Beyond Letting Go

When I teach story-telling or any form of creative workshop, I invite attendees to write down on separate pieces of paper all the reasons why they can’t… speak in public, write, paint, draw, write poetry, be creative. I then invite them to crumple up the pieces of paper and throw them over their left shoulder onto the floor.

There’s always a gasp when first I instruct them to throw the paper on the floor. The little critter mind leaps into the fray to stop their littering. “Don’t worry about it,” I tell them. “Just do it. At the end of the session we’ll pick them up and throw them into the garbage, or, if you’re really attached to your excuses, you can pick them up and take them home with you. But for now, give yourself permission to simply let your excuses go. — (for however long the session is scheduled)

Sometimes, instead of throwing them onto the floor, I invite them to place them in an envelope, seal the envelope, write their name on the front and then place them in the negative thought box I provide. Once everyone has placed their envelope into the box, I make a great show of putting the lid on the box (it’s usually a shoe box I’ve covered with black paper and decorated like a coffin) and then, I walk the box to the back of the room and set it by the door. Again, I tell people their negative thoughts and excuses why not are locked away and inaccessible for the duration of the session. At the end of the session they are welcome to pick up their envelope and carry them with them, or not.

It’s their choice.

To pick up their worries, fears, excuses and reasons why not, or, to leave them behind and carry on lightened of their load.

Sometimes, someone will really think long and hard about relinquishing their negative thoughts. Sometimes, the thought of letting them go, of taking a physical action that symbolizes their release, is daunting.

As I drifted to sleep last night, I thought about the act of letting go of negativity and why nots and wondered if there was an even ‘bigger’ process I could create to signify the act.

I love the creative process. I love how out of seemingly thin air, a thought can arrive fully formed in my mind and suddenly, I see clearly what I have been missing.

Letting go is only one part of the equation, the muse whispered. To complete the cycle, you must transform the ‘why nots’ into possibilities. You must transform negativity into beauty.

What does that look like, I wondered. And then, the ‘negative thought box’ appeared in my mind attached to a ‘what if’.

What if instead of a cardboard box, you used a ceramic planter, the muse whispered, like the long one your herbs came in? And what if you painted it and made it all pretty and then, after people wrote out their negative thoughts and why nots, you invited them to rip them up into a gazillion little pieces and then throw them into the pot? And, what if then, in front of the class, you covered them in potting soil and planted a seed in the dirt and gave it a symbolic watering? And, what if you even named the seeds as you planted them, or invited the class to name the seeds. Hope. Love. Creativity. Joy. Anticipation. Possibility…

Wouldn’t that symbolize the transformative cycle of letting go to create? Wouldn’t that signify the birthing of something new from ideas that were once limiting and now were inspired by possibility?

I think I’ll try it. I’m teaching a workshop on story-telling next week to campaign reps for the United Way. I’ve got a small planter in the garage I can use. I’ve got dirt and a seed packet of wildflowers — though a few beans might work too…

The possibilities abound. The what if’s shimmer.

What if doing it this way truly does inspire people to let go and explore the possibilities of what can happen when they not only let go, but transform what they’ve released to become new ideas, new actions, new ways of being present in the world?

What if, I try it just to see what happens when I step out of what I know, into the creative space of what happens when I simply stay present to the muse and let her have her way?

What if, I let go of worrying about the outcome and simply stay present to the process?

What if…. I just do it?

I think I will.

What about you? Are there negative thoughts, limiting beliefs and why nots that are holding you back from living your best life yet? Do you have a creative suggestion to share on how to release and transform them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

12 thoughts on “Beyond Letting Go”

  1. What a great idea, Louise. Ming and I are having to do this in a literal sense tonight. Having hurt his spinal fusion he has just given notice to our neighbours. No more milking cows.


  2. I like your idea a lot, Louise; it’s such a tangible way of showing the transformation of the abstract (negative thought) into something that is alive and can be seen and nurtured. (It’s also a good way to recycle and repurpose that paper.)


  3. It’s true that “problems and negativity” are just seeds of possibility. Sometimes it isn’t an abrupt 180 turn that gets us there but that process of asking essential questions like “is that true for me”? “Why does this seem so?” “What if …?” that gets us there a bit at a time until before we know it we are staring at a previously unseen and unknown opportunity.


  4. My reaction as I read the first sentence was, “Throw over left shoulder? Rip! stomp! burn!” But then I realized that you are dealing with people in a very different place than I am now — and one I can remember being in many years ago. I was more and more in agreement with your methods as I read on. Especially the “leave them outside the door, just during this session — you can pick them up on the way out, if you really want to.” That is a powerful truth, that one CAN be in charge of his own thoughts and feelings. Before I learned that, it wasn’t as easy to create — because I felt I was being acted upon, without the right or ability to act for myself in terms of thinking or feeling. When I finally understood that thoughts and feelings don’t “just come,” but that I have created them, and allowed them to stay or go at my decision, a whole world of creative expression opened up to me.


  5. I have both fears and worries. Worries are things that are holding me back because of the endless thinking process I go through. Fears on the other hand are things I have difficulty facing. The move from my home. My changed financial state. In fact I tend to avoid my fears and instead worry about where I am at (or not at). I think that your idea is a good one, of putting the worrying bit aside, face the actual fear, and deal with it.


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