A Practice to Embrace New Beginnings

Feelings that arise when something ends can remind us that we’re not in control. Try this letting go ritual the next time you need a gentle reminder to create space for the next stage.

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How do you face endings? Create a mess to break things off and run away? Silently ghost yourself from the scene? Endings remind us that we are not in control, that things could get unpleasant and emotional—and there are so many diversions on Netflix to escape into instead.

However, cycles of renewal, shedding, and transforming are ever-present in nature. Life is nothing but a series of transitions from the very moment you left your mother’s body.

Endings remind us that we are not in control, that things could get unpleasant and emotional—and there are so many diversions on Netflix to escape into instead.

Letting go creates the space for the next stage to unfold.

Rituals officially demarcate the ending and time of transition. A good ritual will shift your consciousness so you see yourself and the world in a different and expansive way. In my work with clients, I often guide them through a Letting Go ritual. 

Creating Space for the Next Stage

A client of mine faced retirement from her job of many years as the head librarian for rare and special books at an august institution. She was resisting her leaving, though there was no escaping it. For our next meeting, I asked her to bring a favorite book. While discussing why she loved it so much, her hand stroked the cover while she spoke of the scent of the old paper and its heft in her hand. Her eyes gazed faraway when she talked about the ideas and flights of adventure the book had sparked for her. It was clear the book was more than a valued object and closer to an old companion.

Then, about a meter in front of her, I set a waste basket. She flashed a look of terror while slowly shaking her head in resistance.

“Let it go,” I encouraged her softly. “As you do this, do it very slowly, and watch closely what happens in your body.”

We sat silent for a few minutes. Finally, she stood up.

One halting step, then another. She slowly, tenderly placed the book inside and just as slowly returned to her chair.

She sat silent, feeling what was happening inside her.

Then the convulsions started.

As tears flowed, she said, “I’ve been living in denial, trying to pretend this isn’t happening. I can’t keep doing this forever.”

In the end, she felt lighter, more honest. The release, while painful in the moment, helped her get unstuck and take steps forward. Soon after, she and her husband moved to Arizona, where she spent her final years traveling to all the places the books told her about.

Letting Go Ritual

Use this three-step practice to help you let go and move on.

1. Ask yourself: What do you need to bring to an end in your life? What needs closure? What bow do you need to tie, what letter needs to be written, what in the closet needs to be put up for sale on Ebay? Identify an object that represents this needed transition.

2. Sit with the object you’ve identified. Bring to mind the thoughts, emotions, and memories associated with it. Allow space for whatever arises.

3. Let the object go—into the recycling or donation bin, if appropriate, the waste basket if not. Observe what happens in your body as you release it. What does letting go make space for?

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About the author

Jeremy Hunter

Jeremy Hunter, PhD is Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute and Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management in Claremont, CA. His goal is to help leaders develop the best of their humanity. Since 2003, his pioneering courses on Self-Management build on Peter Drucker’s assertion “before you can manage anyone else, you have to manage yourself first.” He is an executive coach, entertaining keynote speaker, and would drive long distances for a great Chinese dumpling.