Flexible not limber: Letting go of your plan

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans’? Well, whether or not you are religious, it is not hard to realize that life can be incredibly unpredictable. So unpredictable in fact, that sometimes the idea of making plans sounds absurd and letting go seems to be the only option.

One moment you’re laughing with someone, the next thing you’re standing over their grave, one moment you’re climbing your way up the career ladder, the next you’ve slipped and can’t seem to find your grip. Of course, it can be unpredictable in some wonderful ways as well: One moment you’re walking along and the next thing the love of your life pops out of nowhere like some sort of miracle, one moment you’re scrounging around for the next meal and almost like a dream, your big break walks right through the door with a wink: ‘I’m here!’.

Either way, it’s almost as if life likes to give us a tiny twirl when it thinks we’re getting a bit arrogant. It’s not hard to admit that the idea that such a tiny expression of the universe can control its ebb and flow is slightly hilarious.

Now, this is where a lot of people tend to get apathetic. ‘It doesn’t matter what I do anyway’, or ‘nothing I do works out’ are usually signs of a disillusioned person who got his or her first lesson in the illusion of control.

This is a trap and one that many spiritual people, including myself, fall into. ‘Let it be’ and ‘control is just an illusion’ is not code for sit on the couch the whole day and do nothing. Rather, it’s a reminder that we need to be flexible to the ever-changing tides of life. We need to let go of the idea that our planned out story may not be the best path and perhaps the universe has something greater in store for us.

This does not mean that we don’t plan. It just means that we are open to change when it comes along. We are open to letting go of our plan. This way we can step into our power and allow the divine waves of life to take us wherever it sees fit.

Surrender your suffering

‘Letting go’ seems to be a buzz phrase in any sort of spiritual and self-development community. Although, as Jai mentioned whilst we were talking about this topic, sometimes when people tell you to ‘just let go’, you actually want to reply with, well, to put it in a less crude way, ‘jump off a cliff’. On top of this, the term can elicit feelings of uneasiness, as people associate it with not really caring or putting no effort in. This could not be further from the truth.

The idea that surrendering your suffering in terms of a problem you are facing is a sign of weakness is perhaps a very westernized idea where anything that is not about control and ‘try try again’ is seen as giving up.

As Jai reminded me, life is a constant balance between holding on and letting go. Both of these can be conducive if used in the correct way at the correct time and neither is permanent.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference

Reinhold Niebuhr

You do not need to release your grip on a situation forever and always. Sometimes it is just the wiser choice to set the problem aside and focus on what you are certain you can control right now. What’s funny about this is that in some cases, by allowing yourself to unhinge your focus on that specific area of your life, a solution to whatever is bothering you might just pop up!

If you have ever had trouble with a maths sum, gone to sleep and woken up knowing the answer, you will know this to be true. Sometimes holding onto a problem actually worsens it.

In fact then, letting go or surrendering your suffering is actually an act of care as well as strength. You are allowing yourself to exercise power over what you can as well as not overcomplicating your current issue with overthinking. The entire obsession with what you can’t seem to change is just going to deepen your suffering.

It is simply the conscious decision that you have suffered enough, and you’re now ready to let go of that suffering.

So next time a friend or colleague with good intention utters the words ‘just let it go’, maybe try and resist your violent urges. There is, after all, something to be said for doing just that.