Updated: Mar 30
Letting go implies we are holding on to something, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. From infancy we are conditioned by society. Our family are the initial and most crucial guides providing the foundations for a large portion of what we bring with us through life’s journey. Our wider community teaches us through education, social interaction, peer influences, cultural rituals and beliefs. As young adults we must test all this information for ourselves. It is often at this stage the young person may reject or challenge some ideas, concepts or beliefs previously accepted. They can do this based on having a previous “experience” of a cultural pattern. For example, if I am reared as a Catholic and my spiritual journey has been guided by the rituals of the Catholic teachings and I am introduced to an alternative spiritual concept, I now have something to gauge my previous experience with. I am in a position to compare two “experiences” that may influence my decision to stay on my current path or change direction. And each experience will influence other areas of my life – my self as a person, my relationships, my work and how I view and perceive the world.
A few months ago, I sat in a café having a coffee and conversation with two women. One woman was relaying a story about a female friend. My friend and I listened to the story. The story teller, let’s call her Mary, expressed concern for a woman who she believed was behaving erratically within a relationship. My friend suggested that perhaps the woman was being manipulated. This led to a conversation about the topic of manipulation. How do you know if you are being manipulated? Here are three suggestions. 1) You have been manipulated before and recognize it. 2) A friend or colleague brings it to your attention 3) You have read about manipulation or heard about someone else’s experience and a light bulb goes off.
Each of these scenarios may contribute to your awareness of an "experience" of manipulation. Yet, unless we are consciously “aware”, we may not recognize it. We can live our life knowing something is not “right” unable to put our finger on the cause, unable to see. Pain can be blinding. And that creates yet another scenario; we are/have been made aware of it and continue to live the experience day in/day out. However, this is a topic for another day!!
Staying with the idea that we have choices in life once we have comparative experiences can be scary. It implies that we must be responsible for ourselves. It does not imply that we are responsible for what our external society/world throws at us (we can be), but rather we are responsible for our internal world, how we accept the information, the experience, how we process it and how we react to it. This is not easy when external factors appears to restrict us at every turn. It may cause a lot of anxiety, confusion and fear. This in turn can make us feel imprisoned within our own life.
American Philosopher Richard Schusterman in his book Body Consciousness, suggests that the body can be cultivated to achieve ‘heightened consciousness and philosophical insight’(p.ix). In order to achieve this we must learn to 'let go'. How can we ‘let go’ if we do not know what we are holding on to and why? I ran a pilot program for students during my research a number of years ago on the topic of “experiences” in performance. Student journals were to provide major insights during the research. One students journal while working on this “letting go” concept revealed the following; “maybe that’s why I don’t achieve results in my practicing, because I get so overwhelmed trying to fix everything”. Where we have a general sense of ‘overwhelm’ or anxiety it can be difficult to establish what we are in fact holding on to.
There are a number of ways to help with the process of understanding what we are holding on to in order to be start the process of letting go. These include writing a journal, sketching, developing a practice of going within to really listen and gain greater understanding through meditation and greater body awareness. When the external world places greater and greater restriction on our external movement, perhaps therein lies great opportunity to delve deep and discover the wellsprings of that aspect of your-self, yet to emerge.
What is going on globally at this moment is a collective experience. It can be scary but it can also provide opportunity. Referring to my previous article on “Identity”, we can change views, beliefs, understanding and perception of ourselves multiples times throughout our life and therefore our understanding and perceptions of the world we live in. One thing is certain, the collective “experience” is virtually impossible to ignore. Perhaps, as we get a rest from the outer presentation or identify of who we are, how we present ourselves to the world, we have an opportunity to go on a different type of adventure, an adventure inward’s. Why not gather and pack your tools of choice - pens, paper, paint, gardening, music, wild imagination and/or stillness and take a trip that could exceed a two kilometer physical limit? It may just reveal a new direction and be the catalyst for major movement when the external immobility subsides.
© Cli Donnellan, Creative Facilitator
Donnellan, C. (2018) The Phenomenology of Evaluative, Live Performance Experiences for Irish Traditional Musicians in a Third Level Context. Unpublished thesis. University of Limerick.
Shusterman, R., (2008) Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics, Cambridge University Press.