Learning to Let it Be

It’s been ages since I’ve written in this blog, and there’s a reason for that. We are eight months in to 2018, and emotionally speaking, the year has not been extremely kind to me thus far. Depression and anxiety have been recurrent visitors since January. I’ve been plagued with body-image issues, all while writing a book about overcoming body-image issues - which makes me feel like a big, fat fraud. Impostor syndrome has reared its ugly head: who the hell do you think you are to have these big dreams? Empowerment has been the name of my game for the last few years now, and it’s been precisely what I haven’t been feeling for most of 2018. This has bred a disconnect - a hesitation. I am generally happy to peel back my skin and bones and expose the beating heart beneath it all - unless, as it turns out, I’m not feeling worthy of doing so. I’m discovering a belief I’ve held for years, possibly my whole life: if what I have to say publicly isn't positive and uplifting and empowering, then it’s not worth saying. And, as I’ve already stated, empowerment has escaped me much of this year - which is why this blog has been dormant since January. Who do you think you are to empower people when you can’t even empower yourself?

I’ve been doing a lot of meditation lately in an attempt to find some emotional equilibrium, and one of the themes that’s been coming up repeatedly for me is the concept of letting go. Of relinquishing control - of just letting things be as they are, without any desire to change them. Looking back over the events of this year, I realize I’ve been trying to change everything. I’ve bucked against the status quo like an unruly bull trying to unseat its passenger, determined to make all kinds of wonderful stuff happen for myself and failing to realize that fighting and manifesting are two very different things.

Sometimes, the action is exactly what needs to happen. Sometimes, we have to set goals and work hard and aim high. Tangible progress generally cannot be made without this masculine energy - direct, impatient, nearly aggressive in its desire to get shit done.

On the other hand, that energy must be tempered by its counterpart: the feminine. I know this all too well from my own experience - many a personal burnout has been suffered at the hands of my own ambition. The flip side of the energetic coin is less about direct action and more about patience. Less about movement and more about wisdom. Less structured and more fluid. The feminine allows us to observe, to seek, to find.

Please note that when I speak in terms of masculine and feminine energy, I am not implying that all men are one way and all women are another. The concept really has no basis in physical gender whatsoever. Chinese Taoist literature explains it in terms of yin and yang: feminine and masculine, dark and light, wisdom and action. However, since my spirituality has not been culturally informed by Taosim, I find it appropriative to use those terms for my own practice. The words masculine and feminine work well for me as a basic understanding of the ebb and flow of life. They are two sides of the same coin; they balance each other perfectly and are equally essential to one another.

August has been especially hard. Lots of things have happened, in quick succession, that have made me feel defeated. I’ve been asking the universe a simple, singular question: why?

It has recently occurred to me that perhaps I should be asking a different question.

Why implies action. Let’s get to the bottom of this so we can figure it out and forge on. It insinuates the need to fix something and move on, brushing your hands together in satisfaction of a job well done.

But how might I have felt this year if I’d asked a different question instead? What if instead of why, my question was…what?

What implies understanding. Philosophy. Wisdom. I will come to have an intimate knowledge of this situation. It doesn’t necessitate action. In other words, it embodies the feminine energy beautifully.

It’s occurred to me that perhaps I don’t need to know why - maybe because there isn’t a why, or maybe because that understanding is for the universe alone. Maybe all I need to know is what it is I’m feeling - and how to simply let it be.

But I don’t have time to waste, my stubbornness protests, even as I write this. I want to get things done and publish my book and build my business and meet my goals and create the life I want. Once I do those things, then I can take all the time for rest and introspection in the world.

It’s amazing to me how pervasive this thought is, despite the fact that I now have knowledge to the contrary.

How do you react when things don't go your way? When you have all these grand plans, and life decides to serve you a shit sandwich instead? Do you pace the proverbial corridors of your mind, asking why? Do you resist? Fight? Put pressure on yourself to turn it all around? Toss and turn at night, wondering what you can do to change things, to make them better so that you can feel better?

Yup. Me, too.

What would happen if we tried a different approach?

What if we understood that there are some things we can't change, no matter how hard we try, and that, very much like those toy finger traps, the harder we resist, the more ensnared we become?

What if we began to look at challenging days, weeks, or months not as something to try and overcome - as though we're actively battling them - but as something to glean knowledge from? What if we could find gratitude in this, however small?

And what if we understood that when the boat starts to rock, we don't necessarily have to do anything except hold on?

In meditation last night, I practiced letting go. With every exhalation, I pictured all the burdens of expectation I place on myself and others whoosh-ing away from me, lightening my load. I released the belief that I can make life work the way I want it to if I just work hard enough. I released the expectation that I can only be happy and fulfilled if everything goes the way I’ve planned. I released the pressure I put on myself to make everything I want to happen, happen right the fuck now. And with each breath inward, I chose to accept everything that is, just as it is, and understand that I didn't need to do anything about it. I didn't need to fix it.

As I did so, I became overwhelmed by a gorgeous feeling: peace. It was a contentment I haven't felt for months, as though I was being tenderly cradled in the benign palm of the universe, the way one might hold a baby bird who'd fallen from the nest. Most of the messages I receive in meditation are visual, but this time, it was a bolt of knowledge, so plain and simple I wondered if I'd always known it:

You are being taken care of. Everything is going to be okay. You don't need to worry that it won't.

My mind and my heart were open, tears were streaming down my face, and suddenly I felt as though I was seeing the whole picture, where previously it had just been a single sliver.

Do things kind of suck right now? Yes. Is that okay?


I would have said no before. No, it's not okay. I need things to get better so that I can feel better and keep forging ahead on my path toward creating an amazing future...

I realized, then, that this internal dialogue is such bullshit. Life is never going to settle into a state of perfection. Sometimes, everything goes all wrong, causing us to experience pain. It's unavoidable - that is the way life works.

So what if, when the shit is hitting the fan, I start making the decision to accept it? To stop trying to force the situation to be something it's not? To use it as an opportunity to embody that feminine energy, get introspective, learn a few things about myself, and shift my focus, rather than arrogantly trying to pretend that I actually have any semblance of control in this wild and crazy universe? What if I use it as practice adapting to change, instead of believing the story I tell myself in which everything must be aligned just so in order to me to experience - and share - empowerment?

What if I just write anyway, even if I'm feeling like shit, because it's raw and it's real, and that's the stuff life is made of?

I have a desire to share my experiences in order to help others. And I no longer wish to quantify that by telling myself I have nothing to offer if I am struggling. Sometimes, you guys, I'm not okay.

And that's okay.

And I'm going to write anyway.

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© 2020 by Ali Owens​