“If you let go a little you will have a little happiness. If you let go a lot you will have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely you will be free.” ~Ajahn Chah
I’m a smart woman. And being smart gets me in trouble. I know how to cross my “T’s” and dot my “I’s”—to prepare for what might come. I know how to plan, to pack, to book tickets, to be the perfect tour guide.
I know how to make lists—very well. I know how to calendar myself and how to produce events. I know how to assess situations and make them seemingly work out well.
Or do they?
Too often, I have everything planned and marked out, and life still happens without me.
Six months ago, I decided I was ready to move from a house I owned with my ex-husband. We were divorced two years before, yet I needed the time to grieve.
When I found my dream home, a sweet small cottage for lease in the Santa Monica canyon overlooking the sea, I thought it was meant to be.
With tears filled with happiness and release, eagerly anticipating a new life for me, I sold my house and started to prepare for the move. Two days before the movers came, the owner of the cottage said she wanted to dissolve the lease.
I was freaked out to say the least.
Yet, I tightened my britches. I called the movers and asked them to store my belongings until I knew where I was going. I pressed my real-estate agent to find me another place to rent. At the time, it was a bad rental market in Los Angeles.
The next morning, I ran into my lovely neighbor in front of my house.
Seeing the “Sold” sign in my front yard, he asked me, “Where are you moving?”
“I don’t know,” I said, discouragingly. “My lease fell through; I’m putting my stuff in storage.”
Seeing the fear in my face, my neighbor said to me, “Lynn, when is the next time all of your stuff is in storage? When will be the next time you are not paying a mortgage? This is a perfect time to go somewhere fun for a while, especially after your divorce—how about the south of Spain? France?”
That all seemed too crazy to me.
But later that night, I thought to myself, “He’s right. If I wanted to experience some place else where might it be?”
I didn’t get a clear answer.
I called a friend and told her what my neighbor said to me. She reminded me, “Remember a year ago you said you were curious about New York City?”
“Yes!” I said.
And then it hit me.
Don’t get me wrong—it was hell and back before I made it to New York. I was all over the place (emotionally and literally), crashing in too many friends’ homes and hotels for six weeks. I threw a rib out from the stress. But I finally arrived to New York City with two bags.
And I learned a valuable lesson in regards to my practical, plan making:
No matter how much I plan, it doesn’t always work out the way I think it will be.
Here are four questions I contemplated since then about letting go and allowing life to happen:
1. What if you stopped trying to do?
So many times we think we have “to do” to make it all happen. It’s not that we should stop trying to be productive or to lose sight of our goals, desires, or needs; but sometimes “doing” overrides “allowing.”
I often wonder what it would be like if I attempted to not do—to see what would happen next. Where I might end without all that effort.
I see clearly now that something larger than me had a plan of its own: Another city on another coast. Who would have believed?
2. What if you only focused on what is in front of you?
It’s common sense that we cannot plan really, because we all know that even when we try, life can throw us a curve ball.
So, what if we were to just focus on the object at hand? The one thing in front of us?
For instance, right now, I’m selling a house. Right now, I’m renting a cottage. Right now, the cottage is no longer available. Right now, I am staying at a friend’s house. Right now I am going to New York City.
Well, then life gets interesting!
We get to be a part of the river, following its flow and sometimes being led somewhere better than we thought we could go.
3. What if you don’t know?
Too often, I think I know what is going to happen. Or at least, if I don’t know what will happen I have a back-up plan. (Or several. Or many.) I try to stay safe by predicting and preparing.
And I realize now, that’s my ego speaking. It stops me from seeing that something other than what I think I want might be awaiting me.
I learned from this experience the humility in the power of “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know” keeps me fresh. It keeps me present. It keeps me alive. Then I don’t have to force things to be in the way I think they should be.
Plus, I no longer have to pretend I have everything under control. Instead, I am free!
For fun, try saying, “I don’t know” for a day to everything.
Sit in the unknowing. It’s uncomfortable, for sure. This “spaciousness” is disconcerting. But great new and exciting territory lies in that unknown. And the mystery, ultimately directs us on its own.
4. Can you handle changing directions?
When I control, prepare, think things out, and think they are the right or the best course of action, lightening can still strike, causing me to go in a different direction.
Rather than panic, (like I did) I can meet the current when it changes in front of me. Life has a funny way of showing the right path, eventually.
Many times, my fear and panic is a messenger. showing me I am going in a direction that is not in alignment. That anxiety, as scary as it is, might be telling me something.
If I pay attention, my fear might be offering me something good.
In the end, New York City has brought me a plethora of wonderful new things. After being on the west coast for twenty-seven years, this was a huge surprise to me—a life experience I didn’t know was available.
I’m curious now, more than ever, what will happen if I continue to ask these four questions. Perhaps, some unknown force is leading me. Perhaps, my willingness and intuition is guiding me. But when I let go, even if for a while, I find I am more happy and free.
How do you feel asking yourself these questions? What might you be curious about if you let go and allowed life to happen?