What It Means To Let Go

It was 2 years ago today that I suddenly lost my mother, without a doubt the most difficult and transformational event in my life. The months that followed were very dark, filled with self-abuse and negativity. My mother was the most loving, supportive, selfless person I knew, how could she be taken from me, from the world, so suddenly?

This darkness lasted for about 6 months until one day when I read a post on facebook from a girl who suffered similar trauma, coped in similar ways, and yet was able to find happiness again. I reached out, told her my story, and set a time to meet.

That one conversation saved my life.

Actually, just one idea from that one conversation saved my life. Since that time, this same idea appeared over and over in my studies and meditations, as well as testimonies from people who have recovered from traumatic events.

The idea that changed my life is control, the fact that we don't have much of it, and desire to have more of it. I wanted nothing more then to bring my mother back, to rewind time, to hear her comforting voice, and it tortured me that I could not do this. Though I knew these things were impossible, I never released my desire for them, which caused an immense amount of suffering.

As it turns out, for how powerful we think we are as human beings, we actually control very little. In fact, we control absolutely nothing other then ourselves. Life can, and will, throw challenges at us. Injury, disease, and disaster can strike at any moment and any level of severity. The more we try to control that which cannot be controlled, the more suffering, anxiety, and fear it causes. Fear is nothing more then a lack of control coupled with a desire to have it. You are held at gunpoint- fear arises due to the desire to control your ability to live through the trigger finger of the assailant. Anxious about a job interview- desire to control the opinions of the hiring company. Fear of losing a loved one- desire to control the fate of another person. You get my point.

My life changing epiphany occurred not when I realized that I had no control over the world, but when I let go of that desire only to find how much control I do have in my own experience of the world. I can't control what happened to my mother. I can control how I react to the loss and how I deal with it on a daily basis. I control how I treat my body, my breath, and my mind. I control how I see the world, how I think, how I treat other people, and how I live in my community.

One by one, I started making changes. I quit smoking. I changed my diet. I explored my spirituality. I released my emotions instead of suppressing them. I dove head first into my yoga practice to the extent of getting certified as a teacher (one the best decisions of my life). I spent my free time doing only what I loved to do. I allowed the stresses of daily life and work to move through me. I expressed gratitude daily. For the first time in my life, I found love for myself.

In a years time of working on myself, I reflected on my current state in contrast to a year prior. I was happy, very happy. This happiness attracted a healthy relationship, success in my business, and the ability to help others by sharing what I have learned. Yes, there were moments of relapse, but I never punished myself. I learned to forgive, to let go, and commit to taking a different approach the next time. I realized I now have a totally different perspective on life and I better understand my role on this planet. I learned that sadness and suffering are two different things. Sadness is a normal human emotion, something I naturally feel and should release in a healthy way. Suffering comes from the inability to release this sadness and allowing it to become a part of me.

I learned that life is a magnificent opportunity and suffering from an exterior happenstance is only time lost from creating value with that opportunity.

I was afraid to let go of my mother because I didn't want to dismiss the love I shared with her. I thought the suffering would keep me connected with her, help me remember her. I learned that is not what it means to let go. Instead, to let go is to release the desire to control the situation, to understand impermanence, and to express gratitude for the love shared with that person. You honor them through gratitude, not lament. My mother wanted me to be happy, successful, and loving. I will be these things, and in doing so, honor her and all that she gave me in our time together.

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*If you, or anyone you know is struggling with these concepts, please reach out to me at steve@riffsstudios.com. My life was saved by reaching out to a stranger, and I would be honored to pay it forward and help someone else.*

For more daily inspiration, follow my Instagram at @onehartyoga or check out some of my classes at Riffs Studios.

Comments

Anonymous
Feb 2, 2016
Anonymous
Awesome and beautiful post ✌️❤️???? Jules Upton
Anonymous
Feb 1, 2016
Anonymous
This is so great Stephen and I appreciate you sharing it with us so much. I needed to hear this! Thank you Valentina S.
Anonymous
Feb 1, 2016
Anonymous
This is so great Stephen and I appreciate you sharing it with us so much. I needed to hear this! Thank you
Anonymous
Jan 29, 2016
Anonymous
Steve, your words are so comforting to me right now, in this time of need. I lost my sister last week, due to an apparent accidental overdose. I am so heartbroken, sad and angry. You make so much sense. I know it will take time to release my wanting to control. Thank you for helping me see the light.
Anonymous
Jan 28, 2016
Anonymous
Thank you for that beautiful and insightful piece. After the murder of my mother by my little sister, I have wanted to put my thoughts into words and what you wrote was spot on.
Anonymous
Jan 28, 2016
Anonymous
As one of your mother's good friends I can see her proud smile of what you have become, of what she wished for you...inner peace. She will never quit teaching you. She will never leave you. Her love for her children was powerful on earth and is now being driven through spirit. Enjoy her light. Love to you, priscilla
Anonymous
Jan 27, 2016
Anonymous
too true. my mother died when I was a child and, as I was so young, it took me much much longer than a year to be able to understand the causes of my resulting depression and self hate. But eventually I learned from the situation and I believe it made me a much better person than who I would be if I had not experienced that drama. The turning point of finally getting happy was learning to let go of fear (manifested in me as constant social anxiety and paranoia), and learning to love myself (the only thing I can control).
Anonymous
Jan 27, 2016
Anonymous
Just remember that little bit of her lives on through you so go and make her proud! You, my friend already have!!
Anonymous
Jan 27, 2016
Anonymous
Glad this popped up on my Facebook feed. Thanks for sharing your experience; I'll keep thinking about that idea of giving up "control."
Anonymous
Jan 27, 2016
Anonymous
I read this with such heartfelt emotion. I can see in this photo that your mother was a beautiful woman both inside and out and she would be so incredibly proud of you. Keep on living life to it's fullest - you are obviously a talented and kind young man with an incredible journey still ahead. Peace to you
Anonymous
Jan 27, 2016
Anonymous
steve, amazing how you worked so hard to understand life and the universe. you accomplished sooo much in your young life already, so much understanding, so much beauty, you stay true to yourself and don't try to be someone else. your classes are wonderful, please continue being who you are!
Anonymous
Jan 27, 2016
Anonymous
Steve, this is so beautifully written from your heart. I can't imagine how you felt as everything happened so fast. I totally respect you and know from my own experience that embracing each day and what it has to offer is our answer. God Bless you and keep up what you are doing.
Anonymous
Jan 27, 2016
Anonymous
Steve. You are the best. I have so much respect and admiration for you. Thank you for sharing and letting me be a part of the riffs experience. :)