Activities for learning how to let go.
September 8, 2021 1:33 AM   Subscribe

There is a certain experience I am hoping to have in the near future, and to help prepare I want to do more things that encourage a more regular sense of letting go and surrender. Can anyone help me brainstorm some activities or methods that might be helpful?

Heading into my 40s I'm finding myself more rigid/uptight/anxious/inflexible than I would like to be and would like to push myself out of my comfort zones a bit more so I can paradoxically get more comfortable with, say, some less ordinary or non-dual states of mind, albeit in a more controlled/safe way.

For more context, here are some things that I have thought of listed below. Some I have done or are doing, some of are purely speculative, just to give a bit of a better idea of what I'm looking for:

Meditation (Daily or in retreat)
Breathwork (Wim Hof / Holotropic Breathing)
Float Tanks
Playing a new sport or learning a new skill as a beginner
Deep tissue massage
Listening to immersive music with big headphones
Lucid Dreaming
Reading the Serenity Prayer or other Poetry
Going to huge spaces open spaces in nature or big buildings
The Lumenate App
VR Experiences like Tripp

In retrospect, some of these are pretty 'big' things, so I'm also looking for smaller or more subtle ways to integrate this into my life or test the waters.

Thank you!
posted by sxtrumpeto to Human Relations (16 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: One behaviour I employ when I am feeling stuck in a certain way of being is to become another being. I first learned the benefit when I started exploring my negative feelings of inherent non-beauty. I began looking at my local and loved trees which were always gnarly and irregular. When upset, I began to take a moment to psychically become a tree and try to experience the concept of beauty and ugliness from their perspective. And from their perspective as I conceived it, those concepts didn't exist. So it helped me to feel positively embodied and tree-beautiful as a human woman. As a tree lover, that was grand.

I've employed that 'becoming' technique quite a lot through my life and it has evolved into an understanding of one-ness. Now, when I need a certain type of comfort, I 'become' part of the 'all'; it's like a mental step outside of myself and into a less enclosed understanding where judgement is a non-existent concept.

I've done a poor job of explaining myself, but I guess it boils down to the conscious practice of letting go of the self. I've done most of the things on your list and all of them can lead to deep relaxation but, for me, the actual letting go happens when I am pottering around, lost in unpleasant thought, and I wake a bit and realise I need to take a moment to become the always already complete.
posted by Thella at 2:56 AM on September 8, 2021 [21 favorites]

Best answer: What reliably gets me in the spirit of adventure is just getting slightly lost while trying to find something on my own in a place I've never been before/don't know terribly well. My sense of orientation is woeful, I'm bad at reading a map and only marginally better at understanding directions, so the excitement is guaranteed.

The key is that I really have to be all alone, because the moment there's another person, I'll just blindly follow them. I know my limitations and I don't want to waste people's time. But I actually don't mind being slightly lost when there's no time pressure and no one else to be annoyed by my occasional wrong-turns.

(When I went on vacation to Croatia this summer, my mum, who's apparently a Sound-of-Music superfan, wanted me to visit the ancestral tomb of the Trapp family at the austro-hungarian military cemetary in Pula. Somehow I couldn't convince my friend to join me on that mission, so I had to go find it myself and it ended up one of the highlights of that vacation for me. The austro-hungarian army was very multi-confessional and so is the cemetary - you'll have your crosses and stars of David and arabic script - and the trees are very old and tall and the general vibe is quite special).

It's easy to come up with that sort of mission on a vacation, but I guess you could also do it at home. Maybe there's a Geocoaching game set up somewhere in your hometown/region? My friend likes to order stuff on our local version of ebay and go collect it herself, because it gives her a reason to visit parts of the city she wouldn't normally go to.

Another thing that sometimes works for me is commiting to an experience I expect to be intensly boring, like sitting through a 5 hour Wagner opera. It's interesing what kind of thoughts start floating to the surface in such a situation.
posted by sohalt at 3:43 AM on September 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: - Playing live music with others
- Improv
- Martial arts
posted by cocoagirl at 3:47 AM on September 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Playing a new sport or learning a new skill as a beginner"

This is quite different from your others, BUT have you considered learning a new language? It's not for everyone, and requires consistency over a long period of time, and can at times be very frustrating, BUT

"I'm finding myself more rigid/uptight/anxious/inflexible than I would like to be and would like to push myself out of my comfort zones a bit"

Being a successful language student means exactly this. Speaking to people in a language you aren't fluent in really requires pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. And studying a language inherently requires you to let go of all that rigidity...learn a new way of thinking, learn a new culture, meet new people, deal with difference. It's differences all the way down. Different grammar, different history, different culture, different idioms, different references...

Something else to consider might be an instrument, which I think can provide the above but sort of with different difficulties.
posted by wooh at 3:50 AM on September 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Psychedelics are a classic way to achieve this. Not up everybody’s alley of course! But if interested I’d find an experienced friend and try out some low doses to start. They really can loosen the mind’s attachments.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:42 AM on September 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I recommend Buddhism. The belief that all life is suffering and that the source of suffering is desire, make up the first two of the Four noble truths.

The third noble truth is cessation of that suffering. Non-attachment is the cessation.

I recommend these talks from my favourite Buddhist monks:

Ajahn Brahm -

Instead of Attachment

Four Ways of Letting Go

He has so many talks on attachment that it's a good idea to just search for it on youtube.

Ajahn Brahmali - Attachment.

Thanissaro Bikkhu - Attachment to Views

It is also worth looking up the five hindrances (also here). These are habits and behaviours that distract us from being present. One of the hindrances is doubt. We were taught these specifically in relation to meditation but they are applicable to all areas of life.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 6:27 AM on September 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I find deeply connecting with others to be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences, and I also think that sensory-related changes to our home environment can be both more demanding and refreshing than we often acknowledge. With those two concepts in mind, here are some relatively simple ideas:

Rearranging the furniture in your house;
Buying a new type of bedding that has a different texture;
Getting a new-to-you type of fruit or veggie and learning to prepare it;
Finding a set of recipes for a cuisine you are not familiar with and cooking them all over a period of time;
Trying a running group;
Joining a faith-based community;
Forming a book club with neighbors or a set of people from different backgrounds and with different experiences;
Joining a bookclub at your local library;
Changing the smell of your home (candles, incense, or even different cleaning products);
Finding one way to be more green that is slightly uncomfortable for you (more eco-friendly cleaning products, one more reusable container, etc...);
Getting a pet or becoming a dog-walker.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 7:16 AM on September 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: From one uptight/rigid person to another, may I suggest mountain biking? (I didn't start until my mid 40s).
posted by mcgsa at 7:18 AM on September 8, 2021

Best answer: I do not know if you are interested in creative hobbies, but I find that various art projects help me with this quite a bit. Something about making space to make a mess and the necessity of doing things badly in order to do them well really clicked for me.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:09 AM on September 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rather than lucid dreaming, what about just regular dreaming? If anything, lucid dreaming seems like a way of obtaining control over a process that is typically not at all controlled, at least consciously. It would be a way of letting go, to allow yourself to experience whatever it is that your unconscious produces each evening. To make this a little more concrete, you could start keeping a dream journal for every night, but instead of keeping every entry, rip out the previous day’s page and toss it away each morning when you wake up, before making your newest entry.
posted by obliterati at 9:55 AM on September 8, 2021

Best answer: If you’re Jewish, and you have a local community mikveh, you can go to the mikveh.
posted by 8603 at 10:08 AM on September 8, 2021

Best answer: I haven't read The Body Keeps the Score, but I just heard a fascinating interview with the author on the Ezra Klein podcast. The author talks about how important movement is in recovering from trauma, and, even if you don't want to call your experience trauma, the conversation was a great reminder to me about how important it is to have physical experiences, often with other people. Maybe that doesn't work during the pandemic, but he talks about dancing and singing and playing.

I love the idea for you of learning a new activity, especially something that is more physical than mental--or, if it's a mental activity, it's absorbing. It doesn't have to be vigorous. I also think being in new places, especially for longer stretches of time and disconnected from our devices, can be a great mental re-set.

So, with that in mind, my suggestions are, to the extent that you can, engage in some outdoor sport or hobby, or dance or sing wildly, perhaps via Zoom with other people. Ride your bike or go for a walk in a natural area (alone or with a friend). Take up birdwatching. Dance to music on headphones outside. Get outside, if you can, and move move move.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:36 PM on September 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you are interested in practicing letting go of simple physical objects... try BookCrossing. Register your books on the site, label them, and leave them in public places for others to find.
The people who find them may report them as found, but most do not. You can invite them to do so, but you can't make them. So once a book leaves your hands, it's literally out of your hands.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:34 PM on September 8, 2021

Best answer: Some small, subtle ways to either tolerate or actively enjoy "surrender" that I found for myself during a similar project:
-Cold showers, or turning the water uncomfortably cool at the end for a couple minutes and make sure to move around under the water
-Leave the house without your phone for walks or routine errands
-Explore an interesting destination with no or minimal use of your smartphone, just whatever park, restaurants, etc that are nearby and look okay without consulting reviews or tips online
-Some sexual experiences, including just mixing things up on your own for less control
-Try a "say yes" day or week
posted by zizania at 2:25 PM on September 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It sounds like a glib joke, but I've actually found that responding to the idea of doing something outside my comfort zone with an internal shrug and saying "Anything for a weird life" (even if it's just making a conscious thought in my own head) does help me be open to new experiences. I mean, even if it's something like going to a movie alone or treating myself to a nice restaurant dinner, it's helped me to develop the mental habit of openness.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:58 PM on September 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

Since you used the word inflexible in your question, I thought you might find this quote helpful. It came to me today via an email, maybe pondering it would help:

“Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.”

- Lao Tzu
posted by daikon at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2021

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