Rituals for Letting Go
My father used to say that there is nothing to be gained by holding on to something with a clenched fist, for it is only when we are willing to let go and open our hands that we are able to receive.
In Seasons of Being: Fall – How to Navigate Life Changes, I talked about transition and transformation, and how letting go is a natural and necessary part of growth.
We can see that this is so as it manifests in nature, our wisest teacher — from the trees releasing their leaves to preserve energy when the weather turns cold, to the snake shedding the skin that it has outgrown, to the crustacean leaving behind the shell that no longer fits and seeking a new one that does. A caterpillar surrenders its entire body and succumbs to literal goo inside its cocoon before it will emerge once more as a butterfly.
To my father’s point, when we are willing to let go of that which is not or no longer serving our highest good, we create space to invite in that which is.
But here’s a confession for you.
Letting go is not something that I have ever been good at. When I get attached, whether to a person or to an idea, I get attached with all of my heart and as deep as the marrow in my bones. Even when I can recognize that a particular person has not been a positive influence in my life, or that certain beliefs about myself that I have allowed to internalize may be holding me back from something I want, letting go nevertheless has always been a difficult endeavor.
Maybe you can relate?
That is why I like to perform rituals for letting go when there is someone or something in my life that I need to release. I have found that creating conscious space and ceremony where I may honor my intent to release makes the process of letting go easier and much more effective.
WHY PERFORM RITUALS FOR LETTING GO
Perhaps you are in a relationship that is no longer fulfilling. You may find yourself yearning for more passion, more intimacy, more adventure, yet you can’t seem to bring yourself to let go of the person you are with, despite knowing that this person is not a good match for you — or you for them.
Maybe you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, anger over a betrayal, fear, an addiction, or even just a bad habit. Whatever the case, letting go of someone or something does not happen overnight — it is a journey, it requires the courage and commitment to create a new reality, and it takes time.
Our brains are hardwired to reward consistency and familiarity as a means of survival, and anything outside of what we have grown accustomed to triggers a sort of error message in us. This is why we remain in toxic relationships, uninspiring jobs, and within the confines of our comfort zones in general — because they are all familiar. We know what to expect. But when that familiar thing is suppressing us or keeping us from realizing our full potential, our brains are actually doing us a great disservice.
The good news is that when we give ourselves permission to acknowledge and look at what is holding us back, we have the ability to change. We can form new patterns of behavior and ways of thinking and, ultimately, we can rewire our brains to support whatever new direction we desire to go in moving forward.
Performing rites and rituals gives a more tangible meaning and purpose to that new direction, and helps us stay accountable and on track. It is a way to honor the choice to keep moving and keep growing.
It is important to understand, though, that ritual is not magic. There is no candle that will magically remove the pain of an ex lover from your heart when you burn it, nor is there a stone that will magically absorb your fears or insecurities. It is not the flame, the stone, the water or even the words that you may choose to recite that make the shift, but rather the power of your intent.
Ritual simply provides a way to consciously focus that intent.
TIMING RITUALS FOR LETTING GO
You can perform a letting go ritual at any time that feels right to you and as often as you need — again, the power is in the strength of your intent.
That said, I love working with Moon energy and personally like to perform letting go rituals on the night of the full moon. It is during this time that the moon is pregnant with her dominant yang energy and our emotions and intuitions are magnified. In her light, we can see our growth more clearly, what has supported that growth and what has hindered or inhibited it.
And as the Moon begins to wane in her course back between the Earth and the Sun and her energy decreases, this is an opportune time to release with her the negative energies that we have built up in ourselves — the hurt, the fears, the doubts, the anxieties, the anger, and whatever else that has mounted and created blockages within us. Like the Moon, we can begin to move inward once again and into self reflection, to review where we are and what new intentions we would like to set for ourselves.
FORGIVENESS AND GRATITUDE
Another point I would like to mention is that forgiveness and gratitude are key in rituals for letting go. Letting go is not about erasing or burying with the intention to forget, but rather to recognize what can be learned, what can be gained, and to give gratitude for the opportunity to grow.
This is not by any means to say that you should not allow yourself to feel your pain, your anger or your grief, or that feeling any of these feelings is in any way wrong. On the contrary, giving yourself permission to feel whatever it is that is in your heart and honoring those feelings with love and compassion is imperative.
The goal is simply to release what is keeping us stuck. For example, anger is a perfectly normal and valid human emotion to feel when someone you trust has betrayed you. But if you are unable to work through that anger, at a certain point you need to accept that no matter how angry you are you cannot undo what has been done, and that anger is only poisoning you with more negative energy the longer that you hold on to it.
Forgiving that person doesn’t mean that what they did is okay, nor does it even necessarily mean that they should still be a part of your life if the relationship cannot be salvaged. It simply means that you are ready to release the anger so that you can move forward.
RITUALS FOR LETTING GO
Here are three letting go rituals that I encourage you to try.
1. Plant a Seed
This is my favorite type of letting go ritual.
Albert Einstein famously said that “energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” While transmutation of energy is the basic principle of any letting go ritual, I find it particularly significant in this one. This is a beautiful ritual for letting go of a friend or loved one who has passed on.
You will need:
- A seed (It can be for a flower or a whole tree — whatever feels right to you!)
First spend some time in meditation. Holding the seed in your hand, allow yourself to feel whatever emotions bubble up and bring any grief, pain, guilt, or resentment into focus. When you are ready, take a breath and blow these feelings into the seed. Hold the seed in gratitude for the memories that were good and the lessons that you learned. Finally as you plant the seed in the soil, ask the Universe for guidance and support in transmuting your pain into love and light.
2. Fire Ceremony
Fire ceremonies are probably the most popular type of letting go ritual and for good reason. Fire energy is incredibly potent and empowering, and especially useful when it comes to letting go of fears, anxieties, negative thought patterns, limiting beliefs, addictions, bad habits, and unhealthy attachments.
You will need:
- A pen or pencil
- A fire-pit or fireplace
- Alternatively, a candle and fire safe container
Spend some time in meditation. Bring into awareness the thought or feeling that you wish to release. Take note of how it manifests in your body — does your chest or stomach tighten? Does your breathing become shallow or strained? Allow yourself to consciously feel the physical effects that this thought or feeling has on you. Then, imagine what you will feel like when this thought or feeling has been released. Try to sense what new thoughts or feelings might fill that space and how your life will be different. When you are ready, write down the thought or feeling that you are ready to let go of. If there are several, you can tear the paper into as many pieces as you need. Then, one by one, toss the paper into the fire. Say aloud that you are ready to release whatever you have written and ask the Universe for guidance and support in letting go of that which is no longer serving you.
3. Water Ceremony
There is no greater purifier than water, and water rituals for letting go are therefore a wonderful way to gently release. Water is naturally soothing and calming, and can be particularly useful for letting go of anger or other intense and turbulent emotions.
You will need:
- A beach
- (Or) A stone and a bowl
- (Or) A bathtub
Take a trip to the beach and find a quiet spot away from noise and distraction. Watch the steady inhale-exhale of the ocean and try to match your own breath with it. You can even imagine that with each exhale you are letting go of what you wish to release and with each inhale you are welcoming in new energy to take its place. When you feel centered, write or draw what you wish to release in the sand. Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings come up for you, and as you watch the waves wash away what you have written, give gratitude for the lessons that you learned and ask the Universe for guidance and support in letting go of that which is no longer serving you.
If you are unable to go to the ocean, you can focus your intent to release into a stone or crystal (I recommend black tourmaline). When you are ready, drop it into a bowl of water. Let it sit until all the water had been evaporated, then bury the stone or crystal in the ground, giving gratitude for the lessons that you learned and asking the Universe for guidance and support in letting go of that which is no longer serving you.
Alternatively, you can simply take a bath and visualize what you wish to let go of being absorbed into your bath water through your skin. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the water or some healing crystals if you’d like — whatever makes it meaningful for you. Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings come up, and when you are ready, let the water drain. Give gratitude for the lessons that you learned and ask the Universe for guidance and support in letting go of that which is no longer serving you.