Learn, Bless, and Release

Woman meditatingAt first glance, the injunction to bless and release sounds just beautiful, and so evolved. On reflection, it is missing a crucial component: learning from the experience before you let it go. Jumping right to bless and release without first opening to the lesson is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg. You may think you did something helpful, but it’s a superficial solution.

If it were that easy to just bless and release, people would forgive far more readily, and generally move through relationship roadblocks and inner conflicts with ease. As you know, nothing could be further from the truth.

If you take stock of a situation, ask yourself what you could glean from it, and then consciously open your heart, you will be more able to truly bless the people involved and let it go. The psychic lightness you experience as a result comes from true detachment.

In Buddhism, the concept of detachment is often misunderstood. It does not mean detaching your love and caring from someone; rather, it is detachment from outcome. This requires an understanding of your expectations, even when they are not readily accessible. It’s just another good reason to take time to meditate, as it allows previously buried thoughts and feelings to emerge from your unconscious to your conscious mind.

Once you are aware of your expectations, i.e., your attachment to certain outcomes, you can work to release them. The first step in letting go is acknowledging the hold they have on you. Is there a pattern of thinking, judging, reacting, or expecting that has dogged you in the past? If so, please resist the temptation to blame yourself. Trust that you were doing the best you could, and refuse to enter the cycle of self-criticism, as it will only impede your progress.

Accepting other people’s different ways of being and behaving is a wonderful goal. Like all major cognitive and heart-opening shifts, it does not happen overnight. A good way to start is by being aware of your thought patterns, behaviors, and physical responses to certain people and situations. If you sense a tightness in your chest or abdomen, ask yourself what you might be thinking about someone’s behavior. Are you judging it? Are you being critical of his or her way of handling something? Are you comparing how you would do things differently? Breathe into whatever tightness you feel. Give yourself a cosmic permission slip to have those initial reactions without resorting to self-condemnation. Then ask yourself: “How would I rather think and feel about this person?”Imagine reacting that way. Use all five senses to really feel the difference. Now, notice any changes in your body.

If you like how you think and feel after that exercise, you may be ready to bless. Following the teaching of the Buddha on metta, or loving-kindness meditation, bless yourself first. To Western minds, this may appear selfish, but it sets the stage for opening your heart to others. Once you feel that positive intention toward yourself, you can bless the other person. A classic invocation is: “May you be peaceful, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.”

If that felt good, let it all go. This is easier said than done, as humans can’t erase memories at will; however, you can let go of any residual negative feelings, such as anger, resentment, or jealousy, especially if you feel yourself joyfully moving forward.

Letting go is powerful psychological medicine when it is done with a truly forgiving heart. Be patient with yourself as you traverse this new territory, and practice self-forgiveness as it paves the way to being more loving and understanding of others.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC, therapist in Buffalo, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • mason

    mason

    March 4th, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    This is so spot on! We forget that we are actually supposed to learn something from the events in our lives.

    We find that to a small extent that we are doing something wonderful by being able to let it go, and we are, but isn’t it wonderful to know that you are also taking something even better, that you have learned something that you will have the chance to apply in others areas of your life as well?

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    March 4th, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    Thank you, Mason, for taking the time to share your reactions to this piece.

  • Evelyn

    Evelyn

    March 4th, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    I think the more we do with a bitter experience other than cry the better it is.like it almost becomes something other than an element of sadness it becomes a lesson it becomes a stepping stone it becomes an experience – anything other than a sad element.that sounds like a good way of not just protecting yourself from the shortcomings of a bitter experience but also gets us something out of even the worst situation.

  • Christine Mathieu

    Christine Mathieu

    March 5th, 2013 at 3:09 AM

    Nicole–Wonderful article! Beautifully expressed and a great lesson in self-empowerment! Yes, when we ask empowering questions like the one’s you offered, “what can I gain/learn from this experience?” we increase self-understanding and self-awareness. Then moving into forgiveness and release becomes easier. And like anything else, practice practice practice! And what I love most about your article is that the information you shared applies to our relationship with money as well!! Thank you Nicole! Warm blessings to you!
    –Christine

  • TOM

    TOM

    March 5th, 2013 at 11:45 PM

    I’ve tried this before. While I have no problems letting go of negative things, how do I ‘learn’ from such experiences. I do remember them but that’s not learning is it?

    I mean I will not do the same mistakes again of course but no two circumstances are the same. So an action could be wrong in one and yet be right in another! How do we navigate this?

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    March 6th, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Great question, Tom.
    How about thinking in terms of emotional lessons rather than behavioral ones?
    As you said, most of the time, we learn not to act in a certain way because we didn’t like the results. That aspect you seem to have covered.
    Emotional lessons are a bit more subtle, and often have to occur a number of times before we can own them.
    I can only speak in generalities here, as each situation has different potentials for learning; so, the issue seems to be remaining open to seeing the upside in anything and bringing whatever you glean from that into the next situation.

  • Bipolar Nana

    Bipolar Nana

    July 10th, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Detachment is difficult to understand. I still have difficulty with detaching with love. It’s hard, but it can be done, and once it is done, the freedom I feel is worth all the work to get to that point. It takes practice. Probably for my lifetime.

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