The Art of Letting It Be: For Those Torn Between Letting Go and Holding On…

Life goes through cycles of joy and despair. When life presents challenges, it is natural to resist, fight and wish to change what is happening. Learning how to be at peace, generous in heart and responsive to life’s tensions are skills requiring cultivation. But sometimes we are forced to choose between letting go and holding on. That is when we are always told we have to do something about given issues—whether situations and relationships that challenge or even hurt us—and we have to do it now. So we think we are left with only two choices: either to let go and break ties with people who hurt us, or to hold on and keep experiencing pain.

“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”~Rumi

I believe that since life is abundant and full of unexpected surprises and serendipity, limiting our options and choices to only two is not necessarily a spiritual or an enlightened act in principle. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success. So if we try to plan every step, we may miss those wonderful twists and turns or perhaps we may miss life-changing lessons.

That is why I reckon that in some cases there is always a third choice: letting it be until the lesson we are meant to learn unravels, considering that inaction is an action itself.

“Letting go has never been easy, but holding on can be as difficult. Yet strength is measured not by holding on, but by letting go.”~Len Santos.

Let’s discuss the two scenarios: Letting It Go and Letting It Be.

First Scenario: In a world where we are all moving so fast, it seems we’re expected to take the easy way out: letting go of something just as rapidly. Easier said than done, letting go requires a lot of strength as it is translated as giving up or walking away. Sometimes it is soothing to let go of whatever makes you uncomfortable, but it also means that we gave everything up, and that at one point whatever we once held onto is now gone—for good. If this is your case, then letting go is the perfect scenario for you.

It seems that letting go is currently the means of venting all the rage. We are supposed to just let go of situations that challenge or even hurt us—because, God forbid, we are in a difficult situation that we can’t gain control of. So, instead, we are told to exercise our control in the form of letting go, and we cut ourselves away from whatever was instigating those feelings that hurt us.

“I used to be afraid of the pain letting go of the past would cause; until I realized how much pain holding on has caused.”~Steve Maraboli.

Letting go can be a way to create waves—or perhaps ripples—on the surface; it can manifest an ending or a new beginning where ambiguity that previously lingered can front as a positive step towards growth.

But, I ask this—what if what you are letting go of is actually something you’re meant to experience and learn from? Sometimes it is not that easy to let go. Almost nothing—not even those really difficult loves—can be gone or lost, if it is truly meant for us.

Sometimes, letting go is only a false sense of control; it’s an illusion, because while we can choose to remove ourselves from situations and relationships, the reality is that it’s a lesson that just might keep coming back until we have learned all what we are supposed to. The reality is we aren’t always meant to just let it go.

“It’s not a matter of letting go—you would if you could. Instead of ‘Let it go’ we should probably say ‘Let it be’.”~Jon Kabat-Zinn

This question leads us to the second scenario.

Second Scenario: Life is uncomfortable, especially if we are doing it the right way, but that also means that we’re not going to want to willingly feel every moment that comes our way. So much of our journey isn’t about planning what will happen, but dealing with all of the random occurrences that come our way that we never anticipated—and if we simply just let go of all that is uncomfortable, then there would never be any growth.

To let it be means that we simply do nothing—we pause within our story. This is an act of letting things play out, however they are meant to. Life will always move in one direction or another; it will evolve to manifest our deepest desires—or, over the course of time, it will become apparent that another path is meant for us. But, regardless of which outcome occurs, often we don’t really need to do anything in order to make it happen.

To let something be requires much more strength than just letting go, because we’re learning to sit with the ambiguity that life often creates from those moments that we could never have conceived of.

As tempting as it is to just let go, the truth is that we just need to let it be. But this isn’t always easy; it means we can’t force endings, we can’t make choices for others, and we can’t teach our heart something that it still needs to learn. We can’t rush through the lessons and expect to ace the finals.

“There will be an answer, let it be.” ~ The Beatles

It’s really awkward yet brave to just sit and let an uncomfortable situation run its course. No one wants open endings, loose ends, confusion, or disappointment. But, the reality of this crazy, beautiful life is that it’s the dark moments that make us truly appreciate the ones bathed in light.

“Someone I love once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too was a gift”~Mary Oliver

By letting it be, we are still moving forward in our lives—not holding ourselves back. We are still attracting abundance and meeting the surprises that each new sunrise may bring, but we aren’t forcing ourselves to adopt a particular plan or outcome for ourselves or our lives.

In many instances, when talking with women about relationships that have left them confused or dumbfounded, their biggest complaint is that others have told them to just let it go. But, it doesn’t matter how many times we are told (or try) to just let something go—because even if we do, if it’s something we’re meant to experience, then it will come right back until we’ve learned what we need to.

“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Life matters, love matters, family matters. So while we struggle to grasp for the meaning of something that isn’t yet ready to be understood, we can’t just close our eyes and meditatively let it go.

It’s our choice to put an end to a situation or to let a situation remain unresolved. It’s our choice to tie up loose ends or let the loose ends dangle and allow the options to remain. Letting it be means giving up deadlines, timelines, and ultimatums—because life doesn’t figure itself out when we want it to, but rather when it’s meant to.

And until that moment happens, we can still laugh, smile, grow, and experience life, all the while knowing that we didn’t let go of something that wasn’t meant to be let go of. We willingly made the choice to sit with the situation as is, without trying to control the outcome.

“Time may not heal all wounds, but it does have a way of clearing even the murkiest of waters—if we just let it be.”~Kate Rose

It is all about the art of letting life be what it is. It takes a beauty of heart to allow life, other people and circumstances to arrive as they are; a generosity of spirit to accept what is present; and a strong will to nurture oneself and remain strong in heart and spirit.

Link to the Article on Elephant Journal.

Image: Dina Al-Mahdy

Bibliographical References:


©2018 Dina Al-Mahdy All Rights Reserved



  1. It is a very good idea: to let life be what it is. I can only agree with that because we sometimes have to allow the flow to take us. Well, I am somebody who does not want to be it that way, therefore, I am always against the flow, against the mainstream acceptance theories and I am for fighting. That makes life abnormally difficult. I think every single person’s situation is unique, and to generalize it all is tempting, but most likely impossible.
    Very good article which makes one think!

    Liked by 1 person

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