The Tao of Trusting and Letting Go
David James Lees, Guest Writer
Trust is one of the most profound emotional energies that I encounter throughout my professional career and it forms a fundamental part my ‘Wu Wei Wisdom’ model of personal and spiritual development. In my client sessions and public talks and workshops I’m regularly asked: “how can I trust…?” (often in relation to uncertain future events)” and “how can I let go..?” (in relation of being less ‘controlling’ as individuals and also releasing old dysfunctional and negative thoughts and beliefs).
I’d like to explore from a spiritual Taoist perspective why difficulty in trusting is for many people a misguided method of self-protection; how a lack of trust is harmful to your self-worth and your personal and spiritual development; and what steps you can take right now to open yourself up to life’s opportunities through the process of trusting and letting go.
The Wu Wei of trust and letting go
When you live your life within your balanced and harmonious ‘Wu Wei’, or your personal ‘sweet-spot’ of effortless-effort and ‘Oneness’ with the Universe, your innate ability to trust yourself and the abundance of the Universe can provide huge personal comfort, creativity and inner strength, propelling you on your journey to your true, higher potential.
So why is it that you often find yourself lacking in faith, feeling somehow ‘disconnected’ and struggling to control the uncontrollable?
The human-centred mind’s most basic momentum is towards a perceived benefit (which can often mean ‘self-comfort’ and ‘self-protection’). It’s therefore perplexing to understand why anyone would find it difficult to choose not to trust and not to let go, when in fact openness to, and alignment with, the Universe and being part of the flow of all nature will invite and attract so many positive possibilities and emotional sensations.
The explanation for this paradox is rooted within ‘emotional education’ and your ability to deal with your emotions in a positive and helpful way. Holding your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy on your harmonious Wu Wei sweet-spot can be extremely challenging. This is simply because you exist and thrive in a dynamic, ever-changing and evolving world where life’s light and shade, ups and downs, challenges and opportunities, can inevitably stimulate your emotions and knock your inner Wu Wei balance… that is, if you don’t know how to deal with your emotions appropriately!
The energy of trust and letting go
When faced with real or imagined challenging life circumstances which provoke what I refer to at the ‘feeling of fear’ your ability to trust and let go can be destabilised and even swing your energy wildly out of balance, away from your Wu Wei sweet-spot.
Practical or emotional challenges that appear to be beyond your existing comfort zone can cause your ‘fight or flight’ mentality to swing into action. This is when it can seem advantageous not to trust or to refuse to let go of familiar and comfortable ways of thinking and acting, essentially as a means of protecting yourself. It’s almost as if you emotionally ‘batten down the hatches’ to weather an uncertain storm, but in doing so you sacrifice one of your most valuable navigation tools: your inner compass of trust and energetic connection to the Universe!
You may already know you have difficulty balancing your ability to trust and the energy associated with letting go. At its most extreme level of imbalance you may even use the labels ‘control freak’, a ‘worrier’, or admit you are overly protective or guarded of your emotions.
Alternatively, your energetic imbalance may manifest itself more subtly. Difficulty in balancing and harmonising the energy of trust can produce a wide range of emotional feelings and associated personal labels such as:
- lack of self-confidence or self-esteem
- anxiety (now labelled by Western healthcare professionals as ‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’
- suspicion, doubt, uncertainty or hopelessness
- rejection, worthlessness
- restriction, rigidity, stubbornness
- being judgemental of yourself and others
These commonplace emotional feelings and their labels are born from a lack of trust in yourself and the loving and abundant nature of the Universe around you.
It’s important to recognise that all the emotional states and labels outlined above, whether extreme (Yin and Yang) or more subtle, are part of the same whole energy of trust. The key is to embrace the possibility of this dynamic spectrum of energetic possibilities, then plot where you believe you are currently positioned on this spectrum, so that you can then work towards to bringing your energy of trust back into its harmonious Wu Wei balance – in essence rediscovering your sweet-spot of trust!
Trust and the emotions
When I hear my clients use unsuitable or inappropriate emotional labels and forms of self-expression I’m always intrigued to explore both the origin and influence of these emotive terms. Very often they’re a symptom of a misinterpretation and subsequent misrepresentation of a range of physiological feelings they’re experiencing, and which have been triggered by an unfamiliar and/or challenging life situation or event.
Think about the labels you use to describe yourself and your feelings and the possible origin of these feelings. Are you (mis-)labelling feelings of internal imbalance or discomfort?
Often this can happen almost as a ‘quick fix’ means of avoiding or protecting yourself from uncomfortable emotional of physiological feelings and the stimulus that has provoked them. The problem is that avoiding rather than confronting both your feelings and the stimulus like this can be very harmful.
When you avoid your internal energy becomes introverted, blocked and stagnated and you effectively close yourself down, separating yourself from the Universe or Tao. It’s as if your powerful internal radio switches itself off, tuning out of the energetic airwaves filled with abundance and opportunity all around you.
It’s incredibly irrational and unnatural to disconnect yourself in this way; we are after all One with the Universe whether we like it or not. Acting ‘against the grain’ like this means you’ll still be left harbouring feelings of doubt, uncertainty, confusion and discomfort. When this happens it can seem like the only remedy is to reinforce your avoidance through false and powerfully negative justifications such as “it must be me”, “the world’s against me” etc., and in doing so your original avoidance can become very deeply entrenched indeed. You’re also effectively making a significant personal trade off: sacrificing your true authentic, Wu Wei centre path towards you self-worth and authentic potential. In essence you choose self-comfort over self-worth!
There’s no doubt that when your emotions run high and you feel uncomfortable, scared or frightened of the present and/or our future it can seem like the easier option to not trust, to close down, to withdraw, to reject new ideas or ways of thinking and doing, to seek control of yourself, others and the world around you. These emotions are very real and at their most potent can be very debilitating, so much so it can be can be very testing to neutralise and rebalance them, especially during challenging times in your life. This is particularly true during your childhood and adolescent years when your feelings are seemingly more intense and overpowering.
Trust and the Vow
For many people emotional encounters during their childhood or adolescent years may have severely tested their personal energy of ‘trust’ and, given a lack of maturity and emotional education or guidance, this energy will have been inappropriately managed.
You may have encountered unfamiliar or emotionally traumatic events in your early years that provoked a deluge of negative emotions and uncomfortable or painful physiological feelings (‘the feeling of fear’). Often the severity of these feelings generate thoughts that your out of balance Ego mind (as opposed to your balanced and authentic ‘Wu Wei’ mind) seizes upon and then reinforces through negative self-talk statements like: “I’ll make sure that will NEVER happen to me again” or “I’ll NEVER trust anyone again” – this is what I call ‘the Vow’.
Over time a personal vow or pact like this, which represents a misguided form of self-protection, can become a very dominant force within your life as it becomes deeply ingrained within your personal belief system. As an adult, the belief associated with your original interpretation of the historic traumatic or difficult incident is likely to be immature, outdated and redundant, yet you continue to embrace it as a reliable, safe, and ironically trusted, form of self-preservation and allow it to run your life without question. It’s almost like an antivirus programme within the inner workings of a computer, once your personal vow is installed as a belief within your inner hard-drive, you feel no need to interrogate its means or motives.
By keeping this outdated and unhelpful belief ‘current’ and active the process of mature and rational re-evaluation of the old negative emotional feelings and the events that provoked them is overlooked. Every time the belief is used and reinforced through your adult life (“I knew I should never have trusted him/her”; “there you go again, that just proves the world’s against me”; “that’s typical, I knew should never have expected/trusted that to happen” etc.) this actually reinfects and increases the intensity of the emotional feelings and pain rather neutralising it and so your desire to avoid any situations associated with trusting is reinforced. It becomes like a Pavlov’s dogs scenario, whereby even the anticipation of trusting or letting go equates to the possibility of increased intensity of emotional pain!
So how can you reverse this process, unlock old beliefs, manage your emotions, and learn to rebalance your energy of trust and letting go?
The solution lies within emotional education, which is at the heart of my Wu Wei Wisdom model of personal and spiritual coaching and counselling.
Awareness is the first step.
Start to compile a list of:
- Your personal self-talk narrative
- Judgements you find yourself making against yourself, others, and the world around you,
- The emotive descriptions you use to describe/label emotional or physiological feelings you experience.
Now dig a little deeper and ask yourself:
- What are the personal experiences, both past and present, which have shaped your thinking and the beliefs that underpin it?
- Are your self-talk statements, judgements, and personal labels a mature, appropriate and helpful representation of/ reaction to, these life experiences, situations or stimuli?
- Are they moving you away from or towards your Wu Wei?
This can be challenging process and one which certainly requires time, patience, and perhaps the support of a trusted friend or counsellor. Remember its value – these issues have such a profound impact on your personal belief system and your life.
Part of the process of rediscovering your Wu Wei is to recognise, examine and authenticate your personal beliefs and subsequent emotional responses to life stimulus (either real or imagined) and fundamentally be able to discern between the two – i.e.:
1. Separate your emotional and physical feelings from the situation/stimuli that have provoked them, and then
2. Separate out the process of confronting (not avoiding!) and neutralising your emotions, so you may then calmly, creatively and authentically confront (not avoid!) the situation that provoked them.
All emotions should and must be acknowledged, not ignored or avoided. Their purpose is to highlight an energetic movement towards a learning situation. You should respond by thoughtfully and maturely evaluating the lesson offered by every life situation, allowing yourself time to readjust and realign your energy so that you may continue on you Wu Wei path of potential. This is the process of ‘emotional education’.
When your beliefs and cognitive reasoning are aligned with the vibration or flow of the Tao and Universe you’ll effortlessly move into a state of Wu Wei. Your resulting emotions will be harmonious, connected, congruous, balanced and well-adjusted, and in turn this reinforces and validating that an energetic match and flow has been achieved.
Conversely, when your beliefs and thoughts shift away from your Wu Wei and the Tao, your resulting emotions will feel intense, discordant, contradictory, perverse, disagreeable and painful or fearful. This also serves as an indicator that your energetic flow has been interrupted and an imbalance, avoidance or separation has been created.
It is paradoxical that your ‘human centred’ mind may consider emotional feelings as problematic, whereas your ‘Tao centred’ mind has the ability to rationally reflect on both emotional and physiological feelings, viewing them as helpful ‘red lights’ or ‘signposts’ that draw your attention and ultimately assist you in reconnecting to the Universe and your authentic Wu Wei.
When focussing on emotional energies such as ‘trust’ or ‘letting go’ contemplate whether these words and sentiments are in harmony with your authentic, higher nature, with Oneness, and the way/flow of the Universe. Certainly my understanding is that ‘trusting’ and ‘letting go’ is aligned with the Universal flow and my Tao nature and my physiological and emotional feelings support this view.
The energetic process I have endeavoured to clarify occurs in an instant (like a blink of an eye!) and so awareness and understanding of this process is essential as you cannot change what you don’t understand.
This considered revaluation of your belief system and emotional feelings will allow for more authentic and mature self-diagnoses that can result in instant and profound change in your personal energy and your life. I am grateful for the work of Bruce Lipton PhD in his ground breaking book the ‘The Biology of Belief’, where he outlines this natural energetic process in Western scientific detail. I would urge you to read his published findings and conclusions as confirmation of the ancient spiritual wisdom taught to me by my Taoist Masters many years ago.
My Wu Wei Wisdom model deals with the issue of self-talk and how it’s important to be extremely mindful when verbally describing emotional and physical feelings such as; “I don’t feel good enough” “I feel stupid” “I feel unlovable” “I feel like I can’t trust” “I feel weak” “I feel inadequate” “I’m the scared to let go” and so on.
The sheer negativity of these descriptions of emotional or physiological feelings is simply a reflection of the intensity of the feelings you’re experiencing. When you say “I don’t feel good enough“, in describing emotional feelings, over time you’ll come to believe that you are not good enough.
A very effective technique to consider if you are unsure whether you are using the appropriate or suitable emotional labels to verbalise the intensity of your emotional feelings, is to ask yourself:
‘Would I say this to my child?’
A scenario to consider would be as follows:
Your child is overlooked for a school play or event, they return home extremely emotionally upset and seemingly unable to cope with the ‘unfairness’ of the situation. Surely you would maturely reflect on the situation, examine the relevant information and then act appropriately, whilst all the while lovingly supporting your child? You would never respond to your child by saying “it’s because you’re not good enough!”
My proposition is this: if you wouldn’t say this to your child then why would you say it to yourself or your own inner child!?
The technique in dealing with trust and letting go is very much the same, reflect back into your adolescence and consider a pivotal time when trusting or ‘being let down’ created a powerful ‘feeling of fear’. Recall a time when someone or something you really trusted did not act or preform in the way you anticipated, predicted or expected. Maybe you consider you were treated unfairly or unjustly? Try and recall what your internal dialogue or self-talk was in response to that incident. What was your Vow?
All the techniques I have outlined above will help you shift your energy on a subtle but profound level, allowing you to reconnect to your Wu Wei and Oneness with the Universe.
Remember: we came from source; we return to source, we are source.
As my Taoist master once remarked, a baby does require contracts before entering this world; the energy and process of trusting and letting go is at the core of humanity and nature, which begs the question:
How can you not trust?
About the Author
David James Lees is a spirituality and wellness author, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner, counsellor, hypnotherapist, NLP Master, and a Member of the British Acupuncture Council. David has a lifelong interest in Taoism, Taoist philosophy and Qigong, and was first taught meditation by Chinese Tibetan Buddhist monks when he was 16 years old, which helped him tackle a profound stutter. After qualifying as a TCM practitioner in the UK, David trained for a number of years as a Qigong instructor with Doctor Shen in London and Master Wan Su Jain in Beijing, and was later ordained as a Taoist Master in the sacred Wudang Mountains in China. Today, David is a trusted advisor and broadcaster on emotional health issues and alternative therapies in the UK. You can follow David on his blog: www.WuWeiWisdom.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Soundcloud. For the latest information on David’s therapies, classes, workshops and special events visit Peak House Practice.
This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.
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