My family has a tradition on Thanksgiving Day of holding hands before the meal,Â right before diving into the platters of turkey, fragrant gravy, vegetables and stuffing, and asking each family member and visiting friend to share something they are grateful for in that moment. This year, as I eat my vegan stuffing and cranberry sauce, my potatoes drowned in vegan gravy, my salad and broccoli, I will give thanks for being able to dream big dreams here with the dream team at 8womendream.
And, I will give thanks for learning to let go.
I think the two actually go hand in hand. To dream big dreams, and live big dreams in the world, we need to also learn to let go of what isn’t working for us. We need to create space in our lives in order to live our dreams.
What Is The Life You Were Born To Live?
We all want to live a happy life, full of purpose and meaning, and want to feel like our lives have made a difference. As Thanksgiving approaches, I reflect onÂ howÂ incredibly blessed we are to even have the luxury to ponder questions of meaningÂ and purpose in our lives.
It’s a privilege to be able to write about living our dreams, and a privilege to live in a free, safe and peaceful country; to have shelter and food; to have money in the bank account;Â and to have the time and space in our lives to pursueÂ our dreams. For so much of the world, forÂ the half ofÂ the world that isÂ living on less than $2 a day, for all the people around the world who are starving or living in war zones, time to dream is not necessarily a luxury they have. Life for so many is simply about survival.
For thoseÂ of us who do have the time, freedom and means to dream, examining our purpose in life is exciting, sometimes confusing and often profound. Why are we here? What dreams do we want to pursue, that will give our life the most meaning and bring us the most joy?
How can we be of service in the world, while loving all the moments of our lives?
These are all big questions to consider.
The Importance of Letting Go
As I prepared to write this post, and as I finalize my Thanksgiving week plans, I’ve been reflecting on what I am most grateful for right now. There is so much, from my health and happiness, to my beautiful home, to my amazing friends around the planet.
What struck me in my musings however is just how grateful I am that I seem to have more and more facility as I age,Â more skill, with the art of letting go.
As the saying goes, we can have everything we want in life, but not all at once. Buddhism teaches that when we grasp at something, wanting to hold onto it, or give into craving for something we don’t have, we create mental suffering for ourselves.
Learning to let go, to me, is all about being willing to give up some things in order to have or achieve others. It means making choices about how we spend the hours and minutes of our lives, and giving our time to what matters.
This can meet letting go of old habits or practices that, while entertaining, aren’t supporting us in living our dreams anymore. It could mean moving on from relationships or people who are “candle-snuffers,” as my best friend likes to say, who rather than helping others shine their light more brightly, look to snuff out others’ dreams.
What Does It Mean To Let Go?
Letting go for me has so many levels and layers.
It means letting go of habits that aren’t serving me anymore. This past summer, for example, I decided I wanted to give up the habit of wallowing when feeling sad, and instead take positive action to shift my energy to a happier space. I’d been known to give in to my own little bouts of depression from time to time, and felt like I wanted to instead look to choose more positive thoughts and be in action when feeling low.
It means letting go of activities that don’t serve my purpose in the world anymore. I like to think that my purpose here on this planet is giving love, evolving, sharing and teaching joy. I’m no longer willing to do a lot of work or spend time in areas that don’t helpÂ me to achieve my purpose.
I have had to learn to let go of a lot over these past few years. I let go of one marriage that wasn’t working.
I let go of my easy life in San Francisco, as a happy freelance consultant writer and dancer, when my house nearly burned down in Troy, New York. I had to return home.
I let go of my feeling that “this shouldn’t happen to me, again” when my neighbors’ house recently burned down, damaging mine again in the process. I let go of that sense that “bad things shouldn’t happen to me.”
This is life. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
I let go, in the past year, of several romances that while fun were not working for me or my partner.
I let go of dreams of running for public office when it seemed clear that that wasn’t aligning with my life purpose, path or greatest joy and heart’s desire right now. That for many years was the big dream – becoming the mayor of my small city of Troy, New York.
I regularly let go of ideal visions of “how life is supposed to be” so I can love and accept my reality as it is.
Doing all of this, I believe, opens up more space in my life for me to focus on the “big dreams” – of writing and publishing my books, being a successful public speaker, and a life coach who tours the world teaching joy and inspiring and empowering people to live their dreams.
Letting Go, Letting Go, Lettting Go…
Letting go can mean letting go of bad habits or toxic relationships. Deepak Chopra offers wonderful tips on letting go of habits that are not serving us:Â Â http://www.chopra.com/habit Getting rid of an undesirable habit often gives us more productive time to do what we love, or dream up the next big dream.
These days, I ruminate less, because I found that simply turning my problems over and over in my mind doesn’t necessarily solve them (whereas taking action, meditating or a change of scenery often does). Over the years, I let go of eating meat to feel healthier and more “green” in my diet. I let go of drinking caffeine every day so I wouldn’t be addicted to it any longer.
I have to remind myself almost daily to “let go” of ideal visions of a perfect magazine-ready woman, and to just love my body as it is, while nurturing it through healthy food and exercise.
Life is after all a process of letting go and shedding layers as we go. Like a snake, we have to shed our skin over and over, letting go of our old identity in order to become what we most want to be next. To be our greatest, grandest, most wonderful selves, we have to continuously let go of what isn’t working anymore in our lives, or of identity labels that we have outgrown.
The Buddha said the only thing that is permanent is change. Life is flow. This means, over and over, letting go.
Embracing The Challenge
Yet itÂ can be challenging to let go, because it means trusting that when we release something, it is to make room for something better in our lives. Or, just to make more space for our dreams. My meditation practice helps me to let go. My faith that the universe is conspiring in my favor to help me live my dreams helps. The dream support team that surrounds me helps.
I stand here in profound gratitude that I have the time, space and freedom to live my dreams out loud with you.
What are you grateful for this week? Can you be grateful for what you have let go of as well, since it opened up more space in your life to allow in what you are dreaming about?Â Fly free and liveÂ your greatest dreams!
Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton, and her MPA from Harvard.Â Lisa recentlyÂ finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the HouseÂ -Â a dream come true!Â Now, to get it published!Â Lisa is also a lindy hopper, blues dancer and belly dancer, and a globe-trotter. Her post day is Tuesday.