How do I "Let Go" and let life go at its own pace?
February 25, 2011 10:43 AM   Subscribe

How do you "Let Go and Let God"? Or how do you just "Let Go" without believing in God? I'm struggling with sitting back and patiently letting life and relationships take their natural course. I always feel like I need to be "doing something" to control the situation and it's driving me insane. I know I want to stop this behavior, I just can't seem to figure out how.

I have this problem the most in relationships (see previous question) but I also notice that I stay anxious over things where I don't know the outcome ("will I get in to grad school? What's the best program? What job should I look for next? Is that job too far away from family? What will they think if I move that far away? Will I have a social life there?"). If I know where the metaphorical path is leading me, I do so much better and I'm so much calmer. When it's a big question mark in front of me, I expend tons of energy trying to figure out all the possibilities.

This also works against me in relationships, where I'm constantly trying to interpret his signals (why didn't he call me last night? is he interested in someone else? is she better than me? what can I do to be more desirable?). I am in therapy, and I know this is a combination of lack of confidence, insecurity, rejection/abandonment issues, and stuff from my childhood. I pretty much know where it's coming from, but I can't figure out how to flip the switch to "off" and keep it there.

I do believe in God, and the advice to "Let Go and Let God direct your path" sounds so relaxing and peaceful, but doesn't help me find the "off" switch.

So, how can I calm down my mind and really turn the control over? How can I just live day by day and not worry about next year? How can I just relax and let things (relationships, life) progress at their own natural pace without forcing them all the time?

I don't have any intention of "drifting" through life, and I know I need to put in effort to relationships and work, etc (guess that means I don't 100% buy into the "Let God" portion of that sentence), but this is driving me crazy. I get mad at myself because I know I should be able to do this, but the switch won't stay in the off position! Even right now I'm looking for things to DO in order to fix this, which is kinda what I'm trying to get away from (the strong need to always be DOING). Ironically, I'm looking for some specific actions to take to slow down and let go.

(Already on meds, so I don't need those suggestions. This doesn't really feel "biological"'s definitely something I can get a handle on myself).

Religious and non religious suggestions welcome! I'm not tied to any end of the spectrum.
posted by MultiFaceted to Human Relations (27 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I believe in God, too, but not an interventionist anthropomorphic God. I also struggle with intellectual control, and beanplating, and anxiety. So, you know. . . hi.

There's no easy answer that I've found, it's more like training a particularly anxious Golden Retriever. Basically every time I have one of these "but what will happen? thoughts, I firmly block it with a counter thought and some deep-breathing meditation. I literally had to have a rubber band around my wrist that I'd snap whenever I recognized the pattern starting, and I was snapping that thing dozens of times a day. I had a tiny little internal ritual I'd go through -- the snap, and then one deep breath, and then while I was holding it I'd think, firmly, "It will or it won't. Let it go." Then I'd let out the breath, and do two more breaths, repeating the little mantra if necessary. And I'd do this every time.

Eventually it gets to a point where I see the pattern starting and I just go HEY STOP IT and relax, but it takes time. Sadly there's no instant-success method that I know of, you just have to train yourself to think differently.
posted by KathrynT at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

Exercise. Meditation. Hanging out with people who care about me and AREN'T in the thick of drama. Starting a new, fun project. (I like volunteering, surfing, and gardening. I'm bad at all of them, but that's not the point.) Basically, anything that's healthy that's not about the crazy-making situation.

If I wake up in the middle of the night with racing squirrel brain, I write a bit and read something that goes towards the direction I wish my brain were at.

The other part is to just have faith that however things resolve themselves, it'll work out. "God can work with any decision" as they say. When I can't manage that, I pretend.

It's easy for me to get paralyzed in trying to find the perfect answer, but really there are lots of them. None are perfect. Lots are good. As someone else said in Askme recently, if you're having a hard time making a decision, it could be because both paths are ok.

To me, the "letting god" part of the equation doesn't mean drifting, it means you lay all the groundwork but don't micromanage the result. Where that line is, is the tricky part. For instance, you apply to the grad schools you want, in all the fields, if you can afford it. You make sure your applications are as good as they can be, your funding is as lined up as it could be, and then... you've done all you can do.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you have to separate things in your life as things you can work on and things that you need to leave alone and let them grow.
Other things you need to just take a chill pill for. why didn't he call me last night? is he interested in someone else?
Also, it might be helpful if you can get to a place where you are "thinking" about next year instead of "worrying" about next year, etc. I'm always thinking and analyzing but rarely worrying.

I guess what I'm saying is there isn't anything inherently wrong with focusing on things and trying to control things that are controllable (because almost everything is unless you have a gun pointed to your head) but you might just want to change the emotions that drive your thoughts.

I don't know any trick for doing that. Will power is sort of my answer for everything in life.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:56 AM on February 25, 2011

I don't believe in gods, and I'm not sure that there are "natural courses" for all things and actions. But sometimes, no matter what I do, I can't control the outcome of situations and events. I can't bend others to my will, no matter how hard I try. So, I gave up trying to muscle things that are out of my control and concentrate on the things that are within my realm.
No, I can't control the outcome of a job interview, school application, etc., but I can brush up my skills, write a great resume, admissions essay, get good grades, and all that stuff.

There's no master plan, other than the goals I set for myself. I achieve some, some I don't. It's effort that matters.

Constructive Living by David Reynold was helpful to me. Stewing about outcomes isn't productive in the least, but it lets you trick yourself into thinking you're doing something. "Hey, I'm worrying! That counts!" when it actually has no purpose other than making me bite my nails and fret.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:57 AM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

i hear you, i'm a control freak as well. i'm not from of any religious ilk, but i find the serenity prayer helpful to recite as a kind of mantra. except i leave out the god bits and rephrase it a little because really i'm just talking to myself:
I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
the emphasis really though is on the first part - to accept the things i cannot change is a really hard thing to grasp at times. i try to make a division in my mind between what i can and cannot control, and this helps me refocus my efforts so they are not wasted.

this helps especially when it comes to relationships - it took me a long time to learn that i cannot make another people love me, but that the energy and love i give out is something i CAN control. so i focus on that, and give as much as i am able. it's the whole "what goes around, comes around" idea - this is true, but note that the ways it comes back are never as you plan or expect it.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 11:01 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a rationalist, so I don't know if this will work for you, but figure out ahead of time what you're going to say to yourself when you feel this coming over you. After all, these are things that you have no control over. What you tell yourself is for you to decide, but you need to make a habit of it.
posted by Gilbert at 11:01 AM on February 25, 2011

I don't believe in God, but my life has benefited greatly from the Letting Go principle over the past five years. It really just takes practice. Consciously work on changing your thoughts when you feel yourself veering into this territory. For me it was a pretty serious "aha" moment when I read somewhere about "the time we waste worrying about a future that might not even come." I realized that never, not once in my life, had a situation turned out exactly liked I hoped or feared it would. The time I spent thinking about these things was absolutely, completely wasted time. And not only is it wasted time, it's wasted stress. Reminding myself of this helped to keep my thoughts on track.

Also, though, I will say that another thing that helped was coming up with a failsafe, worse case scenario backup plan. My life was extremely chaotic for a number of reasons, so I thought to myself that worse case scenario, I would move into my sister's guest room and live there and be her nanny. With a mental backup plan in place, I freed myself up from worrying about the small details.
posted by something something at 11:03 AM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think the "Let go, let God." idea is fine, up to a point. Clearly, in my mind, that point is well before "Jesus, take the wheel."

"Let go, let God." is meant by many to remind us that the universe has a substantial random component, as do our lives, and that to ever benefit from serendipity, we have to risk. But risk can be reasonable, and we're not faithless, nor cowardly, if we make reasonable efforts to mitigate and avoid the worst outcomes that life can present. It's a good idea to buy insurance, to get vaccinated, to exercise, to eat well, to try to make good friends, to listen as much as we speak, etc. If we get cancer, it's fine to have prayer, and medical care. Its worthwhile to take CPR classes, not because we'll save ourselves during our own heart attack, but so that we can help others, who we can reasonably hope, will be prepared to help us, should we ever need it.

It has often seemed to me that those who are best at "Letting go, and letting God." also recognize that God works in mysterious ways, and are themselves well prepared and happy to be in place, when a Call comes, to be themselves either the sharp chisel or the strong arm most needed in that moment.
posted by paulsc at 11:06 AM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

You are asking how to do something that's incredibly hard. The only times I've been able to do this are when control has been entirely taken away from me. Even then it is seriously painful.

Now permit me to go all religious on your ass. What makes it less painful is being able to look back and see how I was being guided into the best possible situations for me. When you give your problems to God, He will help you solve them properly, which is often harder and sometimes means sacrificing in the short term. Remember that He has "plans to prosper you and not to harm you".

You may not be able to stop yourself worrying but I put it to you that prayer is more productive than worry. God is big enough and old enough to cope with you obsessing at Him as much as you need to. He will not get fed up or stressed and start avoiding you as even the most loving human, with a finite human capacity to cope, might do.

As for the dating stuff - well that's agony too, of course, but it helps to fly by instruments at times because, in the realm of intense emotion, our emotions can often lead us to misperceive what's before us or to act in self-defeating ways. Pickup artists may resemble, and actually be, the world's most tremendous assholes, but for the vast majority of them it's really a way of trying to cope with the exact same intensity and uncertainty the rest of us are feeling. The bravado and bluster they come out with tells me that most of them really aren't doing so great. What they are right about is that it helps to have a system to stay in reality and stop yourself getting sucked down into quicksand. Almost any system would do as long as you applied it with proper respect for yourself and others (this can be easier or harder depending on the system of course).

And finally it gets a bit easier as you get older. There is no magical "maturity" merit badge, it's about getting used to stuff and having prior experience about how things usually pan out and how many options you really have. So if an older person comes along and tells you that a given situation is likely to turn out OK even without the outcome you want, consider listening to them.
posted by tel3path at 11:08 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Honestly, when I got into a spell where my friends and I were quoting Big Lebowski a lot, I got to saying "Fuck it, dude, let's go bowling," a lot. I now take it as a personal mantra, even if I don't quote BL every chance I get, any more.
posted by notsnot at 11:10 AM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

small_ruminant brings up a good point: when you start to go down the rabbit hole, it might be a good idea to interrupt and say to yourself "Self, is there anything else I can do to help influence the outcome?" If there is, then do it! If not, then go the deep-breathing route I suggested .
posted by KathrynT at 11:11 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you need to realize it's not that you *shouldn't* control everything, but that you can't. Many real-life situations simply have too many variables and unknowns for analysis to be useful, let alone predictions and heavy-handed "control." Add to the uselessness of it the cost to you of worrying about it, and it's clearly not worth it.

Try to target your analysis and controlling tendencies like smart bombs, where there's the biggest bang for the buck. There are parts of life that respond very well to that sort of thing. Seek them out and spend your energy there.

For example, if you're overweight, focusing on and controlling your caloric input&output can have great results. Similarly, you can focus on and control your financial matters to great utility. You can tweak repeated routines and things like that.

Just realize that you have a hammer and you're seeing everything as nails. Instead, find the nails, hammer the shit out of them, and stop using your hammer on everything else.
posted by callmejay at 11:27 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

For the record: I'm the same personality type and believe in a Higher Power, but not a personalized, anthropomorphic God who is watching over my every step and will somehow catch me when I fall.

Something something has a good idea for a "worst case backup scenario." Having some sort of safety net (financial, emotional, whatever) won't stop you entirely from worrying and micromanaging, but you will know that if things don't work out as planned your life won't be in shambles. For instance, "If I don't find a job in my field, I can get temp jobs or work at Starbuck's to pay the bills." Or something something's "If worst came to worst, I could live in my sister's guest room and be her nanny." So instead of worrying about a specific outcome, channel your energy into making sure you have a safety net. One of my favorite sayings is attributed to Muhammad: "Trust in God, but tie your camel."

With relationships, I find it tremendously helpful to not put all my eggs into one precious basket. When you're building a relationship, it makes a HUGE difference if you see this person as someone you like, or love, and want to have a future with (most of us do want to have a future with someone!), and if it doesn't work out, that's sad, BUT you can pick yourself up and find more possibilities - rather than "This person is my last, best hope and if it doesn't work out I won't find someone else and I'll be alone and OMG" (is this really ever the case? No). In other words, love someone, invest in them, but don't make them your lifeline. And know when to be patient and give it some time and when you're being an enabler or someone's stringing you along.

As for being busy as a response to life events - sorry, can't help you there! Some of us are just programmed to be more action-oriented. Even chemo didn't get me to "just take it easy" - I kept up with schoolwork and friendships. I would probably have to have a severely disabling illness or stroke or something to induce me to have a slow, easy lifestyle! But for me I found I could channel this into a [i]constructive[/i] busyness (clean house, work hard at job-hunting, get out and socialize) rather than just running around like a headless chicken.

Don't expect to turn from worrier and micromanager into Buddhist monk! Work on channeling your energy to constructive ends, and making sure that if and when you DO let go you have a soft place to land instead of going SPLAT! You may or may not choose to trust in God, but you CAN make sure to tie your camel.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:39 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Okay, taking this from the religious angle.

You can no more flip the "off switch" and leave it there than you can brush your teeth once and be done with it. Humans don't work like that and there's a reason God made them that way. "Give us this day our Daily bread..." Why daily? Why can't we just get all the bread we need at once and then move onto other more interesting ways to spend our time?

Because God's Grace comes in the moment and we need to be present in the moment to receive and respond to it. God made us to be daily creatures who need hygiene and nourishment -- mental, physical, and spiritual -- to function properly.

My approach to prayer is that it is like spiritual hygiene. It sets my point of view each day to be less ego-driven, more open to life, more empathetic. Prayer helps me see better, with better perspective, so I can deal with the day as it unfolds. If the little goblins of ego -- insecurity, need for control, arrogance, etc -- are the loudest voices in my head, then they end up driving my actions and not the True Self that God made me to be.

Prayer puts those little goblins of ego in their place for a while, but only a while. They are like dust bunnies. You can't just vacuum once and be done with it.

Now prayer practices vary widely and the only "right" way is a way that works for you, that you'll do, and that's compatible with the way you live your life. I have friends who sit in centering prayer for a hour each day. That doesn't work for me. I have a prayer regimen -- taking advantage of the alone time that I have built onto my day -- that works for me. And it probably wont work for you. I'd recommend finding a spiritual advisor who can help you find the kind of prayer that works best for you.

Things to pray on to help you center yourself and strike a balance between prudent planning and obsessive worrying:
1) God made you. Thus you are quite fine the way you are. It is by trying to be more, or less, or different, or what someone wants us to be, that we get into trouble. Reflect often on who God made you to be and how you can each day be that person and not contort that person to fit someone's (or your own) ego agenda.
2) He made you with a purpose in mind. (This is from Thomistic theology which is the basis for much of Christian thought.) So what did God make when he made you? What is your purpose in life? Thomas Merton says that we are like words spoken by God. What did he say when he made you? How can you act this day that will cooperate with this purpose?
3) And we are all made to be relational beings. Who you are is connected to the relationships in your life. I focus on my relationships and what I can do today to meet the needs of each one a little better. Focusing on relationships in prayer is great because it provides practice being "other-centered" instead of self-centered. I find that "other-centeredness" helps with the worrying too.

And never underestimate the power of getting out there and serving others. Nothing pulls you out of your own self-obsession like serving other people.
posted by cross_impact at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

I am really, really bad at this. But by the same token, I've learned a lot about it.

1) Meditation.

2) Divide up responsibility. "My job, in this situation, is to _________. Not perfectly, not up to someone else's objective standard, but to the best of my abilities given my situation. That is all I can control. The outcome will take care of itself, for better or worse."

3) Resolve to see a mistake, or something that didn't come out the way you wanted, as a different path rather than an absolute failure. Every year I try to make a resolution to make bad decisions -- to give myself permission to make mistakes because it won't be the end of the world.
posted by Jeanne at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might find some value in the works of ancient Stoics: Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, etc. My poor, incomplete interpretation of their philosophy as it might apply to your question:

Most of the things you are anxious about lie entirely or in part outside of your control. If your ultimate goal is to live a good life, the path to that goal is simply to do the right thing (or your best estimation of such) at every opportunity. If you focus on that goal, and understand that you can succeed or fail at it only through things which are within your control, then you can become less affected by things outside your control because ultimately they cannot harm you. No matter what your partner, or boss, or admissions board chooses to do, you can always respond by doing the right thing in whatever situation you find yourself. Knowing this, you can face an unknown future with confidence. And you can always exercise that need to be doing something to control the situation, because you can always work to improve yourself.

You can try to develop a habit -- whenever you start feeling anxious, ask yourself if the object of your anxiety is within your control. If it is, deal with it in the best way you know how. If it is partly in your control, do whatever you can to ensure the most desirable outcome, but recognize the limits of that. For the things that are outside of your control, try some of the techniques people are mentioning, take deep breaths, meditation, etc., and remind yourself that whatever it is you're worrying about, it can't make you be a bad person, and in the end that is all that really matters. Every time you force yourself to stop and consider this, it becomes a little bit easier to do again, and eventually it will be an automatic reaction.
posted by makeitso at 11:48 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

As odd as it sounds, when I first started working on this, it felt irresponsible NOT to worry. There was some childish training I had that said that worrying was what I had to offer, and to not worry was to not care. That's not true. Worrying is wasted energy- purely wasted. So really, it's an indulgence I shouldn't cater to when I can help it.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:23 PM on February 25, 2011

I didn't 'get' this (and probably have just barely begun to understand) until after my best friend died from cancer at 30. It radically shifted my idea of what was important and what was not.

(Pardon my geekiness.) Like Yoda says, 'All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was! What he was doing!'

I try not to take the present for granted anymore. It's not that I don't think about the future, but it's a question of whether I am trying to control a situation to my benefit, or whether I am acting on something I know is right, and I am willing to face and accept the negative consequences of that action. Can you take the bad and the good? Or are you scheming to somehow fix it so you only get the good?

So Luke had a vision of Han and Leia being tortured and he wants to run off to rescue them and Yoda says he's not ready - that if he honors what they fight for, that he will continue his training and sacrifice them. Yoda understands that Luke's rescue plan is just his attempt to exert control over the situation. Luke is trying to spare himself the pain of losing his friends, of making sacrifices for his cause. In reality, by leaving to prevent that loss, Luke was completely throwing himself into a trap. Leia and Chewbacca probably would have escaped on their own and eventually Han would be rescued from Jabba. Luke didn't trust his friends to take care of themselves, and ended up missing a hand and doing the 'Noooooooo!! You're not my father!!' scene.

I have found that if I am willing to accept the worst, my fear of the situation dissolves, and with it my urge to worry and control. I am a far better person for the 'bad' things in my life - the things that have brought me great sorrow. I would not trade them for anything. I look into the future and I only see good things, even if the worst happens.

I have also developed a fondness for Rumi and Hafiz.
posted by griselda at 1:44 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I second the radical acceptance suggestion. It will work whether or not you believe in deities.
posted by xenophile at 1:55 PM on February 25, 2011

I am very much working on the same thing. Sometimes it helps me to think "ok, if the worst outcome happens, can I handle it? How could I handle it?" having faith that you can always pick up the pieces and start over can be more helpful than having faith that things will work out. For me I think about the times when things *didn't* work out and remember that in the end I was ok. That gives me confidence and makes things seem less make-or-break.
posted by Chrysalis at 3:03 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some things can't be rushed- if you plant seeds, they'll grow at a certain rate no matter what you do.

Relationships and a lot of things in life are also like this. What makes them different, is that unlike a seed, where you can predict the outcome, many of these things are shots in the dark- you don't know if the time spent will turn out well or for worse.

But what you can do, is be honest with what you want and how long you are willing to give anything. You might say, "I'll give this relationship 6 months, and if it doesn't meet my needs or look like it's heading that direction, I can go do something else". (Mind you, this is a boundary and check in for yourself, don't do this as an ultimatum for other people. You want honest direction from them, not guilt driven direction). And, while it's true that life may not follow your schedule, you still have control and can choose to not keep investing in something that isn't paying off for you, while being honest with your own needs.

The religious angle is this: we are limited beings in a world of limitations. There's so much out of our control, and we have to learn to accept that and do the best we can. Humility isn't a virtue, as much as it's a necessary requirement for happiness- accepting the need to work within limitations (or, that limitations may take a long, long time to expand), allows us to see how amazing the world is, and to have space for the idea of something greater than yourself.

When you find yourself fussing over something, stop, ask yourself if there's something else you could be doing instead, something immediate, and you will probably amaze yourself with how efficient you can become. Or, if there's something fun you can do instead. Sometimes taking care of ourselves is hard, but we have to think of our bodies and minds as pets, sometimes, they depend on us to make choices for our own well being.

God gave us a mind and free will, and taking care of ourselves and others is the only way to really respect the gift.
posted by yeloson at 3:30 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm actually quite surprised that religion actually can quell these kinds of fundamental worries? I'm non-religious, and the idea that "God will take care of it, don't worry about your future!" seems very alien (and probably very reassuring, I will admit).

From my perspective.. some level of worrying is probably okay. It allows you to plan things and make sure you're seeing where things might go wrong.

One thing that I've always liked to use for the more unfounded/uncontrollable worries is to look back. When did you last worry about something, and how did it really turn out? Chances are, it wasn't that bad.

On a more humorous note, maybe some inspiration :) Mitchell and Webb - Everything is Fine.
posted by Harry at 4:08 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

A couple of thoughts that I think are different from the many helpful suggestions above:

1. Learn to be clear about want vs. need. I want to go to grad school. I don't NEED grad school in order to continue living or even to have a decent life. If I don't get into grad school, I will be disappointed but I will simply have to do something else with the next part of my life. When you do a worst case analysis, you realize that even if you don't get what you want, you will survive. (Although I agree it may help to have some idea of the worst case looks like, usually not as bad as it feels it might be.)

2. Be clear about productive worry (part of planning) and unproductive worry (it is out of your control, at least at the moment or you have a plan and need to wait to put that in motion before you can plan further. Recognize the unproductive worry and name it when it is happening. Then use the other suggestions.

3. Make a worry list of all your unproductive worry issues. Set aside time to worry about them. Any other time of the day that you start to worry, just add the item to your list and tell yourself you will think about that during the designated worry time.

4. When you have trouble stopping the worry, separate the thoughts from the feelings. Allow yourself to notice the anxiety in your body. At first, just allow it to be. I am feeling anxious. This (the specific sensations) are feelings in my body that go with being anxious. Use your breathing/ relaxation and notice if your body sensations change. Stay focused on your body. Let go of the content of the worries - if they wander into your head, notice them and refocus on your body.

5. I find it is helpful to realize that I can worry if I want, but if something is beyond my control, how I feel about it does not change what happens. I can worry or not worry, the results will be the same. My only control is over how I choose to feel about the event, not if the event happens or not. (Obviously, if it is, even partially under your control, then you want to do what you can to help yourself get the outcome you prefer. )

6. Eventually life will hand you something that you simply cannot control no matter how hard you want try. (Death or illness of a loved one, often) This is often the point where people finally accept that there are things that happen where all you can do is leave them in God's hands but you simply have no capacity to change them yourself. You may have already struggled with this kind of situation yourself, re-think it in these terms. If not, then know that you are trying to learn now will be immense help to you as you go through life.
posted by metahawk at 5:16 PM on February 25, 2011

I don't have any intention of "drifting" through life...

I think exploring the idea of who you might be if you did intend to "drift through life," and why you are scared of that person, is a good start.
posted by jnnla at 5:19 PM on February 25, 2011

the book Balancing Heaven and Earth by Robert Johnson touches on some of this in interesting ways.
posted by tacoma1 at 6:35 PM on February 25, 2011

Believing in God is something I go back and forth on - I can't say I have a firm belief. If I do believe in God, its not one I believe will directly intervene to make my life better - terrible things happen to people everyday, many of them good people who believe in God. What I can sometimes believe is that He can give us the strength to deal with difficult things. I find hymns, prayers and rituals enormously comforting. I have no idea whether there is anyone listening, but it sometimes helps to send up the prayer anyway.

Hymns like "Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer", "Just as I am, without one plea", "Abide With Me" and "the Lord is My Shepherd" help me to focus on the feeling of letting go. Church services wtih very calm, ritualised prayers and procedures soothe me and allow me to meditate on problems and worries more peacefully. I grew up going to Church of England (Episcopalean) services, which are usually very calm and traditional (not as expressive or emotional as Evangelical or Gospel type churches). You haven't mentioned if you regularly attend any services, but you might find it helpful (though it might be worth shopping around to find the right one for you). Otherwise I'm sure there are books of prayers or religious meditations that you could read to yourself. I'm thinking this gives you something practical to DO that would help you re-focus your brain and let go.
posted by *becca* at 7:50 AM on February 26, 2011

Even right now I'm looking for things to DO in order to fix this, which is kinda what I'm trying to get away from (the strong need to always be DOING)

Oh, I can so relate. I think your awareness of this issue is wonderfully on the right track! I know this is a long post, but I hope you bear with me.

I would keep it simple. Each time you feel that compulsion to control, pause and move to your breath--allow your belly to breath a few relaxed breaths. Experience the feeling, the compulsion inside of you, as completely as possible. If you still feel out of control, take another few breaths. Repeat.

Everyday, set aside some time to just be alone and still. Feel whatever feelings and thoughts come up--just let them come. For an hour, maybe. Sitting, laying down, whatever postion is most comfortable without falling asleep (unless you are low on sleep--then sleep by all means. Allowing full night-times so that you get plenty of sleep helps greatly, too :) Some people call this meditation.

If you allow yourself to experience what it's like to be that way with yourself, you will then learn how to allow others and allow situations, too.

Listening to your words:

I'm struggling with sitting back and patiently letting life and relationships take their natural course. I always feel like I need to be "doing something" to control the situation and it's driving me insane.

I think that very, very often our questions contain the answers. How about doing exactly what you mentioned in your question for some "meditation" time each day, as practice?: Sit back, be patient, let things take their natural course. If anxieties and problem-solving thoughts arise, fine; experience them, experience all feelings. In time you will begin to feel differently. You'll obsess in those anxiety-loops less, try to control your own self and issues less. Right now you are losing energy by being so caught up in the mind trying to solve everything, so no matter how much you think on something it is giving you diminishing returns. And effort is good--it's gotten you this far--but your particular effort right now is bringing you diminishing returns, too.

When you are allowing, honoring what arises inside you and not controlling yourself, you'll find yourself naturally beginning to treat others as you are treating yourself. Allowing that flow of your feelings as it responds to whatever situation--what you see, who you are with, what people say to you. Situations aren't objective; they will ALWAYS bring up unprocessed issues and feelings inside us that are already there--over and over again, and that's why we just can't seem to get away from them; they are the glasses you are looking through. Instead of going outside of yourself and throwing it on another person or on the circumstance, you can just curiously, openly experience the feeling it makes you feel. Notice: "I'm feeling really hurt by what that person said about me--I'm feeling a lack of selfconfidence and love for myself." And experience it fully and see what happens. Or: "People solve problems, make good decisions, discover what school they want to go to all the time--in the past, I have experienced that--but right now I'm not experiencing that, in this situation I am feeling lost and unable to make a decision; this situation has brought up the sense of a lack of direction/wisdom and fear that I have inside of me--but this can change because I do have the potential for experiencing the opposite. I will go into it, and experience this feeling that my soul/god is offering me as a path to wisdom and freedom." Experience the feelings, don't get caught up so much in the circumstance. In time, you'll be calmer, and your actions will come out of that calm center so that they are more peaceful, loving, true in all situations. Control is the counterfeit of true, centered power in our lives. I know that when I have let go the most in my life, the most amazing things and events in my life just came spontaneously. Deep relaxation=awareness=spontaneity=intelligence, enough to dissolve problems that now seem impossible.

There is no OFF switch. I have experienced this, too, and experienced such great frustrations & suffering, wasting many years trying to find the OFF switch. That's a great way to phrase it, BTW! When there is pain in our past and self-destructive behaviour, we want to turn it off, run way, make it stop...and ironically this is exactly the response that is causing it remain. We are afraid of it. The DOING is what we are taught, the DOING is a method of distraction. But there is only awareness. You seem to be, like I have been myself, walking backwards away from it. But walking backwards away from it is impossible; no one can walk backwards. How can you see where you are going? (That is the mind.) We have done it so long we think we are walking forwards, we think we are working solve the problem. But walking this way is walking away from that person you are inside that is natural, who lets things happen naturally in freedom--you are walking away from your self. From that part of you that is your center, your soul, your connection to god. And until that changes, nothing will change.

There is only awareness. There is only turning towards the pain & frustration & fear & self-hate (or whatever it may be), and going into it. Experience it deeply and completely. Allow it. It's not so bad. A child lets anger and tears and sadness flow through themselves, like a storm, and then it is over and the energy of life continues. It's the distracting yourself from it by trying to fix it that is keeping it--and that natural child inside you that you lost so long ago-- there under the surface, making you do things you don't want to do because until it is transformed by your awareness, it will keep "acting out" is a misfiring attempt to protect itself. This beautiful part of you wants attention. Pain and frustration are like doors, but you have to open the doors. Then the progress you have made can go deeper and continue.

You seem very caught up in your head. Meditation brings you back into the heart and instinct and intuitive solutions. The thing right now is not to figure everything out. The first thing is to reverse the energy of the situation so you are not losing energy but collecting it. Be patient with yourself. Awareness is the medication you are looking for, but it's not like an off switch--it's more like a seed in need of nurturing. Trust this idea that has arisen in you that there's a better way--it's coming from a deep place.

Tao-ism might hold a great interest for you (it offers the concept of wu-wei, or 'doing without DOING'). I have found Osho's books to be liberating, especially The Book Of Wisdom, though you could choose pretty much any one that appeals to you; his intelligence is very taoist. But I wouldn't recommend doing too much book-reading; once you know enough to be inspired, more reading can just be another distraction method (like me writing this long mefi comment...:)

I really like this little article, and you might , too. It's like a breath of fresh air.
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 3:32 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older I want to out on dates, not sit at home and write...   |   Why 'Mark Antony' and not 'Marcus Antonius?' Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.