Failure is my Spiritual Practice: The Path of Letting Go

Learning how to let go!

learn how to let go of what you don't need

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell

I’m in a pretty good place right now. I’m quite happy and satisfied.

I’m only here right now because I’ve failed at every thing else I’ve ever tried to do.

At one point in my life I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to get all the things. I’ve practiced the grind, the hustle, the busyness and the manifestation of things.

I’ve measured my life through job titles, awards won, and material wealth accumulated. Today, I’m grateful none of it ever worked out.

The Path of Gain and Fame

You can try the path of chasing cash and prizes. Most of us already are. It’s hard to let go of.

I don’t need to be famous, I said. I don’t need to be rich, I said. All I need is just a little bit more… Just writing that last sentence makes me feel so unhealthy and sad, but it’s how my mind operated for so much of my life.

If I’m honest, it’s something I still struggle with, albeit in a less catastrophic way, every day. I’m not asking for the stars and the moon, just a few more dollars in the bank, just a little bit more security.

I mean sense of security. Because the truth is, none of these things bring real, lasting happiness.

There’s no such thing as just a little bit more. The high eventually goes low. It’s never enough. If my happiness and contentment relies on getting the things I want, I’m walking the path of Gain and Fame, and I know from experience that it doesn’t work out.

Each time I catch myself saying “I’ll feel better if…” or “I’ll feel better when….” I need a logic check. Honestly. If wealth and status made us happy, no celebrity or Wall Street banker would ever commit suicide.

We think we’re special, with those riches we’d behave differently. We’ve thought this way for thousands of years. Different, we are not. 

Learn to Be a Loser

I got fired from my first career at the height of my success.

There’s no correlation sometimes between personal performance and what life throws our way. Ever hear someone say, “It’s not about you?”

I got fired from my attempt at a second career because let’s face it, the universe said, “that’s not your path.”

I started a business, and it failed. I started another business, and that one failed too. But bigger!

Each failure in the moment was a life-altering catastrophe. A disaster of “maybe I’ll end it” proportions. In the moment, that is.

Somehow, some way, I was able to ride it out, I was able to change the narrative, and I was able to seek new perspective.

I learned to be a loser through resiliency, lots of therapy, and desire. I still had the desire to be happy, and I was unwillingly forced into finding another way.

The spiritual path, I’ve found, is one of learning to let go. I didn’t come to it willingly. Did I find this path?

More like it found me by grabbing me by the scruff of my neck, shoving me down, and pushing my face into it.

The Path of Letting Go

I’m learning to let go of thinking that my happiness can only arrive when the world around me is perfect.

Let go of thinking contentment can only come from getting what I want.

Let go of what I want. Even let go of wanting sometimes. It’s not easy and I’m not always successful at it.  

This is the spiritual path in a nutshell. And each and every part of it is painful.

The irony is that to succeed here, one must be really good at failure, at suffering, at losing things.

The good news is most of us have every opportunity in the world to become pros. Life sucks. Once you decide to walk a spiritual path, anything you’re still grasping on to will be ripped from your hand, and if your fingers won’t pry loose your wrist gets cut off.

And if you don’t like the way that feels, well then you can just open up your fist and let it go.

Just Give Up

That’s right. Throw in the towel. It’s possible for happiness and contentment to exist in each and every moment, once we stop fighting against those moments.

When I wish things were different, well, that’s wishful thinking. When I’m able to say, “this situation sucks right now, but I can work with it.” I’m saying I know I’ll be ok.

By giving up and giving in to the present moment, I’m accepting, I’m open, and I’m in the flow of things versus fighting against them.

A world of possibility opens up. This world might not open up when I want it to, but eventually, it does. I have to trust. Have faith, to borrow a spiritual term.

I surrender. Our whole lives are a slow process of dying. If we’re lucky, we die slowly enough that we learn a few things along the way.

We learn that it’s not just through the years, but in each and every moment that we can practice letting go. That which you don’t posses is impossible to lose.

When we’re no longer attached to an outcome, it’s impossible to fail.

One way to learn this lesson is by failing in the painful way, again and again and again.

Make Friends with Failure

Although cliché, my friend who is a yoga teacher isn’t wrong when she says to “exhale that which no longer serves you.”

We all agree with that much. Underneath, we still rely on the option of keeping what we like. That too must go, my friend.

Our grasping is ignorant. Who are we to know what we need? At the time of loss we feel it like a death.

With hindsight, we can see that job would have been a dead end, or that girlfriend/boyfriend was never so great.

Through loss and letting go, we create space. Not space for the good to come in, the good is already in there. We create the space in which we can see.

Make friends with failure. Celebrate loss. Grasp onto nothing and learn to sit with what is.

I have everything I need, and I’m exactly where I need to be. Whatever is. Is. Through the cessation of hoping anything is otherwise, I’m happy, content, and free.


Adrian Hillman ©

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