07/20/2012 08:03 am ET Updated Sep 19, 2012

How Do I Let Go?

How many times have we heard from well-meaning friends and family members that the solution to our problem was to "just let it go"? My stepdaughter recently asked me, "I want to let it go, but how do I do it? What does it really mean?" Her sentiments echo the frustration of many who understand the need to let negative thoughts and beliefs go but are not sure of the steps to take to make lasting and positive change. And others wonder if "letting go" is really a cure-all and if so, how do we learn to let it all go?

What Is Letting Go?

We have all heard "Let go and let God," and the importance of letting go is well-documented by many spiritual leaders and self-help teachers. Yet, there still seems to exist an underlying confusion about what letting go is. Letting go is simply an alternative to control. Letting go is to leave things or people as they are -- letting them be. I am not advocating that we do nothing in our lives to help ourselves or our community. Quite the opposite: Letting go is the releasing of the control and the need or expectation for these things to occur. When something we desire and work hard for does not materialize in the way we had planned, we have the option to put this in perspective by ways of understanding that we are still the same person or to cultivate regrets and vow to control even more. When we are able to let go of the outcome, we are then able to start again without carrying the emotional labels of failure, fear, anger and loss. These negative emotions interfere with our ability to let go and experience the life we want.

There will never be a time in our lives when we are in control of everything. Control does not have to be our truth anymore. It does not have to be who we are. We attempt to control as much as possible under the influence of being a good parent, managing the company well, predicting problems and solving them for our community or making changes to our own lives. It's the attempts to control that lead us to grasp tightly to people and things. And moving forward is difficult with the heaviness of your past weighing you down. Holding on tightly leaves little room for movement and nothing interferes more than fear and control. When we are invested in the control of something or someone, we tend to inflate the outcome to an importance that causes us to suffer. When we live in the present with our focus and tight grip on the future, it feels as if today is here just to serve tomorrow's agenda.

How do we let go of things?

Redefine what you believe: You can redefine what you believe to be possible, and this affects what is available to you. In every moment, there is a chance to let go of whatever is troubling you and feel peaceful. Move in the direction of your purpose or toward that, which feels good. Yes, make the statement every morning: "I want to feel good." See where this leads you. When you are focused on what makes you feel good, watch what you choose to eat, whom you choose to talk to, where you to go, what you choose to experience with the conscious thought of wanting to feel good. You may also notice what you do not choose -- and that could be control and attachment. Know that some things may need to be let go and rest assured that new things will emerge.

Take responsibility: Many times when we need to let go, we are focused on what someone else did that was wrong, instead of what we could have done better. Identify what you are learning and develop a path to closure. Remember that self-worth is a function of self-honesty -- cultivate it.

Feel it fully: If you disconnect from your feelings, they still exist and will affect everyone around you -- not just the person or situation who inspired your anger. Give yourself a rant minute or two... use it for a momentary release only... not as a way of being, to harm another or as a habit. Channel your discontent into new and positive actions. Before you can let go of any emotion, feel it fully. Cry it out. Work it out through exercise. Laugh it out. Use meditation or yoga to bring you into the present moment, where letting go is easier.

Allowing: You can live your life allowing or controlling. When you find yourself controlling or attached to a particular outcome, remember that letting go does not mean getting rid of something or someone. The relationship, the job or the illness is not the problem; the problem is grasping or needing something to happen to make you feel okay. You can learn to let it go by laying it aside and putting it down gently without any kind of drama.

Shut it down: Stop listening to the destructive force of your own mind or others. People that keep you in a negative space make it difficult to let those circumstances, conditions and thoughts go. Focus on cultivating the right conditions for your growth. You have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it. Letting go allows kindness and love to move into the space that was previously occupied by control. Become comfortable with everything new. Newness is change.

Forgiveness for yourself: Begin by forgiving yourself -- it is a gift that will change your direction. When we stop blaming others, take responsibility and forgive ourselves, we will be able to let go. We make many choices, such as who the parent of our child will be, what job we will focus on, the divorces, the friendships, the battles we choose to engage with and forgiving ourselves helps letting the guilt or blame go.

Our thoughts are not a lifestyle unless we choose it. We can choose to let them go. When you let things go, you can then reintroduce yourself to you, as life will be different.

For more by Linda Durnell, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.