are all interchangeable.

And they’re all components of self compassion.

Revel in kindness.

First for yourself, then others.

What does kindness look like for you today?