Monastic Strategies: How Do We Learn to Let Go?

Monastic Strategies: How Do We Learn to Let Go? January 19, 2021

Monastic Strategies: How Do We Learn to Let Go?

How Do We Learn to Let Go?

Many of us believe, whether we realize it or not, it is better to hold on than to let go.

We have worked hard for what we have and do not want to lose the rewards of all our effort and persistence. Some of us learned to apply ourselves and take care of what we have wisely. We feel grateful, but also know we want to hold onto what we have earned.

It seems foolish for us to let go of what our work has earned for us.

Some of us believe if we work hard and hold on tight our patience and persistence will be rewarded. It just seems fair to think good things happen to good people.

If we deserve to hold onto what we earn, it is easy for us to assume other people get what they deserve, too.

This year has shaken our conviction it is better to hold on than to let go. Some of us have lost people and places and things we loved despite holding on as hard as we could.

For some of us, the primary lesson of the last year was learning to let go.

Letting go is a serious challenge for many of us. We hold on to what we have, determined not to lose what we have earned. Some of us believe we are only as important, only as good, as what we own.

We are not simply being selfish. Some of us are afraid to lose what we have, or believe we have earned the things with which we surround ourselves.

I know people who pay much more attention to holding on than to using what they have to do good in the world.

Can we learn when to let go?

When Do We Need to Let Go?

There are times when letting go is easy for us to recognize, even when it is difficult to do.

We let go when there is no way for us to continue, when holding on is no longer an option. There have been goals I have had for so long, had worked so long to accomplish, it was almost impossible to let them go.

Some of us commit ourselves to performing a specific task, to a certain relationship, to seeing ourselves in one way. We will do anything we can to overcome challenges and obstacles which get in our way.

Holding on becomes something we grow used to doing. We forget what it is like not to hold on and work toward our goal.

Many of us allow holding on to shape us, to be a quality we value in our inner core. We like to think we are being persistent, but it is actually a form of stubbornness within us.

It is easy for us not to appreciate, when we hold onto what we have, we are not allowing something new into our lives.

We grasp so tightly we cannot receive anything new, anything more. When we hold tightly onto what we already know we cannot see the beauty in discovering something new.

Holding so tightly onto anything we have can be painful for us. We pay attention to protecting what we think we already possess and miss the lessons and blessings all around us.

When we feel the weight we are carrying, when our arms grow tired, we need to learn to let go.

Each day is filled with opportunities to open our hands and offer what we have to other people. There is more for us if we are willing to receive it.

Learning to Let Go

Many of the most effective lessons I have learned have not come from trying my hardest. The lessons I remember are not the results of studying or pushing myself. I have been shaped most deeply by being pushed beyond my own limits.

Facing situations beyond the reach of my hope is what shows me new hope. Difficulties beyond what I think I can do teach me how much more potential I have.

Part of our belief in our own abilities is our unwillingness to exceed the limits we impose on ourselves. We think we understand what we can do and are not going to push ourselves further. Exceeding the limits we believe we have makes us uncomfortable.

Throughout our lives we gain experience which teaches us we are more than we expect.

We cannot hold onto everything all at the same time. We learn how to hold on wisely and well by learning when and how to let go.

There is an intricate relationship between holding on and letting go we need to explore. Recognizing the importance of letting go teaches us the deepest truths about holding on. It is something we need to practice.

Learning to Let Go of Spiritual Life

One of the attractive and challenging things about life is how ironic it is. Life confounds our assumptions and expectations. It is always more than we thought, always beyond our control.

We cannot hold onto spiritual life by trying to control it. It is beyond our control and always will be. The key to appreciating spiritual life is to let go of our desire to control it.

The ironies of spiritual life can make it feel challenging to understand. Like many valuable parts of our lives, it is not an academic subject we can learn about in theory. Spiritual life is not an experiment, but a relationship.

As we enter this relationship in more depth we learn to let go of what we expect. It becomes an intimate relationship.

The struggle to learn how and when to let go teaches us how and when to hold on. Resilience is revealed to us in our balance between holding on and letting go.

We find our balance and continue growing. We push through dark clouds into new light.

How can we learn to let go today?

When can we practice learning to let go this week?

[Image by NancyFry]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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