On releasing control
Why we shouldn't believe our thoughts
It's nice to believe we have control over our lives.
But how much "control" do we actually have?
Like most of us, I enjoy having things to look forward to. And with a rich (/busy) work schedule, planning creates space for moments of rest.
Our plans and desires are cherished. Our intentions, wishes, and ideas feed our souls.
So the idea of not having control over our plans, and thus our lives, is a little unsettling… isn’t it?
US President Eisenhower made the seemingly paradoxical statement:
Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.
By releasing control of and attachment to our thoughts, we can alleviate self-inflicted psychological suffering.
In the beautiful book "I May Be Wrong," Natthiko shares a story about a man climbing a mountain during a heavy rainstorm. Halfway to the top, the man slips off the steep edge and barely manages to grab hold of a small tree to save himself.
As he clings to the tree, his strength is fading, and panic sets in. He considers for the first time ever that speaking to God could be wise.
"Hello? God? Can you hear me?" the man calls out, his voice filled with desperation. "I could really use some help if you do exist."
After a moment, a deep, commanding voice booms from the sky, declaring, "This is God. I can help you, but you must do as I say."
"Anything, God, anything at all," the man replies eagerly.
And God said: "Let go."
The man hesitates for a few seconds, contemplating the treacherous drop of 1500 feet below him, and then he says, "Errr... is there anyone else I could talk to?"
At times, or perhaps always, we need to let go of our grip on control and place our trust in something greater than our thoughts.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that God means different things to different people. For some, it may be a higher power, a religious belief, or a divine force. For me, it's an inner source of guidance and intuition. Maybe for you ‘god’ is the moment the sun rises from behind mountains and light is cast on each new day. Regardless of our individual beliefs, the essence of that story is about surrendering control.
Letting go doesn't mean you are being passive, but rather allowing life to unfold naturally. Instead of feeling like you are giving up on your dream, hope, or plan, learn to let go of your attachment to the outcome.
It's absolutely not an easy thing to do. We are emotional beings who care about the outcome of situations in our lives. But often, it’s the holding on that creates mental suffering.
So, before you go, take a moment to try this exercise:
Reflect on something outside of your control that you wish you could change
As you reflect on it, clench your fist tightly. Really tightly.
Hold it there for a minute or two, and squeeze
Notice how it feels. Keep holding tightly (it’s gonna hurt a bit)
Loosen your grip. Hold it more lightly…
Breathe in — Breathe out
Let it go.
The Serenity Prayer is a mantra that I have found incredibly helpful in dealing with the discomfort of losing control or disappointment.
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and Wisdom to know the difference.
I hope you found something useful in today’s letter; it’s all practice, don’t force things away; breathe deep and go gently. You are precious beyond measure.
Le grá/ with love,
PS — I’ve been working on a longer written and audio piece about pleasure — I’ll share it in the coming days. x