Day 303: Let Go of the Familiar

October 31st, 2010

“Courage is the strength/power to let go of the familiar.” -Raymond Lindquist

My twelve-year-old daughter Emma gave me this quote in a frame for my birthday. I was a little shocked that she would find something like this and asked her how she chose it. She said, “Well, I know you are letting go of a lot right now.” Then she said, “So you know it’s courageous.” Then she turned on her heels, iPod in hand. I was touched to be seen so deeply by her and happy to have this reminder behind glass in a frame- that courage comes from letting go.

Actually Alexander Graham Bell, the guy who invented one of our most devoted mechanisms of communication said years ago: “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” This is a bad habit that many of us carry on unknowingly, and yet one of the most powerful practices in learning to really let go.

For me there is an unreality about change that feels like it stays in me viscerally for a time. Even when I mentally get the shifts occurring around me, there is still this vestige of what it was inside me. Still this is the practice that life is demanding from all of us. It isn’t personal or unique to any of us that time is speeding up and change is more a constant of being present in life. Still there is this time of adaptation, where life changes find a space to live inside of us. I liken this to the time delay I experience between seasons. Clearly all outward signs are showing summer long gone, but I wait for one more day of Indian summer. It takes a few weeks of rain and multiple layers for me to get it.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be….” This ancient Eastern wisdom lies at the heart of letting go of the familiar. Making space for meeting your aspirations is a continuous leap away from what we know. Giving up our attachment to how we think it should be or what we expect it to look like is the open door that is usually waiting for us to see it.

The ironic thing is that the older we get, the less our inclination is to let go. The more invested you are in how things look and feel in your life, the less you are looking for another open door. It is easy to get too comfortable with the familiar. I am not sure if it is strength of heart or power of will that moves you beyond this comfort zone. Maybe a little of both. Like it or not, it is the only way into a life that evolves.

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