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Live Life Fully: What do you need to let go of?

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While we're all focused on what we want to bring into our lives this year, it's helpful to take stock of what we need to let go.

After all, it's a two-way street. There's only so much capacity, and there are often competing interests with what we say we want to bring in and what already exists on our platters.

Just take the three broad categories of health, relationships and finances. All require lifestyle changes, and we need to be realistic. Otherwise, we're setting ourselves up for failure.

The most important ingredients for success include focus, discipline and support systems. Old habits are hard to break. If we're holding on to something that gets in the way, we're just engaging in self-sabotage.

Say you want to improve a relationship. First of all, you need to be specific about what you want to change. And you need to focus on your role. You can't control the other person. You can only control your actions and your responses to their behavior.

This doesn't mean you have to roll over, by any means. You can set some firm boundaries about what you will and won't accept going forward. Remember, what you tolerate, you cannot change. And we teach people how to treat us.

So, don't be surprised if you aren't taken seriously right out of the box. You have to make a concerted effort to stick to the new boundaries. The other person in the equation may likely ignore your new approach, thinking it will pass.

People do what works. We've trained the people in our lives -- and they've trained us -- to go along in certain patterns. What may seem like a very legitimate request on your part may well rock the other person's world.

So, it's imperative that you have systems in place to stay the course. A strong incentive could occur in a steadfast intention to let go of what you will no longer tolerate.

There's a New Year's ritual I do every year that sets the course for me. It's called the "Burning Bowl Ceremony," and it can be done alone or in a group. I usually participate in a group ceremony at Unity of Kanawha Valley, led by the Rev. Sky Kershner. I've described the steps below, prepared by Peggy Gunter, for a do-it-yourself ritual.

It's a powerful release of what I choose to let go. Nothing like seeing that list go up in flames to sear the point in your mind!

Then I have a fresh slate to invite in what I want for each new year. I consider all of January as the New Year, so I think it's appropriate to observe this at any point during the month (or whenever you choose throughout the year).

Burning Bowl Ceremony

  • After a time of quiet reflection, consider what your dreams and goals are for the new year.
  • Write down those things you resolve to let go as a way of removing obstacles in the path of your goals. Spend some time with this, and consider playing soft music in the background.
  • When you're ready, light a match to the paper, hold it over a bowl and safely let it drop into the ashes. This symbolizes and solidifies your intention to let go of those things that no longer serve you. (I often do a fist pump afterward!)
  • Even if you're trying to release something intangible like resentment or judgment, you could use this method. In fact, it works very well.

    You can certainly choose to release those things that don't serve without a formal ceremony. I just find that the ritual helps to seal the deal.

    As author Joseph Campbell said, "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. You can't make an omelet without breaking the eggs."

    Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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