Pursue What Matters
Episode 130: Book Review – The Power of Letting Go
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Do you need a little help letting go? So if you’re a doer, you’re a helper, you’re the one that gets things done. today’s podcast is for you, because I’ve got a great book to help you let go. What does it mean to love and work well, and how do I pursue what truly matters? Working at the intersection of business and psychology? I help you answer these questions and more. So you can focus priorities, inspire, change, lead with courage, and live with more joy today.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:35
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the pursue matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So we are at the end of another month, which means it’s time for another book review. And so the book I have for you today is a nice little book that offers an entry point into meditation. Now, if you’re not living under a rock, which, if you’re listening to this, you most certainly are not living under a rock, you have probably heard a lot about meditation and mindfulness practices. But it might still be kind of confusing to you. And I think it can be it is kind of a nebulous topic or concept. And so sometimes it can be a little bit tricky for us to wrap our heads around. But the reality is meditation, which is a form of mindfulness practice, is really pretty straight forward. That doesn’t mean it’s always simple. But it is, among just one or two daily practices, if you can make a commitment to a meditation practice, it will fundamentally shift your life for the better. And so you know, there are a lot of books out there on meditation and mindfulness and a lot of really good books. And so what I wanted to offer you today is just another entry point. So I wouldn’t say this is the best book about meditation or mindfulness, I wouldn’t say it’s the worst book about meditation or mindfulness. It’s just another entry point. And what’s true is when it comes to this concept, which can be kind of fuzzy. Hearing it one way, learning about it one way, may or may not sink in. But having another entry point, another kind of perspective, in terms of how it’s introduced, and how it’s talked about, I think can make all of the difference. I know for myself, I spent years trying to understand meditation and mindfulness at that, at that cognitive level. And it none of it ever stuck until I actually just started practicing it. And then since I’ve developed a consistent practice, I’ve been able to go back to books and really understand some of the some of the foundation of that some of the theory of that. And it actually just just elevates my meditation practice. But what I would say is, there are some books that resonate better than others. And so what I offer you today is just another entry point. And so the book is called The Power of Letting Go by John Perkis. So pu R K I S S, and so the subtitle is how to drop everything that’s holding you back. So perhaps you can relate to that perhaps you don’t want to be held back. And what is true is that for many of us, we become our own worst enemies, not because we hate ourselves, or that we’re trying to harm ourselves. But because we let our monkey mind which is the Buddhist term, we let our monkey mind get the best of us. We’re always stuck in our heads. We’re disconnected from life. We’re disconnected from our bodily experiences, our emotional experiences, our spiritual experiences. And so if we’re not careful, we ended up living our lives as disembodied brains moving around. So I was kind of think about, I don’t know, I think I saw it in a cartoon or something. But you can have a body and they’re holding on to a balloon, and in the balloon is their head. And that is really, you know, I think the biggest malady that we experienced today, it is that disconnection between mind and body. And so meditation, or mindfulness practice is all about reconnecting. It’s all about integration. It’s all about wholeness. And what I like about this title, and this focus is, you know, how to drop everything that’s holding you back. Because what’s true is that when we live disconnected, we fail to reach our potential. We fail to live to purpose, because you in order to live to purpose, in order to fulfill your potential you need to understand yourself, you need to understand your needs. You need to have respect for your needs and your desires and your wishes. And you need to be able to connect it to be connected to something greater than yourself. So if we think about that, as spirituality, we think about that as connection to the divine, you do not need religion to be spiritual, you do not need to disregard your religion in order to access meditation, in fact, it can be a beautiful compliment. And if we think about most religious traditions, if you look at the details of those faith practices, there’s a lot of meditation happening. And so today, we’re we’re going to hear a perspective from a business leader, someone who is a headhunter, for executives. And so he speaks the language of leadership. And he invites us in to an appreciation of meditation and mindfulness really with a focus on how can it help you to progress on your path. And of course, I’m always a fan of that. Because every week, my goal with the podcast is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead. We like to do that by either leading with clarity. So do you have clarity about purpose? We do that by leading with clarity or curiosity, which do you understand yourself? Are you self aware? Can you lead yourself? And then of course, we do that by leading and building a community. So can you
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:19
can you lead others do others want to join you. And so today, primarily, we’re really focusing on curiosity, which is cultivating the self awareness. And meditation is all about that, you become the witness, you become the awareness behind your experience. So you’re not your mind, you’re not your body, you are the witness. And so we’re really looking at cultivating curiosity, about your experience. And for sure, we’re also focused on leading with clarity, because as you cultivate curiosity, it connects you to purpose, it connects you to a vision for your life. And when you have that clarity, even if the whole path is not clear, Boy, you’ve done that, that’s half the battle. And so then you can can get on with the business of progress. And so let’s learn a little bit more about this author. And so his name is John Perkis. And he is he recruits chief executives, Finance Directors and other board members. And so he has also done a lot of exploration in mindfulness practices. So he comes with a fair amount of experience with that. And then what I liked is the counterbalance with the business experience, because it’s one thing to talk with someone just in their lay life about meditation and mindfulness practices, right. Like we can kind of get that the when you move into the world of work, some for some reason, we absolutely disconnect that. And more at work more than anywhere else. We live disconnected lives, where our head is moving around in a bubble, and our body is is disconnected from it. So right, we have these disembodied lives. And so much of my hope for this podcast, and certainly my my work on on a larger scale is to help folks with integration to pursue matters in love and work, recognizing that there’s no hard split there. And so he has got his credentials, right in the business world. So he has an MBA from Cambridge University. And he began his career in banking and management, consulting. And it was during this early work, that he really became pretty burned out. And he recognized that he needed to fix something in his life, or he was going to be in trouble. And that’s when he really turned his attention to Eastern Eastern wisdom, and really jumped into meditation practices. And now he is a headhunter, right? So he recruits chief executives, and it’s cool because, right, it’s a hard hitting business, it’s it’s very, you have to be very focused, you have to be very direct with folks. And so to be able to do that kind of intense business work, while also bringing in mindfulness talking to recruits about the importance of cultivating balance in their lives. I love it. So I really like that perspective. And so what he says is that if you learn to let go, your life will take off and that can feel very that can that can feel very scary for a lot of us because, you know, for for those of us who are these high, achieving, push, push, push tight. When things get challenging, we push harder, we move faster, we work harder, longer. and
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:02
trying to get the job done. But we know that that can backfire on us, it can undermine us, we we run ourselves into the ground, we run ourselves into burnout, we run ourselves into hating the work we love. And my goodness, that makes me so sad. That’s really heartbreaking. And I’ve had moments where I have felt that myself. And so his charge to us is by learning to let go by learning to slow down by learning to be quiet and still, and your life will really take off because you develop clarity about what really matters most. And you, you don’t just try and fit more in, you actually focus on doing what matters most right, you pursue what matters. And so what he says is when you let go, you live intuitively, everything flows, because you are no longer attached to things being a certain way to being a certain person or always being right. What a relief. So this, this all or nothing thinking of what’s right or wrong. What’s good or bad, is a classic Mind Body disconnection and something that we really want to move away from. And so instead of labeling ourselves, our experiences life situations, as good or bad, we really want to open ourselves to the lessons to be curious about, okay, what is my experience? What is the opportunity here. And so what he says is that the irony is that when you feel stuck in any area of your life, career relationships, purpose, health or money, letting go can seem very hard, right, because we think we need to, we think we need to seize more control, you know, so you cling on for dear life just at the moment when you need to take the leap. And so he explains why we should let go, and how we can do it using proven techniques to make things happen. And so some of the stages of letting go. So this, this is the structure for the book, is to first be present and enjoy each moment, which seems simple enough, but can be kind of a hard or hard thing. Second is to let go of the thoughts that keep you stuck, we all could could do with some disconnecting from our stories. Third, let go of the pain that runs your life. So all of us have baggage, right? We all have emotional baggage, it is part of the human condition. And yet when we don’t take responsibility for our work, right, and process emotions and heal, and you know, recover from loss and pain, that that pain continues to impact us in ways we cannot anticipate. And so I always think of, you know, buried pain as a grenade, waiting to go off, or you could think of it as a landmine, and you’re going through your life, and you come up against a challenging situation in the present, and you’ve just tripped a landmine. And that can be obviously very disturbing. It can it can feel catastrophic, in fact, and so we’ve got to take responsibility for every aspect of our life, including our pain, right? The the no parent is perfect, which means there’s no perfect childhood, we all have some baggage. And that is not an insult to parents, it’s not throwing parents under the bus, it’s acknowledging that we’re all figuring life out as we go. That includes us that includes that included our parents when when we were growing up. And it includes us as parents today with our own children. So having some humility about that can help us to be open to the lessons and help us to actually take responsibility for what do I need to do to help myself here. And then the last stage is to surrender and tune into something far more intelligent than your brain. So we think about this as awareness as presence for some people, they may consider that God or higher power, and so whatever that might be for you, that’s great. But it is an acknowledgment, right? That it we’re not just us alone, we’re not an island. Mindfulness is all about connecting to the greater whole. And so whether that is higher power, whether that is the the community of humanity, right like that can be unique to you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:20
But we need to move through those stages, so that we can actually pursue what matters. So of course, I’m not going to share a ton of information about the book, but I just want to give you a few highlights that I thought were helpful and that you know, this podcast can kind of be a guide for you like right, it’s a little nibble as far as this book goes. So you have some orientation to it, but it can also hopefully serve as a good review. If you hear some of the highlights that I share that you know maybe you want to check out the book and so that’s what I have in mind at I do the monthly book reviews. So one of the things that Perkis opens with is how we in the West have gotten meditation wrong. And so of course, you know, there’s so much talk about meditation. And I think it’s great. I think it’s really wonderful that we are talking about it. But the problem is that we are taking our western mindset and applying not to mindfulness, so to an Eastern practice. And so there can be something that is lost in translation, that the meaning in fact, can be lost in translation. And so what he says about this is that the problem with the way that mindfulness and yoga are often practiced in the West, is that they’re, they’re touted, right, they’re designed to help us work harder and harder without burning out, at least in the short term. So he continues, I know people who meditate in the toilets at work, so pretty ineffective. So we’ve acquired the techniques without the philosophy. And I think that’s super helpful. How many of you, perhaps meditate 10 minutes a day like clockwork, because you hear it’s a good thing for you. But you don’t understand why and you write, when you don’t understand why you don’t have a purpose in that meditation, then certainly, you will get some benefits, but you are not accessing the full, the full weight of that of that intervention. And so we acquire the techniques without the philosophy, and then we wonder why life is so stressful, and frustrating, okay, so it doesn’t actually deliver on its promises. And it’s not because meditation or mindfulness are ineffective. It’s because we’re trying to fit this eastern practice into our western mindset. So we are, we are moving to meditation disconnected, which is like, good luck with that, that’s not going to be successful at all for you. And so he does a nice little bullet list of what’s the underlying philosophy. Now, of course, we could read dozens and dozens of books to try and answer this question. But here is his quick take on it. And I think if you are new to this, or you’re curious about it, I think his entry point is really just fine. So this is what he says, your brain and body are part of something extremely intelligent, we can see this intelligence in every aspect of nature, including plants, animals, humans, planets, and stars, the whole thing is amazing. And it keeps evolving. So for simplicity, let’s call it existence. So that’s the term that he uses. You could think about God, you could think about presence. And so just know that that there are a few ways to identify that. But here’s what we do. So he says, we make the mistake of thinking we’re separate from existence, we believe we’re a particular body in mind separate from everyone and everything else. And in Western society, we have really, really pushed that philosophy. And so this identify identification with the body mind is known as ego. This isn’t exactly the same as Freud described it, it’s related. But just think of ego as I am my own person, I’m separate from others.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:29
And so instead of flowing with existence, we fight it, or we try to control it, right. So we get into a battle with existence, our ego gets in a battle with existence, and we become an enemy to life. And then we wonder why we’re stressed, we wonder why things don’t go well for us. And so in our efforts to get what we want, and avoid what we don’t, which is totally the ego, we create conflict with other people, and damage our environment. So you can think about that small scale, you can think about that large scale as well. So this is his, this is his last point around this philosophy. Once we let go of the ego, that was just hard to do. This is why a daily practice is good. Once we let go of the ego that is the belief that we’re separate from everyone and everything else. Life is much easier. It’s the ego that keeps fighting for survival, creating dramas and making life stressful. Once you let go of it, you’ll discover that you’re more than you ever imagined yourself to be. Life will unfold naturally, with little to no stress. And I think that there’s some really great research on stress that really supports this perspective. Stress is a part of life, but stress doesn’t have to take you down so when you when you can relate to life openly and recognize there will be challenges. Those challenges actually become less stressful. And the impact of that stress on your body actually conveys a protect To benefit instead of a destructive effect, and that is so remarkable to me. And so what he what he claimed with this book is that he’s going to guide you, through that process, step by step, to help you let go of the ego driven life and really move to purpose and openness. So the next thing that I want to share is, what does what is meant by letting go right, so that’s the name of the book, The Power of letting go. But that can feel kind of unsettling for many of us, especially if we’re used to being in control. And so he, he gives us some insight into this. So he says, Once you surrender, right, or let go, your intuition will tell you what to do. Now. For a tie Bay person, that is like the worst news ever, it’s like, don’t tell me about intuition, like, tell me what I need to do. But this is what he says in terms of what does letting go look and feel like, so you’re able to take the right action at the right time, efficiently and without stress. And when I think about that, I think about this idea that you’re not future tripping, so you’re not anticipating the future with anxiety, and really weighing yourself down in the moment, you’re also not ruminating on the past where you are kicking yourself or beating up on yourself about past decisions, whether they’re mistakes, or whether there were specific challenges. But when you can live fully present, you’re able to take the right action at the right time, because you’re fully aware, you can see the landscape clearly. But when we’re future tripping, or when we’re looking behind, we’re looking over our shoulder, we don’t see life clearly. And life is right here in front of us. So another aspect of letting go, you still think and analyze when you need to, but thinking is your servant, not your master.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:57
Most of us think that our thoughts, our truth, and that is one of the biggest mistakes that we can make. So why I think a really powerful understanding is to recognize that you are not your thoughts, you are not your thoughts, you are the observer of your thoughts, you are the awareness behind your thoughts. And so with this understanding, thinking happens, thinking is a beautiful, wonderful tool, part of what it means to be human. But thinking becomes a servant. Because there are times you need to critically think you need to analyze something. And so you use thinking in the service of purpose to to, to look at, okay, we have a decision to take care, okay, let’s do some research. Let’s, let’s assess this situation. But you are not ruled you are not mastered by your thoughts. So these anxious thoughts about the future? What if I make a wrong decision? I don’t think I can get it right or ruminating about the past. I never get it right. I know, there’s something I’m gonna miss here, that in those moments, we become mastered by our thoughts. And it prevents us from actually thinking clearly, and getting to right action. And then another aspect of letting go is you allow things to work out in ways you could never have imagined. And so when I think about that, I think about accepting reality in this moment. And I know for myself, I can, I can look at a pattern of when, you know, maybe a challenge came up, or there was a decision to be made. You know, that was what that was distressful or, you know, just even challenging, right like that, that would kick up some distress. And if I wasn’t careful, it would kick up anxiety. And because I didn’t like the feeling of anxiety or distress, which right like most of us don’t, I would try to rush to judgment, I would try to, I would try to really like harness my energy to get get to an outcome. And what I can say about that, is there were plenty of times I didn’t even care about the outcome. I just didn’t want to worry about it anymore. And so have you done that yourself, where maybe you foreclose on a decision too quickly, because you have a hard time tolerating the anxiety, that can be a really significant concern for many of us. And what happens is we make poor decisions. And so one of the ways that we can learn to let go is just to slow it down, to remind yourself that life unfolds and you can’t, and you don’t always have all of the information that you need in this moment to make a wise decision. And so what is the work in those moments the work is patience, which Good luck with that right? But I think even more important than patience is distress tolerance skills, to keep yourself calm to address the anxiety to coach yourself through those moments to say it’s okay, like, I’m going to, you know, like, I’m
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:13
going to talk to this person in a couple days, you know, I need more information. And I need to wait on someone here. And so you coach yourself through that you reassure yourself because in the face of distress, we want reassurance, but what happens is, we, we often can demand reassurance from others, we seek reassurance from others, without actually learning to reassure ourselves. And of course, in strong, secure relationships, close relationships, reassurance is perfectly appropriate and good. But we don’t want to fail ourselves by not meeting our needs as well. So sometimes that means you’re coaching yourself through you’re reassuring yourself in the face of uncertainty. So one, one thing that he points out is that letting go doesn’t mean giving up. And I think a lot of people get that wrong, they think that, okay, if I let go, if I’m mindful, I just won’t care about life. And I won’t really have any direction. And maybe I’ll just, you know, do yoga for the next three years or something. But that’s, that’s absolutely not accurate, that when we are able to let go and live to reality, we actually start to take a lot more action in our lives, but it’s empowered action, it’s actually in alignment with our purpose. And so our behaviors become more effective, because we are aligned to purpose. And so we’re guided by intuition, we’re guided by that sense of purpose. We are not guided by ego, we’re not driven by ego or anxiety. And so it’s all about taking empowered action for yourself. So you understand what you are doing and why. And I think too many of us living disconnected Lee, we, we’re taking lots of action, we’re doing lots of things. But we don’t have clarity about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and why it matters. Like you always got to go back to purpose. And so in this situation, when we can take empowered action by letting go, work does not need to equal stress, and purpose can equal focused action. When we can work mindfully, there becomes an intensity of purpose. So that’s how Eckhart Tolle describes it. This intensity of purpose. You know, sometimes people can mistake that for stress. Sometimes, because people can mistake that for ego, but it is not it is this intensity of purposes, clear understanding of the path you are on. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have time for others, but you know, where you are going and why it matters. And let me just tell you, people want to be a part of that people want, they want clarity. And it doesn’t mean that your purpose needs to join another’s, but we want to be involved in something greater than ourselves, we want to know that our lives matter, we want to know that there is a greater purpose than just
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:36
checking in on the clock from nine to five. And so when you have even one person who has connection and alignment to purpose, it invites them, this person can invite others in by their clarity. And it’s it’s pretty cool. And in these situations, this is where we see the process is more important than the outcome. And so that’s what I think about when I think about purpose driven living is it’s it’s all about the process. It’s not that we don’t care about outcomes, they matter in terms of helping us to progress on purpose on our path. But outcome for outcome sake is just ego. And so we want to stay away from that. Okay, so the last thing that I will share is just that in this book Perkis gives you some really practical ways to get going on meditation. So he has a very easy guide. He also has a few meditation skill ideas. So as you go through the book, there are different touch points for you to access meditation. And so it’s a very practical guide to get you started in this process. And so in that way, I think it’s good he does and that he really doesn’t sprinkle much research And I, that’s that I would say is kind of a downside to the book. But I think sometimes when authors are too heavily laden with research, it gets in the way, actually learning for some people, right, and we all learn different ways. And so this could be a good entry point for you on that front. So, if you want to head on over to my website, to check out the show notes, and I will have a link to the book, you can do that by heading to my website, www.drmelissasmith.com/130-lettinggo. So one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/130-lettinggo and I hope that you’ll connect with me on social media. I’m on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. I’ve always got a lot of great content from the week’s podcast there. So additional resources, some some great, some great tips to help you kind of slow yourself down and, and really connect with purpose on a daily basis because that’s what it’s all about. And so, I hope that this book review is helpful for you. And I will connect with you next time. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work in love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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