“The Art of Letting Go”
Endings may not be so easy, but they are not optional in this life. There comes a time when a certain activity must be let go. Or a time when a relationship truly needs to end or, at least, change form. The art is knowing when this time comes, and paying close attention to your true inner feelings, rather than your ego, your pride, or the mental image of yourself.
A few weeks ago, Joyce and I, our daughter, Rami, her eight-year-old son, Skye, and our son, John-Nuri, spent four days rafting the Rogue River in southern Oregon. There is one rapid, Rainie Falls, that is a true class five rapid. There is an option that is a bit easier, a man-made fish ladder that takes you around the more difficult falls. This is the way I usually go when alone on the trip with Joyce. Rami, however, is often up for the challenge of running the main falls. On the previous year’s trip, with Rami at the oars in the back of the raft, and John-Nuri and me paddling in the front, I got ejected from the raft, and had to swim through the turbulence to the shore. It wasn’t fun! Then we walked back up river and took a second raft down the falls. This time, when we took the final plunge, I stopped paddling and held on to the raft, which kept me in the boat.
This year, I felt a hesitation when Rami announced, after scouting the rapid, that she would like to try the main falls once again. But I pushed past any trepidation, and ignored Joyce’s premonition. I agreed to participate in this adventure once more. We hiked upriver to our three rafts, and got settled into the one empty boat. In case we flipped over, we didn’t want the extra weight of gear, which would have to be removed underwater before we could flip the raft right side up.
Before leaving shore, we asked the angels to watch over us, and grant us safe passage. This is an important ritual that we do before every challenging rapid (or challenging event in our lives). Then we shoved off and slowly approached the main falls, and the deep booming roar of water flowing at 1600 cubic feet per second, and the spray of mist rising into the air. Rami called for John-Nuri and me to paddle hard to build up momentum, and then we took the plunge. As we fell toward the turbulent pool, I stopped paddling and grabbed hold of a line on the raft to keep me in the boat. We hit the water like a spear, diving deeply straight in. Even under water, with tremendous hydraulic forces pushing me around like I was in a giant washing machine, I clung to the raft.
Then we popped backwards out of the river but, with the stalled momentum, we were at the mercy of the roiling mass of turbulence which launched the raft onto its side, threatening to flip it over. It was like riding a bucking bronco that felt like it was jumping up into the air and would momentarily land on its back, which would not be healthy for the rider. I finally let go, entered the water, and got sucked down into the maelstrom.
I have learned not to panic in these situations. That only depletes your oxygen more quickly. I held my breath, took some strokes toward the surface which seemed to do no good, and waited for the river to release me, and for my life jacket to do its job. After an eternity, perhaps 10-15 seconds, my head broke the surface and I gulped precious air.
And yes, this is also “show and tell.” Someone actually took a two and a half minute video in slow motion of the whole fiasco, which you can view here: https://youtu.be/Epl8RhHuefc. You can see Rami searching for me while I was underwater.
Have I learned my lesson? Yes, I’m officially finished with running the main Rainie Falls. I have nothing more to prove. It is a clear ending for me. I’m happy to sneak down the fish ladder. I’m no longer motivated by adrenaline.
Other endings are not so clear or easy. Jogging was not so easy to let go. I used to love to jog for exercise, but my knees eventually let me know that they were unhappy with this form of exercise. With my knee replacement, I can hike to my heart’s content, but not jog.
Then there’s non-physical letting go. Friendships, for example. Joyce and I both get attached to our friends. Of course it’s more than attachment. It’s love. So when things get hard, or feelings get hurt, we naturally want to work it out as fast as we can, to get back to love. This is what we do in our own relationship. But it doesn’t always work with other people. Not everybody wants to do the hard work of relationship. We still call them friends, but have had to patiently wait for them to be ready to come to the table and work things out. Some have not, even after many years. It’s definitely sad and painful for us.
Separation and divorce can be quite difficult. It can feel like the end of a dream. Joyce and I are committed to help couples do everything they can to prevent this ending. Often, relationships can be saved by learning new tools. But still, relationship endings may be necessary. There are three big reasons to end a relationship: abuse, whether physical or emotional; addiction that is not being addressed; and one or both partners not willing to take responsibility for their part of the equation, or not willing to get the help that is needed. For more on taking responsibility, read this article: https://sharedheart.org/the-shiny-pen-taking-responsibility-in-relationship/
We love our work with groups. Our workshops and retreats. We used to travel several weekends a month by car or plane. It’s no longer easy for us to do this. We’ve had to let go of much of the travel. On the plus side, we are doing more and more at our own home and center, which is very gratifying.
Is there something in your life that no longer serves you? Is there an ending needed? Have the courage to admit the truth – and then take action.
By the way, I hope to raft rivers for many more years. They just might have to get easier and easier.