Letting Go and the River

An adage: “The only time I let go is to get a better grip”. It’s a good one but sometimes in life it just doesn’t work. We can’t be totally sure if the next grip is better. And gripping too hard means your stuck – a white knuckle, anxious state of being.

I was facilitating at a Stuart Wilde workshop in the US and one of the events was to climb a skinny 40ft pole, stand up on a wobbly metal plate and jump to catch a trapeze (see image below). All the participants who did this were roped up so there was no chance of falling to the ground. It was quite scary – it’s a long way up to be balancing on a tiny plate. Sometimes a person would make it to the top but freeze, clinging to the pole and plate. At that point our strategy was to try to talk the person into letting go of the pole – even if they didn’t go for the trapeze, just let go and the rope will safely bring you down. To get out of control. To stop trying to control your life up on this ridiculous pole and just LET GO. Liberate yourself please.


This inability to let go is the white knuckle ride of life many of us find ourselves on. Frozen with fear, not able to move. Not able to move on from a toxic relationship. Not able to move to the country. Not able to quit a job and start a new business venture. Because we are holding on tight for fear of losing something or not making it.

Another angle on all this – we are either in the river or on the bank. Those of us on the bank can watch the river move past in safety. We are spectators. Our lives are fairly mundane as nothing much changes. We can watch as storms come and go and the river rises and falls. This can be a good, simple life. We are not too fussed about our needs. We have people around us who tell us what to do. Most of us live on the riverbank. We are the Bank Dwellers.

Many of us however want to experience life that is more effervescent, has a bit more pizazz. We are the River Dwellers. We want to explore new things and revel in new experiences. So we float down the river mixing it up with all the uncertainties life throws at us. The water is mostly gently flowing but sometimes it gets a bit rough, a bit challenging. Storms rage and the water becomes a torrent so we grip a tree root on the bank and hold on till it passes.

But sometimes we get scared and grip hard even when the river is flowing gently and there is no immediate danger. Our minds conjure scenarios – there could be a huge rocky cascade around the next bend of the river: a relationship breakup, the new business venture could fail, my child could slip in the playground and whack her head. The bank dwellers are even shouting about terrorists or a new rampant disease that awaits around the corner. It would be so easy to climb up onto the bank and hang out with the Bank Dwellers. Oh that would be so, so easy.

If we hang on for too long we create a lot of anxiety – clinging on creates perpetual tension. So we we must give up on the white knuckle ride leaving us with two choices. We can either go and join the Bank Dwellers (yawn), which is probably going against every molecule in our bodies, or release our grip.

The truth being we don’t know for sure what is around the next bend. The only way to find out is to let go. That is why life is such a wonderful and often equally arduous experience. But we must continually remind ourselves that just around the bend is where the truly celestial and divine experiences flow. It’s where the wild, creative, fascinating parts of our being rise up and fill us with passion. Liberation, love, tears and laughter are found in the river.

Explore James Wild products at Quiet Earth


Categories: Spirituality

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