Let it go
Letting go has for millennia been a cornerstone principle for leading a fulfilled and happy life.
Today the principle is fighting a rearguard action against the consumer society which
seeks to promote accumulation and clinging as the mainstream route to happiness.
This is not a call to asceticism or even an alternative to austerity. Its a fundamental way of life worth re-discovering.
Start by watching my introductory video below (click on the bar under the video to read the full text).
Then spend some time on self reflection and further reading.
Let it go
Hello, Jeremy here with this month’s subject for discussion and consideration, which is all about letting go, clearing the decks.
What, you might ask, has this got to do with Living Money? The answer is: a lot. In fact, its one of those fundamental topics that provide the foundation for the way we live, earn and spend.
Lets just remind ourselves what we seek to achieve at Living Money, then I’ll explain how letting go plays a significant role in this journey.
As a member of Living Money you are here, I hope, to discover the art and science of living a wholehearted, authentic and fulfilled life, a life grounded in financial enlightenment and organisation and free from the social and financial pressures imposed by the consumer society in which we live and work. You are going to do this by using and combining skills and techniques from life coaching and financial planning.
Letting go is one of the fundamental principles and tools for achieving this. Now, I am not suggesting you chuck everything and go an live in a tent in the desert. I am, however, suggesting that its important for you to re-discover the art of what the ancient Greeks termed ‘kenosis’ and which Karen Armstrong, the highly acclaimed author and commentator on social and religious affairs, describes as ‘emptying oneself of the greed, selfishness, and pre-occupations that, perhaps inevitably, are engrained in our thoughts and behaviours’ and which, by extension, are the source of much of our pain, especially around money.
Letting go can and should be practised on the physical, financial and emotional levels.
For new members, clearing the decks is important. The journey you are on here is probably the most important you will ever take. It will be of real help if you ‘clear the decks’, both physically and metaphorically before you start. Clear out your house and your diary. Find space and give yourself room to think and breathe.
On a deeper level, start to declutter your life. Get rid of the detritus that has piled up, including cupboards and attics full of boxes, old toys, computers, magazines, trunks from generations.
Its important to do this in a way that helps you to grow in the process. If you just hire a skip and pile everything into it you’ll certainly empty the house. You will not, however, have truly let go of your stuff.
Instead, be mindful of what you do. Take each item, each relationship, each commitment and be present with it. Study it and consider it. Ask how it arrived in your house or your life or your diary. Ask what it means to you, and to anyone else with whom it is connected. Ask whether it still adds meaning to your life, or would it be better liberated from your clutches and donated to someone who might be more appreciative of its merits, or recycled, or sold for cash.
If you decide to let it go, do so with gratitude for what it has given you whilst in your possession, and if you decide to retain it, then commit to maintaining or developing it so that it adds to your happiness and the happiness of others, so the whole process adds depth and meaning to your life and the lives of others.
As an example, I’ve just used the need to submit a tax return as a trigger for a bit of a clear out of all those documents, letters, statements and junk mail which tend to accumulate during the year. The basket on the windowsill is now empty, what needs to be kept has been scanned and filed. And more than that, I’ve gone deeper into a thorough review of our family finances, disposing of assets that no longer support our lives, simplifying our investments, starting to assess and document our income and taxation for the current year and making sure everything is in good order.
And it has given me room to create, space to concentrate on other things, a sense of peace
Now, lets take this a bit further. Karen Armstrong goes on to say that ‘once you give up the nervous craving to promote yourself, denigrate others, draw attention to your unique and special qualities and ensure you are the first in the pecking order, then you experience an immense peace’.
In the Living Money context, I think this is about bringing our egos under control, particularly in relation to money. Money and the ego are entwined. Money is often a proxy for the ego. We use money in so many ways to let our ego express itself, often to the detriment of our true selves and what we really want to be and do.
Who hasn’t used money to promote themselves or denigrate others through what we buy – a car that screams out how successful you are and leaves neighbours feeling diminished, an expensive bottle of wine in a wine bar that speaks of your wealth rather than of your appreciation of the contents, an item of clothing that makes you stand out in the crowd when actually your own personal qualities would do the trick much better if you would only let them.
The alternative to egotism is compassion, which is why I often talk about the goal of Living Money being to practice a compassionate life. Its not just about the Golden Rule, although that is important. Its a profoundly important principle of letting go of our ego to live a completely different way of life. Drop the ego, practice compassion, use you money in a meaningful way that helps you and others to grow, and life really changes. Its when you start to experience Armstrong’s ‘immense peace’.
Later in the year I’ll return to the subject of clinging and letting go as they apply to our thoughts and feelings.
Before we close I’ll just remind you there is more on this page on this subject for you to explore and please feel free to contribute in your own way. Next month we’ll be looking at financial organisation, why its important and how to achieve it.
Let me finish by telling you about one of my own experiences of letting go. This happens each year when I run the Great North Run half marathon. Half the challenge is getting myself, along with 60,000 other people, to the start line in a fit condition to run the race. However, by the time I get to the start line I have divested myself of everything except running shoes, shorts and vest and a watch. No phones, no cameras. No thoughts or feelings except the race to come. I’ve let go of everything. Its almost primitive. Above all its totally liberating and I do feel light as air.
Thats it, thank you as always for watching. Take care.
Social and financial pressures
The consumer society imposes tremendous social and financial pressures on us. Consequently, we are urged to have more, be the best, be better than, copy the stars. This has led to unprecedented levels of narcissism, perfectionism (and comparison), the three great ills of our society today. And it has also led to an indebted, addicted and clinging society.
Recognising and confronting these pressures will help us to live an authentic life grounded in financial enlightenment and organisation. We will achieve sustainable freedom by accepting and living the person we genuinely are and letting go of the person we are under pressure to be.
Narcissus was so beautiful that even Echo’s desire could not prevent him from clinging to his own reflection in the stream to the exclusion of all else.
‘Narcissistic personality disorder, much talked about these days, is marked by vanity, self-importance, a grandiose hunger for admiration, acclaim and applause, and above all an obsession with self-image. The feelings of others are railroaded and stampeded, while such considerations as honesty, truthfulness or integrity are blithely disregarded. Bragging, boasting and delusional exaggeration are common signs. Criticism or belittlement is intolerable and can provoke aggressive and explosively strange behaviours.
‘Perhaps narcissism is best defined as a need to look on other people as mirrored surfaces who satisfy us only when they reflect back a loving or admiring image of ourselves. When we look into another’s eyes, in other words, we are not looking to see who they are, but how we are reflected in their eyes. By this definition, which of us can honestly disown our share of narcissism?’
Fry, Stephen. Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece (pp. 343-344). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
Brené Brown talks to Oprah about the danger of perfectionism. She describes perfectionism as one of the ways we armour ourselves against shame. You can see why when you understand that Brown’s definition of shame is ‘the fear of being perceived as flawed and unworthy of acceptance or belonging’. (Brown, Brené (2007). I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I am enough”. Gotham Books, Kindle Edition)
And in this clip Brown talks about the importance of letting go of perfectionism and what people think about us, and cultivating authenticity and self-compassion as a route to a wholehearted life.
Brown expands on this in her book The Gifts of Imperfection in which she sets out her ten guideposts to wholehearted living.Its recommended reading (Brown, Brené (2010).The Gifts of Imperfection. Hazelden Publishing, Centre City)
The Poet’s View of Letting Go
Poets thrive on encapsulating our often complex thoughts and emotions into succinct words often using metaphor. Here, in his poem Eternity, William Blake (1757 – 1827) sets out in four simple lines the full power of and freedom of letting go. The photo is his the original text in his notebook number 43.
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
Cut the clutter
In the introduction video I talked about clearing the decks. Starting such a project is often the difficult part, so here is an exercise to help you get started.
Look around, pick a possession and gift it, donate it, sell it, recycle it or bin it.
Its important to do this in a way that helps you to grow in the process. Be mindful of what you do. Take the item and be present with it. Study it and consider it. Ask how it arrived in your life. Ask what it means to you, and to anyone else with whom it is connected. Ask whether it still adds meaning to your life, or would it be better for you to liberate it by donating it to someone who might be more appreciative of its merits, or recycling it, or selling it for cash.
When you let it go, do so with gratitude for what it has given you whilst in your possession, so the whole process adds depth and meaning to your life and the lives of others.
How does that feel?
Remind yourself to ask this of yourself again in a few weeks time and consider if you miss it.
The Home Declutter Kit
If you need more help, then try Helen Sanderson’s Home Declutter Kit.
My friend Helen Sanderson has perfected the art of letting go and ‘creating calm from clutter.’ She has distilled her wisdom and method into her Home Declutter Kit.
The kit consists of over 30 beautifully-illustrated prompt cards and a book that sets out her six step process. Together these tools take you through a clear, easy-to-follow method for doing a declutter or tidy up, big or small, alone or with a friend. In an easy-to-follow guide, Helen shows you how to set up the cards, get started, sort your clutter and create order. And she provides plenty of practical tips to help keep you focused along the way. Give it a go!