The Power of Holding-On and Letting-Go
Cindy and I have been snowboarding at Lake Tahoe in Nevada. Cindy is a beginner. She had a lesson a couple of days ago, and since then has been practicing on the very-slightly-sloping beginner run. Meanwhile, I have been alternating between accompanying her down that “bunny slope” and getting the lift up to the top of the mountain to ride the intermediate routes.
Cindy has been gradually learning to turn the board. She can turn left consistently now, which requires turning with her back to the hill and riding on the heel-edge of the board. She’s still struggling to turn right though, which requires turning to face the hill and riding along on the toe-edge of the board.
I keep telling her that she’s doing really well. She’s trying and failing without beating herself up as much as she might have in the past; so she’s learning really quickly. To learn how to snowboard, you have to fall down a lot, and you have to repeatedly take risks and do things that seem very scary.
At the end of the day today, she told me that she had managed to get all the way to the end of the bunny slope twice without falling over once. I gave her a high-five.
“But I still can’t turn right,” she told me.
“I used to go down blues (intermediate runs) and black diamonds (advanced runs) when I couldn’t even turn right properly,” I responded. “I just used to go on the back edge of the board and slide down slowly and with a lot of control.”
Now I can go down intermediate-level runs relatively fast, turning repeatedly left and right, forming an s-shape down the slope: first carving to the left on the heel-edge of the board and then turning to the right on the toe-edge.
I told her, “You get really good by repeatedly confronting the fear that comes form pointing the board straight down the hill. If it’s steep enough, then for a moment you lose enough control that it’s scary, but then you learn that you actually can turn a bit and slow down.”
I revealed that, on a steep enough slope, I also still feel fear when I turn the board down hill. “I spent a lot of time today practicing letting go of control and then regaining it.”
This is a powerful metaphor for what happens in life. The gravity of life is pulling us down, and it’s fun and fulfilling to the extent that we risk turning towards it fully and experiencing its complete power over us. We always have the ability to throttle the flow if needed.
As we become increasingly skillful at holding on through letting go, we gradually learn to trust that we can let go fully and allow the flow to be completely uninhibited.
The process is one of continually letting go just a little beyond our comfort-zone, repeatedly taking that brave and scary leap of faith. As we let go into the unknown, we discover increasing life, love, and fun.
What could you play with letting go of right now.