When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. — Tao Te Ching
There is a certain theme that has played out in my life for as long as I can remember. I call it “wanting things long before I can actually get them.” Sometimes it’s really annoying (especially when paired with instant gratification) but sometimes I’m thankful for it as it prepares me long in advance for something good.
I’ve liked girls since forever. One of my earliest memories is being in pre-school, seeing a girl that I’d seen dozens of times before but on that day she just looked… different. But I watched my peers who didn’t even like girls until they were twelve get girlfriends before me. I didn’t have one until I was fifteen.
From my introduction to religion through my parents, church and school, I had a nervousness about it since I was four years old. Certain things just never made sense to me. But I didn’t walk away from the dogma until I was twenty-two.
I began my journey of self-improvement in December 2008. Almost ten years later, I’m still learning the same lessons I learnt back then as they become more and more refined with more evidence to support them. I’m healthier, happier and more confident in my ability to help others.
So I’m fortunate to have experienced the changes I desired in my life. But there were days, months, even years of feeling perpetually stuck.
How did I break out of it?
Well, the answer annoys me to this day but I cannot argue with its results.
I didn’t really do anything. That’s the answer.
When Archimedes had his eureka moment when studying volumes of liquids and solids, he was taking a bath! The reason he was able to come to his realization was because he had put in the work prior to the realization. His mind was primed to see the solution that was always there.
When you forget the name of an acquaintance, try as you might, the name just never comes to you. You know the name, you just can’t recall it right now. But once you direct your attention at other things, voila! The name pops into your mind.
I think everyone knows this but I don’t think we apply the same understanding to our goals and desires. There seems to be a prevailing thought that we have to be chasing our dreams and on the constant pursuit of happiness.
As guilty as I am of this, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed it. I like doing my work. I like progress. But when it’s framed in a pursuit of something, a chase, it just begets more chasing. So even when you get the goal, you never take the time to smell the roses.
The task itself is never enough, nor is the reward because the mental map that you’re following is to chase, chase, chase.
I always like to tell this story of a young man who approaches an oracle and asks him, “How do I achieve my dreams?” The oracle replied, “Never chase them. It implies that they are running away from you. The boy, perplexed from his answer asked another question, “How do I get a girl?” The oracle replied, “Never chase them. It implies that they are running away from you.”
Does this mean that you sit around doing nothing? Sometimes, yes! You can chase the butterfly all day long, but it might come to you if you had the patience to sit still. But, like Archimedes, if you situate yourself in the right place, good things happen.
I think we must also consider why someone would chase something in the first place. One of the strongest pillars in my life are my friendships and yet I’ve never chased a friendship except once, but it was only when I stopped chasing that I began to feel the friendship that was already there.
But why did I chase? Because of a notion that I had to have something. I had to have their friendship. For other pillars in life it could be that you have to make a certain amount of money; you have to have this type of romance; you have to reach enlightenment.
And yet I’ve never had any success with this kind of mindset. Never.
The solution, therefore, is to *ughh* let go.
Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. — Hermann Hesse
But how do we do that?
1. Allow what is to be. Don’t try and change it.
Not an easy thing to do if you have mouths to feed, right? And yet, if you check your history, it’s works one hundred per cent of the time.
2. Decide to let go of wanting it.
When we read to “let go”, this is what we’re letting go of. We often make the mistake of thinking that we’re letting go of the goal. No, we just let go of wanting it.
As Neale Donald Walsch put it, “You will not have that for which you ask, nor can you have anything you want. This is because your very request is a statement of lack, and your saying you want a thing only works to produce that precise experience — wanting — in your reality.”
When I read this many years ago, I didn’t understand it at first. But when I got it, it certainly was an eureka moment.
Wanting something means that there is something that you lack. If you continue to talk about how much you want something, you will always talk about how much you want something. You have to stop the thoughts and behaviours that are related to lack.
What we sometimes do is that when we want something, we move from that place of wanting to a place of having it because we believe we can have it. But other times, we just stay in a loop of wanting which then turns into craving, which then turns into desperation.
That desperation gets extremely heavy and we crumble under its weight. We throw our hands into the air and stop chasing. We stop trying to change things. And that is when the breakthrough happens.
Then, finally, we jump out of the tub naked and run down the Grecian streets yelling, “I’ve found it!” while horrified mothers cover the eyes of their children and the gods look on, nodding, “Yes, you got the answer you were seeking, but I hope you see the principle behind it too.”