Lessons in Letting Go

I’m sure I’m not the only one guilty of perpetuating my own unhappiness by reliving horrible experiences in my mind and dwelling upon situations that have upset me. Recently I gained some new “tools” to help me stop these bad habits and take positive steps forward.

My family and I have had a rough time in the 6 months since I last wrote here on Many Cha Cha. We left Tasmania (and have moved a number of times since) due to the malicious acts of one or two vile individuals who operate without conscience. There’s always more than one side to a story, of course, but there is no version of this one that justifies the upheaval and suffering that my children have gone through as a result of those people’s actions.

The experience left me with burning bitterness and seething resentment, which of course does nothing to alleviate a difficult situation. I realised that in order to move on, I needed to let go. But I was so caught in a cycle of stewing and overthinking that I didn’t know how.

I decided to investigate ways of “letting go” used by different cultures around the world, and I found that there are numerous traditional, symbolic ways to release negativity.

Across the globe, there are common themes when it comes to rituals of release. Some traditions involve breaking, smashing or burning significant objects, such as the Italian New Year custom of literally tossing out and burning the old in order to make room for new. Historically, Italians and Greeks would break glasses and plates around the entrance to their homes in order to discourage negative energy from entering.

Many “letting go” rituals require an object to actually be sent out into the environment, either on wind or water. In China, sky lanterns made from rice paper have been used for thousands of years as a way to cast away fears, while kite strings are cut so they may carry sorrow away into the sky. Both of these methods are also used to send hopes and dreams up to the heavens.

A charming and probably very healing Native American tradition apparently involves digging a hole in the ground near a tree (or perhaps using a knot-hole in the tree itself) in which to whisper all your stories of anger and grief, then filling in the hole and thanking the tree for listening.

My children and I used these traditional ideas as starting points for activities. We made simple kites from twigs, paper and yarn and then ran with the wind, attempting to fly the kites by a flat lake. We blew up balloons and let them go, giggling ourselves silly as they blurted around and deflated. Together we foraged for broad leaves and gum nuts to make little boats. We sent them floating out onto a glassy billabong beneath soaring eucalypts.

Perhaps it was the symbology or the “ritual” aspect of the activities that helped me let go of much of my venomous anger. Maybe it was the running or the children laughing or the calm reflections in the water or the rustle of overhead gum leaves. It doesn’t matter.

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