“The word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, which in turn is a translation of the Greek pneuma, meaning “breath.” Around the 13th century, the term became bound up with notions of immaterial souls, supernatural beings, ghosts, etc. It acquired other connotations as well—we speak of the spirit of a thing as its most essential principle, or of certain volatile substances and liquors as spirits. Nevertheless, many atheists now consider “spiritual” thoroughly poisoned by its association with medieval superstition.
I strive for precision in my use of language, but I do not share these semantic concerns. And I would point out that my late friend Christopher Hitchens—no enemy of the lexicographer—didn’t share them either. Hitch believed that “spiritual” was a term we could not do without, and he repeatedly plucked it from the mire of supernaturalism in which it has languished for nearly a thousand years.
It is true that Hitch didn’t think about spirituality in precisely the way I do. He spoke instead of the spiritual pleasures afforded by certain works of poetry, music, and art. The symmetry and beauty of the Parthenon embodied this happy extreme for him—without any requirement that we admit the existence of the goddess Athena, much less devote ourselves to her worship. Hitch also used the terms “numinous” and “transcendent” to mark occasions of great beauty or significance—and for him the Hubble Deep Field was an example of both. I’m sure he was aware that pedantic excursions into the OED would produce etymological embarrassments regarding these words as well.
We must reclaim good words and put them to good use—and this is what I intend to do with “spiritual.” I have no quarrel with Hitch’s general use of it to mean something like “beauty or significance that provokes awe,” but I believe that we can also use it in a narrower and, indeed, more transcendent sense.”
- Sam Harris , “In Defense of Spiritual”
(Neuroscientist and best selling author)
40 Ways to Let Go and Feel Less Pain
by Lori Deschene
Eckhart Tolle believes we create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity. Perhaps this explains why we often hold onto our pain far beyond its ability to serve us.
We replay past mistakes over and over again in our head, allowing feelings of shame and regret to shape our actions in the present. We cling to frustration and worry about the future, as if the act of fixation somehow gives us power. We hold stress in our minds and bodies, potentially creating serious health issues, and accept that state of tension as the norm.
Though it may sound simple, Ajahn Chah’s advice speaks volumes:
“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.”
There will never be a time when life is simple. There will always be time to practice accepting that. Every moment is a chance to let go and feel peaceful. Here are 40 ideas to get started:
Let Go Of Frustration with Yourself/Your Life
1. Learn a new skill instead of dwelling on the skills you never mastered.
2. Change your perception—see the root cause as a blessing in disguise.
3. Cry it out. According to Dr. William Frey II, PH.D., biochemist at the Ramset Medical Center in Minneapolis crying away your negative feelings releases harmful chemicals that build up in your body due to stress.
4. Channel your discontent into an immediate positive action—make some calls about new job opportunities, or walk to the community center to volunteer.
5. Use meditation or yoga to bring you into the present moment (instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.)
6. Make a list of your accomplishments—even the small ones— and add to it daily. You’ll have to let go of a little discontentment to make space for this self satisfaction.
7. Visualize a box in your head labeled “Expectations.” Whenever you start dwelling on how things should be or should have been, mentally shelve the thoughts in this box.
8. Engage in a physical activity. Exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, chemicals that improve your state of mind.
9. Focus all your energy on something you can actually control, instead of dwelling on things you can’t.
10. Express your feelings through a creative outlet, like blogging or painting. Add this to your to-do list and cross it off when you’re done. This will be a visual reminder that you have actively chosen to release these feelings.
Let go of Anger and Bitterness
11. Feel it fully. If you stifle your feelings, they may leak out and affect everyone around you—not just the person who inspired your anger. Before you can let go of any emotion you have to feel it fully.
12. Give yourself a rant window. Let yourself vent for a day before confronting the person who troubled you. This may diffuse the hostility and give you time to plan a rational confrontation.
13. Remind yourself that anger hurts you more than the person who upset you, and visualize it melting away as an act of kindness to yourself.
14. If possible, express your anger to the person who offended you. Communicating how you feel may help you move on. Keep in mind that you can’t control how to offender responds; you can only control how clearly and kindly you express yourself.
15. Take responsibility. Many times when you’re angry, you focus on what someone else did that was wrong—which essentially gives away your power. When you focus on what you could have done better, you often feel empowered and less bitter.
16. Put yourself in the offender’s shoes. We all make mistakes; and odds are you could have easily slipped up just like your husband, father, or friend did. Compassion dissolves anger.
17. Metaphorically throw it away; i.e., jog with a backpack full of tennis balls. After you’ve built up a bit of rush, toss the balls one by one, labeling each as a part of your anger. (You’ll need to retrieve these—litter angers the earth!)
18. Use a stress ball, and express your anger physically and vocally when you use it. Make a scrunched up face or grunt. You may feel silly, but this allows you to actually express what you’re feeling inside.
19. Wear a rubber band on your wrist, and gently flick it when you start obsessing on angry thoughts. This trains your mind to associate that type of persistent negativity with something unpleasant.
20. Remind yourself these are your only three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it. These acts create happiness; holding onto bitterness never does.
Let Go Of Past Relationships
21. Identify what the experience taught you to help develop a sense of closure.
22. Write everything you want to express in a letter. Even if you choose not to send it, clarifying your feelings will help you come to terms with reality as it is now.
23. Remember both the good and the bad. Even if appears this way now, the past was not perfect. Acknowledging this may minimize your sense of loss. As Laura Oliver says, “It’s easier to let go of a human than a hero.”
24. Un-romanticize the way you view love. Of course you’ll feel devastated if you believe you lost your soul mate. If you think you can find a love that amazing or better again it will be easier to move on.
25. Visualize an empowered single you—the person you were before meeting your last love. That person was pretty awesome, and now you have the chance to be him or her again.
26. Create a space that reflects your present reality. Take down his pictures; delete her emails from your saved folder.
27. Reward yourself for small acts of acceptance. Get a facial after you delete his number from your phone, or head out with friends after putting all her things in a box.
28. Hang this statement somewhere you can see it. “Loving myself means letting go.”
29. Replace your emotional thoughts with facts. When you think, “I’ll never feel loved again!” don’t resist that feeling. Instead, move on to another thought, like “I learned a new song for karaoke tonight.”
30. Use the silly voice technique. According to Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, swapping the voice in your head with a cartoon voice will help take back power from the troubling thought.
Let Go Of Stress
31. Use a deep breathing technique, like ujayii, to soothe yourself and seep into the present moment.
32. Immerse yourself in a group activity. Enjoying the people in your life may help put your problems in perspective.
33. Consider this quotation by Eckhart Tolle: “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.” Questioning how your stress serves you may help you let it go.
34. Metaphorically release it. Write down all your stresses and toss the paper into your fireplace.
35. Replace your thoughts. Notice when you begin thinking about something that stresses you so you can shift your thought process to something more pleasant—like your passion for your hobby.
36. Take a sauna break. Studies reveal that people who go to sauna at least twice a week for 10-30 minutes are less stressed after work than others with similar jobs who don’t.
37. Imagine your life 10 years from now. Then look 20 years into the future, and then 30. Realize that many of the things you’re worrying about don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
38. Organize your desk. According to Georgia Witkin, assistant director of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, completing a small task increases your sense of control and decreases your stress level.
39. Use it up. Make two lists: one with the root causes of your stress, and one with actions to address them. As you complete these tasks, visualize yourself utilizing and depleting your “stress supply.”
40. Laugh it out. Research shows that laughter soothes tension, improves your immune system, and even eases pain. If you can’t relax for long, start with just ten minutes watching a funny video on YouTube.
It’s a long list, but there’s much left to be said! Can you think of anything to add to this list—other areas of life where we need to practice letting go, and other techniques to start doing it right now?
It is not a new story to tell, and I wish that wasn’t the case. Many human beings (as well as non human beings) suffer from different sorts of depression, anxiety, trauma, and various other psychological disrupts. I myself am not a special incident, nor am I the only one who has felt the immense weight of complete and utter destruction upon their being. Millions of other beautiful organisms have shared the pain that I have felt, and many more will continue to feel it even as I write this blog post. I am compassionate towards all of those beings, and although I can not reach every individual out within the world, I will be extending my love to those who I am able to, and hope for others to do the same.
I have suffered with deep depre ssion since I was a child. Some of my most earliest memories were of myself laying on the floor with my dog crying, taking a rubber band to my wrist several times, and looking at National Geographic Magazine and dreaming of running away. I was fortunate to never have my family physically abuse me, or live in conditions that I did not have access to food , water, or shelter, but I did entail a roller coaster of emotional and mental abuse. My father was/still is a bipolar, major marijuana smoking, angry human being. He would treat my mother as a door mat one minute, and expect her to be a romantic partner within the next. He favored my brother, and constantly ignored or belittled me as a child. He rarely showed affection, and he would always act as if I was a burden. I was born as a premature baby due to the constant stress he put my mother through, and was nearly dead during labor. Nothing I did ever seemed to please him, and we would go through periods of time where we did not speak for weeks or months (even though we lived in the same household). On top of being made fun of at school for my petite size and unattractiveness, I was a lost child within my own mind. Fast foward through out my teenage years, and I experienced some of the most joyful and most painful emotions of my life at the time. Between loosing family members to death, falling in and out of love, and encountering emotional and sexual abuse, I was not in a stable mode to be alive. I tried to end my life on several occasions, but never was successful with my actions. Between taking 15 pills of ibprohen towards the end of my long term relationship, and trying to drown myself at the beach during college, I was an absolute mess. I longed to be released from all of the built up pain that was inside. I hated looking in the mirror, and I would find reasons to stay out of my house. My relationship with my father did not improve until more recent times, and during my late teens I was determined to change. I went out to Joshua Tree at the age of 20 for a few days and began what would be one of the biggest decisions of my life.
I put away my blade , my rubber bands, and burned my old journals which were filled with painful poetry. I discarded what was negative energy, and embraced positive space. I began writing new journals, and forgave anyone who had ever hurt me, including my father, who has been one of the biggest negative influences within my life. I forgave my ex lover for emotionally and sexually scarring me, and I forgave my brother for brutally teasing me while we were growing up. I also forgave myself for making mistakes , and allowed myself to accept my actions as a learning experience rather than a haunting nightmare. This alone was a step forward to what would be an entire journey within my life.
Although I started practicing yoga at the age of sixteen, I became dedicated to it through out my later teen years. I became obsessed with practicing, and I feel that yoga was one of the main reasons why I am still alive till this day. I do not believe in a “religion” nor do I believe in a “god”, but I do admire eastern philosophies and am spiritually connected to nature. Yoga has made that connection even more powerful. And it is why I am in a Yoga teaching program , as I want to be able to bring this mindfullness and peace to others, just as it was brought to me.
I’ve had my heart broken more than once , just as everyone who has ever loved has, and even though it is seemingly a battle for me to be able to release that tension and love again, I am constantly meditating on this and finally am allowing myself to let it go. Even when it creeps up, I will always come back to my inner-self and not let the fear and resistance guide me. And at this moment in my life, I am happy that I am letting it go, because having someone in your life who you are truly connected to on a romantic and friendship level is beautiful. Yoga, cycling, and being within nature has all been apart of my healing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And to all of those who are out there who do not believe that “it will get better”, or that they will “recover”, just know that I understand what you are feeling, and I want you to know that in order for those phrases to have meaning within your life, you have to be able to step outside of the box and let go of all of your old chains that are holding you down.
No matter how tight.
No matter how long.
No matter how painful.
It will have to be released one day, and even when it is, it is a life long journey to keep your wings open.
And that is the beauty of life.
It is forever evolving.
It is never about being “skinny”, or being “pretty enough”. Those are phrases used against women (as well as men), to try to force them to fit within a box of assumptions and demands. It enslaves the minds of human beings to believe that their character and their life is defined by an artificial covering , an unnatural expectation. What matters is the health and prosperity of a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual existence within oneself. Love yourself, love others, nourish your body, and disregard what society tells you. Thousands of genetic combinations does not equal to fitting into a standard. You are more than what society tries to imprint you as .