Letting Go and Holding On

Ending one year and beginning the next always stirs me to reflection. Tonight I’d like to share a moment of insight. This knowledge will not come as a surprise to any practitioner of mindfulness, meditation, or eastern philosophy, but to me it was profound: Releasing one’s grip on life (be it an attachment to a person, place, thing, or activity) can only happen when we realize we are holding on. And it is only when we are holding on that we have an opportunity to feel the joy of letting go. Thus, letting go and holding on are two opposing constants in life.

The image that comes to my mind is that of a leaf being pulled gently along the surface by the currents of a flowing stream. In that state of release, the leaf is simply floating along, experiencing whatever the stream has to offer. At some point, however, an obstacle appears in the stream — a rock, a log, or a pile of leaves — and the leaf gets stuck until different currents stir it loose and it once again floats freely.

So it is with me. 2015 was a year of transition, personally and professionally. At times I surrendered to it with grace, allowing myself to experience the full spectrum of emotions, thoughts, and events that my life’s “currents” had to offer. Other times, the pull of the current felt too rapid and the waters too choppy for me to handle. During those times, I clung fiercely to former attachments. After a while, I was ready to release my grip and again go with the flow, until another obstacle presented itself and I held on tightly for fear of the unknown. Every time I found myself holding on, I felt frustrated and stuck. I became angry and impatient with myself, wondering why I keep holding on when I know that letting go brings a more lasting peace.

But tonight, as I consider what I’d like to do differently in 2016, my goal is to cultivate self-compassion. Letting go is only possible when we’re holding on. Thus, they are both blessings. Holding on is not something to be ashamed of or frustrated with myself for. It is simply the precursor to release. Both opposing actions are necessary and ever-present in life. I cannot experience letting go without having experienced the previous state of holding on. This kind of push and pull, ebb and flow, or “two steps forward, one step back” is a part of life.

So it is with our recovery from disordered eating. The diet industry wants to sell us on the idea of “letting go of those unwanted pounds”. And when we don’t, can’t, or won’t, we’re chided for “holding on to unhealthy habits”. Well, what about letting go of self-loathing and the berating we do when we struggle? What about letting go of fabricated notions of what a “healthy” body looks like? What about releasing our attachment to the false notion that thin and fit equals happy and successful?

May 2016 be the year in which we love ourselves enough to let go and are gentle with ourselves when we’re holding on.

Peace, joy, and health,




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