One of the most practical spiritual practices we can ever embrace is the act of "letting go."
"Letting go" goes beyond mere forgiveness; "letting go" asks us to trust that everything which happens is for our highest good. In the bright light of day it asks us to live a spiritual life—regardless of who is doing what to us, in spite of any current financial or health experience, and even when things are going great. How well we let go is the clearest and most obvious indication of where we are on our spiritual paths.
Actually, walking this path is more courageous than merely taking a road less traveled. It involves the courage to overcome our resistance.
A major reason most of us resist letting go is that we trust our limited-perceptions, our conditioned mind, much more than we trust the immanent and transcendent mystery which many of us call "God." So even though we talk about letting go and letting Spirit, most of the time our actions prove we really believe we know a better solution to our troubles than divine intelligence.
To the extent that we can let go during a challenge—be it with health, be it in relationships, be it anything at all—to that same extent do we really trust the Universe.
Anything else is just a lie we tell ourselves to mask our lack of faith.
Another obvious reason we don't let go is that our society teaches us exactly the opposite. In Western countries especially, we are all encouraged to fix, flee, or fight with anything or anyone we think is doing the wrong thing. Even if we mentally agree with the great spiritual idea that "what is, is," we have been carefully trained to be suspicious of intuition and spiritual guidance. Few of us, therefore, know how to turn the other cheek and let things be.
Trusting the Universe
We often take the view that in order to care about something or someone, we must constantly assert our will on it or them. We righteously convince ourselves that we are just" doing the right thing." We may tell ourselves that God is the ultimate answer to any problem, but just as with our own challenges, our actions prove we trust our own solutions more than Spirit's. Rather than risk the possibility that others might think we don't care, or worse yet, think we condone a situation, we deny the divine expression attempting to be known through us and through the situation.
Letting go from this perspective asks us to let people be who they really are so that they might fully live their own lives. Not only must we trust the Universe, or God, to work things out appropriately for them, we must also be willing to let others work out their own relationships with Spirit, learn their own lessons, and walk their own paths. Or to put it another way, it is time to start minding our own business.
This does not mean that we ignore negative or dangerous conditions, the solutions for which are visible and clear to us. It does mean, however, that we act out of the guidance of Spirit which comes from our having let go.
A good way to begin is to consciously release to Spirit everyone and everything in our lives that we think we need to fix, fight, or run from and to realize that the real work for us ... is ourselves!
Such work may mean getting insight into one of the great reasons that letting go is so difficult: It means giving up control. For most of us, giving up or (heaven, forbid!) losing control is the ultimate disadvantage, the ultimate loss of power. It is one thing to give up our control of other people's lives ... but we'll be darned if we will give up control of our own lives! Yet what we are really saying is that we don't trust God, or the Universe, with something so important as our lives. Most of our actions continue to prove that we believe we are wiser and more competent than Spirit.
It's no wonder we don't want to let go, when our idea of God is that God is so small, weak, and (worse yet) controllable by us! So instead of embracing a bigger and more miraculous concept of God, we end up facing life in control, but all alone.
Finally, much of our difficulty in letting go and letting God is fear.
What would it be like on this planet if everyone just let go of their fear-based thinking and consciously let Spirit work in their lives? The way you answer that one question illumines your greatest fears or beliefs about life. If you believe that the world would "go to hell in a handbasket," you obviously do not really believe in a benevolent and loving universe. If you think that everyone would take advantage of you or others—your underlying fear is that people are basically bad and out to get you and that life is a constant struggle.
On the other hand, if you answer that question with the conviction that people would rise to their highest potential, you are affirming the unlimited, positive Essence which is everywhere present. If the first thought popping into your mind is that the world would be transformed to a place of loving kindness, you speak of the trust and love which exists ever present in your heart.
Author and teacher Walter Starke has frequently used the term free fall as a metaphor for transformation. It also describes the process of letting go. Several years ago my husband Thom arranged for me to go skydiving as a birthday present. He did so because I had told him repeatedly that it was something I had always wanted to do. But the day I was faced with having to call to make an appointment was the day I had to put my beliefs where my mouth was. Letting go is a lot like that.
When I finally made the appointment, when I finally showed up for my jump, I knew that I had arrived at the place where my beliefs and my words were in alignment.
Once I trusted both my inner desire to experience skydiving and the Universe enough to know that nothing "bad" would happen to me, the rest was easy.
I will always remember my "free-fall "experience as a letting go of fear and as an embrace of my own unique expression of Spirit. Yours might not come from jumping out of an airplane, but chances are, your "free-fall" experience is one of the greatest jumps you'll ever take. It is a leap of faith, the benefits of which we can only appreciate by experiencing it.
There is a saying that letting go is simple, but it isn't easy.
Every single day, every single minute on this planet, we are all presented with people, experiences, opportunities, and challenges. Each one of them holds a glittering diamond of possibility in the area of letting go and letting God. All challenge us to live up to our highest potentials, release our fears, and live as the divine expressions of Spirit that we truly are.
This article originally appeared in Unity Magazine®.