How To Actually Let Go Of 2012
“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” – Steve Maraboli
As we move into a new hour, day, or year, how often do we take the time to let go of what we’re bringing into it, that doesn’t serve us or help us move forward?
On New Year’s Eve, I attended an evening meditation event at a Zen Buddhist temple in Toronto. I consider myself to be spiritual, not religious. However, I attend this temple occasionally for their meditation classes.
As I walked into the temple that evening, over 200 people were seated in chairs, facing an altar of Buddha statues. The altar was beautifully decorated with ornaments, incents, candles and flower garlands. On either side of the altar was a larger candle next to a large, black bowl filled with water.
The evening program included some chanting to calm our mind, sitting meditation, and everyone carrying a candle around the room while blessing others in the room and wishing them with happiness, love, and wisdom for the new year ahead.
My favourite part of the evening was when the head monk spoke about what Buddha believed to be the roots of suffering.
The Buddha believed that suffering was due to clinging and delusion.
It got me thinking about my own clinging to what is no longer there, experiences in the past that I continue to let affect me, and why I remain attached to them.
It also made me aware of the delusion that I am Mind, how often I let my mind take me away from the present, and what I could be missing in any given moment.
We then did a Burning of Defilements ritual to let go of the previous year.
We were each given a tiny piece of paper, and told to write down what we did that wasn’t skillful in the past year. This could include things you said, did, didn’t do, or could have done better. On the same piece of paper, we wrote down what others did that wasn’t skillful.
For myself, here is what I wrote:
- I spent too long victimizing myself after a health issue last year, deliberating over what I should do next with my life, instead of taking the plunge and following my heart.
- I didn’t take good enough care of my health, and saw it waiver and fluctuate. I could have eaten better, exercised more, and addressed some minor health issues sooner than I did.
- I could have judged my loved ones less, let go of these thoughts as they came up, and spent more time communicating to create understanding.
- I held on to false hope, regret, guilt, and pain from a past relationship longer than I should have.
- I made numerous mistakes in building and growing my holistic personal and leadership development business – The Potentialists.
For others, here is what I wrote:
- The law society of British Columbia for not properly recording my leave of absence due to my health issue, resulting in me losing my status in the licensing process
- My sister for the fights we occasionally had while traveling in Europe
- My parents for their concern, worrying about me, occasional guilt trips and lack of proper communication; knowing it was all with their best intentions for me in mind.
- Some friends not showing up for events, which were importance to me, resulting in an increasing distance between us.
Once we had written on our paper, to the sounds of melodic chanting by the monks, all of the people in the temple walked up to the large candle on the side of the altar, ignited the piece of paper, and dropped the burning paper into the pool of water in the large black bowl.
As I held on to this paper, and watched it burn under the candle’s flame, I felt that in some way I was burning away these things I was holding on to. As I dropped the burning paper into the bowl of water and watched it sink slowly to the bottom, I felt as if I had just let these things go.
This ceremony was incredibly cathartic. A weight felt like it had been lifted from me. I suddenly felt that I had removed what was holding me back, gained closure to 2012, and created peace in my mind and heart to begin 2013.
They say that you have to empty your cup in order to create space for new things to enter. By taking the time to let go of and learn from the past, we make space to start fresh, connect to the present, and keep moving forward.
I hope my story of letting go and burning away my defilements from 2012 inspires you to do the same, and I wish you all an incredible year ahead.