Imagine that you’re holding a handful of sand. You squeeze your palm tight, desperate to hold onto every grain. But the harder you grip, the more it slips away, escaping through the cracks between your fingers.
This is a lot like life—your hand represents you, and the sand represents your past. And unclenching can come with uncertainty, fear, and a feeling of vulnerability.
However, letting go can do more wonders than not. It’s in this seeming vulnerability that lies the very strength of transformation, growth, and newfound freedom.
But this isn’t about an end; rather, it’s about a beautiful new beginning where you heal through your past so that you can embrace the joy of the future. And as Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God and trainer of Mindvalley’s Awaken the Species Quest, says, “If you carry joy in your heart, you can heal any moment.”
Why Is It So Hard to Let Go of the Past?
Letting go can be challenging because it’s intimately connected to our identity and our perceived safety in the familiar.
What’s more, studies suggest that our brains are wired to remember negative experiences more strongly. This causes past traumas or hardships to stick around longer, making them harder to release.
Relinquishing the past is like a dance between clinching and freeing, remembering and forgetting, and holding on and releasing. It’s all about acknowledging the past but not allowing it to be a roadblock on your path to personal growth and emotional well-being.
Oftentimes, learning how to let go of the past sometimes feels like jumping off a cliff without knowing what awaits at the bottom. And that can be scary, though, can’t it?
But here’s the thing: often, what awaits is freedom. The freedom to grow, to change, to move forward, and to build anew.
Why your brain can’t just “let it go”
We have evolved to avoid danger and chase pleasure. And while chasing pleasure certainly has its perks, it’s ultimately the danger-avoiding centers of the brain that trump our processing centers.
When something bad happens, our brain cements the experience into our psyche with powerful precision.
“That was terrible,” the brain declares. “We don’t want that to happen again. That was upsetting and frightening. We need to make sure we steer clear of those types of experiences in the future.”
Whether it’s a terrible breakup, a bad work experience, or a personal trauma, your brain won’t soon forget it. And you’ll be stuck reliving it again and again.
That is, until you learn the skill of moving on and letting go.
How Do You Let Go and Move On?
Picture your emotional baggage as a colossal suitcase that you’ve been lugging around. It’s heavy and bulky, which makes it incredibly tough to navigate through life’s narrow corridors.
So, how do you start to let things go? How do you free yourself from the weight of this metaphorical baggage?
David Hawkins, an acclaimed psychiatrist and spiritual teacher, proposes that letting go is about surrendering a lesser position for a greater one.
“Letting go involves being aware of a feeling, letting it come up, staying with it, and letting it run its course without wanting to make it different or do anything about it,” he explains in his book Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender. “It means simply to let the feeling be there and to focus on letting out the energy behind it.”
Moreover, learning how to move on from the past includes practicing acceptance and forgiveness, as well as making space for growth.
- First off, it begins with acceptance. It’s about understanding that some things are just what they are. It’s about acknowledging the reality of a situation, no matter how hard it might be, and choosing to let it be.
- Forgiveness isn’t about condoning wrongs; it’s about releasing resentment. It’s like someone cutting you off in traffic. You can shake your fist and honk your horn, but it doesn’t change what happened. Forgiveness is choosing to take your hand off the horn, take a deep breath, and keep driving.
- We all want to grow, improve, and become better versions of ourselves. Letting go is an integral part of this personal growth journey. Think of it as pruning a tree—you remove the old, dead branches and allow new growth to come in.
How do you let someone go?
Whether it’s a past lover who left us heartbroken, a friend who drifted away, or a family member we’ve had a fallout with, the process can be gut-wrenchingly difficult.
Remember Ross and Rachel from Friends? Their on-again, off-again romance kept us hooked, but it was also a wild roller-coaster of emotions that left them (and us!) drained more often than not. Such is the nature of many real-life relationships, too.
But it can undoubtedly get exhausting. It’s as Katherine Woodward Thomas, relationship expert and trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Uncoupling Quest, says:
“If you are operating under the illusion that you can continue to hold on to people who you know are not good for you and still create an extraordinary life filled with love and fulfillment, then you are fooling yourself.”
Letting go with mindfulness and compassion for someone you loved can honor the love that once was and let you open up your heart again. You acknowledge the cracks, but you also appreciate the beauty they once held.
How to Move On: Tips From Mindvalley Experts
A famous quote from Buddha says that “holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else—you are the one who gets burned.” And the Wise One has a valid point: anger burns.
So the question is, if the coal is so hot and painful, why do you keep holding onto it? This is where loosening your grip is worth considering.
Here are a few tips on how to let go from Mindvalley experts:
1. Release resentments
In her Mindvalley Quest, Katherine encourages you to take 110% responsibility for how you showed up in the past. And then let go of your shame and guilt because they may hinder your possibility for growth.
She suggests reflecting on the following questions:
- Who do I still resent, and for what?
- Where do I feel the anger and hurt towards this person in my body?
- What specifically did I do or not do that contributed to what happened?
That, of course, doesn’t mean that other people haven’t behaved badly toward you. But when you’re willing to let go of resentment, you take your power back and make space for something greater to come into your life.
“In letting go of being a victim,” says Katherine, “you access the power to cause a miracle for yourself.”
2. Trust the breakdowns
The destruction of the old is the first step in creating a new, fulfilling life as you desire it. So trust the breakdowns and let them happen while letting go.
Katherine advises you to answer the following questions:
- What is the breakdown I am experiencing?
- How is this breakdown an opportunity to grow in the direction of my intention to manifest a happy, healthy life?
- What are the new ways of relating to myself and others I can now take on as a result of this growth?
And let yourself feel the emotions that are coming up. Once the energy behind them dissipates, you’ll have more clarity on how you want to create your life from now on.
3. Embrace change
In the process of letting go, most people would face resistance to change. However, “if you resist change, you resist life,” explains Sadhguru, a spiritual teacher and trainer of Mindvalley’s A Yogi’s Guide to Joy Quest.
So what if, instead, you let go of the resistance and felt all the emotional experiences that may lead you to transformational change?
You may use a short-release practice, such as The Sedona Method. It focuses on finding the resistance in your body and then asking yourself the following questions:
- Could I let this feeling go? This question is about possibility, asking you if you are capable of letting the feeling go.
- Would I let it go? It’s all about willingness to answer this question. It asks you if you’re willing to let the feeling go.
- When? This is about the timing, inviting you to decide to let go of the feeling now.
These questions are designed to help you explore your feelings and challenge the hold they have over you. And as you do so, you may just find that you’re able to let go of the emotional burdens.
4. Write a letter of forgiveness
Write a forgiveness letter. It’s a practice that releases the resentment holding you back from moving forward. And it’s one that Marie Diamond, an energy healer and trainer of Mindvalley’s Success Magic Quest, encourages everyone to do.
What’s important to keep in mind, as she explains, is knowing that the letter will be written to the soul of the person or situation that you want to let go of, not to their ego.
So write down everything you wish you could have shared with them. This includes:
- All the hate, hurt, and frustration,
- The lessons you’ve learned,
- Your appreciation for special moments, and
- The positive impact they’ve had on your life forever.
When you’re done, Marie recommends signing the letter and burning it at noon on a sunny day. According to her, the reason for that is the high level of chi (life force energy) you have during that time of the day. And this results in a maximum capacity for letting go of resentment and moving on with your healing process.
5. Enjoy the sense of unity
Humans have the need for connection and togetherness. This can seem counterintuitive to your process of letting go of the past and healing emotional wounds—after all, isn’t letting go about severing ties?
Yes, it is, but for those who and things that no longer serve you.
But letting go also means finding the strength in connecting with those who and things that do serve you. As Neale highlights in his Awaken the Species Quest on Mindvalley, “An awakened species sees the unity of all life and lives into it.”
So when you lean into connection for strength, it can make the process of letting go easier.
Let It Be and Let It Go
Letting go is less about losing something and more about gaining—the gaining of peace, freedom, and a heart ready to embrace the future with openness and compassion.
When you stop resisting old resentments, you may simply learn that “there will be an answer, [so] let it be,” as The Beatles sang a long time ago. And your wounds may be let go, just as they came into your life.
If you need some inspiration on your journey to healing, Mindvalley is the place for you. Your transformation can start with insightful Quests, such as:
- Awaken the Species with Neale Donald Walsch
- Conscious Uncoupling with Katherine Woodward Thomas
- A Yogi’s Guide to Joy by Marie Diamond
By unlocking your free access, you may sample classes from these programs and many others. What’s more, there are free selected meditations on the daily, some specifically designed for helping to let go and forgive.
Don’t hold back on connecting to the most liberating version of yourself. You can let go of the fear of doing so.