Letting go of "shoulds" and doubts
Autumn has arrived. For many of us, this is a sad time of year, often filled with yearning for summer or regrets about the past. The emotion of autumn according to the Chinese Medicine classics is “grief.” Grief can be quite palpable during the time of year when the trees release their leaves and the flowers start to dry up and die.
This grief is especially poignant if we forget that this act of composting is what enriches the soil for the coming spring!
The opportunity that autumn presents us with is the encouragement to let go (just as the trees shed their leaves) of whatever is no longer working for us, of what is no longer in service to life.
I recently had a lesson in letting go when I posed a question to several colleagues on a facebook forum for acupuncturists. I was looking to get feedback for the future, but everyone who commented on the post agreed that I should (or could) have handled a particular situation differently.
I questioned my judgement and had a few uneasy days where I felt the torment of self-doubt, grief, regret, and real uncertainty. How could my own instincts feel valid in the face of overwhelming “evidence” that stated otherwise? Should I trust my own instincts when my colleagues disagreed with me?
This self-judgment soundtrack continued until I saw my own acupuncturist. He took me through a series of questions about what I felt would truly be in service of everyone involved in this particular context.
Forgetting about what I “should” do and resting in what would be of service to the person I was working with, I was able to let go of “should” and move forward with what I felt would be best.
Keeping everything in context and asking yourself ”what will serve life moving forward?”, can be a really powerful lesson.
It’s easy to feel that the pressures of the world are mounting up against us. There are SO MANY “shoulds” that we carry around inside or come into contact with when we interact with other people. Some of these shoulds we are conscious of, other shoulds are so ingrained in our thinking that we assume that they are universal principles, and we don’t even recognize how these beliefs are holding us back.
When we feel resistance to something we “should” do, it can be really powerful to step back and get perspective. That resistance is often your heart sending up a red flag that this “should” might not be your personal best solution.
If you’re feeling a conflict about a particular situation in your life or in your work, and you’re stuck between a should and some resistance to that should, I encourage you to sit with it. Sitting with conflict is uncomfortable, but being able to sit within the eye of the storm is an essential life skill.
Know that you are safe to really feel the resistance. What is this resistance really about?
Is it fear of making the wrong choice (a common hang-up of autumn, a time when nature has to decide what to let die and what to preserve)? Is it a fear of how others will perceive you? (Autumn is also the best time of year to weigh what we value against what we need.) Is there truly a concern about someone else’s safety or well-being? (If yes, ask yourself to really examine what will be in service to that person?)
If you’re stuck in the pain of indecision, start with compassion for yourself. Taking a few conscious breaths in and sighing them out your mouth. Autumn is a time to take stock of what you can let go of. When you do let your shoulds start to drop, you may feel a twinge of grief for their loss, but there will also be more space and enormous relief.
I would love to hear from you about how this landed for you. Is there something you can start releasing in your life or in your thoughts? You can contact me or leave a comment below.