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Letting Go


caneel executive coach

I'm a social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

The seed for today’s post is an email exchange I had in 2017 with a client who is near and dear to me. The subject was “letting go.” In a hurry to get my blog done today, I found it saved in an email folder called ‘blog post potential’.

Funny enough, “letting go” is exactly the same subject I was “reading” about on my walk this morning (I was actually listening to an Audible book).

Hm, letting go must really be what’s up with me right now. (More on that below.)

In The Joy of Genius, Gay Hendricks recommends a practice to help you physical experience what letting go feels like in the body: Hold a small ball in your hand, arm stretched out in front of you, palm facing down. Then slowly let it go. Spoiler alert, when you let it, the ball drops.

This morning while listening to Gay read me this chapter, I did the “letting go” practice while he gave the instructions. (I didn’t have a ball, so I used the contact lens case that was still in my pocket from when I went downstairs to get my coffee because I couldn’t figure out if I still had yesterday’s contact left in one eye or not.) While walking by my neighbors houses in the early morning fog, I held my contact lens case in my hand, stretched my arm out in front of me, and slowly let it drop. Then drop again. Then drop again.

Then I repeated Gay’s second practice, called “letting be”, three times. Letting be is the same move as letting go, but with your palm facing up. Instead of the object falling when you let it go, it simply rests in your palm, then eventually rolls or flops or does whatever it does, all on its own. I imagine a ball might roll and eventually drop, without much drama. My contact lens case just hovered in place on my hand, though.

Easy, right?

This quote from Gay rang in my ears as my hair got frizzier and frizzier in the fog.

Let go or let be — it never gets any more complicated than that. Notice the grip, release the grip, let it drop or let it be. It’s the simplest thing in the world and yet so hard for most of us to learn in real life. Fortunately, the universe in its wisdom gifts us with many opportunities to practice the art of letting go.

Gay Hendricks, The Joy of Genius (p. 38)

I wondered what I wasn’t yet letting go of, and the answers weren’t hard to find. For me, seeking approval is a BIG thing to let go of… again, and again, and again.

Letting go actually seems to be the essence of the life journey. From the moment we are conceived (letting go of eternal life) to being born (letting go of the safety of the womb) to adolescence (letting go of being cared for as a pure dependent) to falling in love (letting go of controlling our heart) to childbearing (letting go of controlling our bodies) and parenting (letting go of being right) and midlife (letting go of others’ dreams for us) to aging (letting go of our independence) and death (letting go of attachment), the whole journey is just one big let go. Each time you let go, you gain freedom and perspective and ultimately, you have the opportunity to deepen your awareness that you are nothing but love, and that you were never anything but, and that you have always been connected to love and to everything that you ever knew or wanted. Wow, what a journey. Notice the grip, release the grip, let it drop or let it be. There is nothing else.

Subject: Letting Go

May 11, 2017, 11:11am

I’ll offer that there is a difference between being and doing, but that is obvious. One of my favorite ways of “being” is to be a channel or vessel for my essence, which leads me effortlessly to unplanned “doing” in a way that is deeply connected to who I am and the world around me (when I am fully present). I “am” compassionate, and when I am most present is when I am most “being” compassionate, which leads to spontaneous acts of compassion when the opportunities arise by surprise. I can also act with intention while being present to my deepest desires, which are another part of my way of being.

When I am not present, by contrast, I plan my actions (my things to do) and become attached to them as plans rather than being guided by my way of being in the present moment. This is when I get disconnected from my essence and source, which for me shows up as a temporarily obsessive focus on achievement which eventually becomes toxic (sometimes quickly)! A conflict emerges with what I am presently being (I am compassionate and want to help my heartbroken friend who just called) with the plans my former self made for what I “should be doing” (I should let it go to voicemail and stay distracted from this conflict by diving deeper into working).

In my morning meditation (used the Calm app today) I decided to do the “Letting Go” meditation in honor of you, [@client name]. And all of us trying to let go of something! There was a quote at the end that I loved. I’ll try to remember: “Letting go is not about getting rid of the past as much as it is completely opening up to welcome the present moment.”

Since presence is intermittent for all of us, it makes sense that letting go is a slowly unfolding process.

The conversation snippet I saved ends there.

Back to the foggy hills where I walked and listened to Gay Hendricks’ friendly wisdom early this morning. While I let go of my contact lens case for his Letting Go exercise, I thought about what else I wanted to let go of. Where else could I find freedom? It wasn’t hard to think of at least a dozen things.

Here are some of the things I’m not yet letting go of. Right now I’m exploring, but it’s still not easy to let go of:

· being right

· blame

· self criticism

· defensiveness

· habits, compulsions, addictions, obsessions, fixations

· distrust

· attachment

· comfort and safety

· the extra jiggly skin under my arms since I hit 40

· my heart’s greatest dreams

But I know that freedom is on the other side. Like a one year old, I’m toddling in that direction, holding onto anything I can while I feel what it’s like to put one foot in front of the other. It’s exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, and always scary. Fear, I’m told, simply means that I’m aware I don’t know everything that’s going to happen, and that I can learn. Fear is the same physiologically as excitement. But in the moment, letting go of these things feels hard. Which I guess means I’m not yet totally willing to let it drop and find out that I’m okay. It sounds a bit crazy to even read that logic. Why the heck am I holding on still? Because when the conscious and subconscious minds fight, the subconscious always wins, and right now my subconscious isn‘t yet ready to trust. Who am I to rush it? Blaming myself will only slow me down in letting go of blame, it’s a catch 22. So I’m just going to stay present.

There are also things that are easier to let go of these days: tennis balls, contact lens cases. And then there are the ones that took genuine work and messing up and learning and coaching and therapy. More and more, I’m now letting go of:

· Seeing myself or others as victims. (thank you, Diana Chapman, CLG, and my wonderful forum of journey partners!)

· Saving and helping behavior (ditto)

· Friends and relationships that I’ve grown away from, or that no longer serve (thank you to my husband Roy, Mom, and meike)

· Potential clients that don’t share my desires or values (you’re welcome!)

· My old standards of what I should look like when I take the kids to school (thank you #beachlife)

· The idea that there is such a thing as a perfect parent (thank you to my kids Soren and Arrow! And thank you to my parents!)

· The expectation that everything I do needs to be F*&%ING AMAZING and if not, I must make myself suffer. (thank you to life, and aging, and back pain, and my therapist, and to my own role in getting to this place)

And finally, I’m letting go of old blog post drafts that two years ago, I thought weren’t anywhere near ready to share yet.

Here goes.

If this brought up any new awareness for you, please consider leaving a comment.

Writing your internal thoughts can really speed up your clarity, healing and resolution, and sharing can really help others, too… so you are warmly invited to offer a comment below.

What is letting go like for you today? What have you finally let go of in your life and what did it do for you?

What are you still holding onto? What will it feel like once you have genuinely let that go, too?


Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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