Letting go of control feels a lot like freedom. By loosening our grip on desired results we may be pleasantly surprised by the spontaneous outcome.
The human need to control
Something is built into humans that makes us desire control. Control of ourselves, control of others, control of our environment.
We attempt to control things because we are afraid there may be consequences if we don’t.
Much of the human agenda consists of macro and micro managing in attempt to bend circumstance to our will.
What would happen if we started letting go of control? Would anarchy and chaos insist?
Rewilding ecosystems – Letting go of control of nature
Perhaps the most important aspect of ecosystem Rewilding is the relinquishing of human control over the natural world.
Interaction without forcing change
When we apply these three principles to ecosystems to the surprise of certain humans the land begins to thrive.
When we step back, ecological processes that were halted by human intervention are allowed to resume.
When humans interact as part of nature instead of it’s master, we glide “with” instead of bulldoze “over”.
When we trust nature to be as it has always been it provides. For all the species, including humans.
Nature is chaotic no doubt, but in this chaos there is an organic order that seems impossible for the human mind to comprehend.
If we give nature permanent freedom it becomes dynamic once again and flourishes as a result.
Life is uncontrollable
As with nature our own lives can seem somewhat chaotic. In attempt to combat the chaos we try to structure and influence, often that which is beyond our control.
We strive for stability and yet circumstance often alters our view of stable.
Many times I have found myself attempting to predict or alter situations that are beyond my reach.
When this happens I feel less relaxed, less present, and more tense.
Much of our lives our spent this way, trying to control, forcing situations, rushing, striving for security, seeking comfort.
We never really achieve these things or if we do they are only temporary. This is why we continue to chase.
This is a waste of good energy that could be better directed towards doing!
Letting go of control – Let the river run free
Letting go of control is a scary thought for many us. Especially in situations we usually attempt to bend to our will.
There is a huge difference in energy expended when we attempt to force vs allowing things to happen.
Consider a river that naturally flows into a lake replenishing its water supply. The energy cost of such a thing is nothing as gravity guides the river into the lake.
Gravity becomes a resisting force when we push against it otherwise it guides.
Now consider a lake that has its water redirected to a city at a higher elevation. Trenches must be dug, a pipeline constructed, tested, maintained, and monitored. All this before even more energy is used to pump the water, before it is stored and re-distributed.
Whereas the lake allows water to flow into it, humans must use mass amounts of energy to force it out.
We do this in our everyday lives. Instead of allowing things to flow we often try to force the outcome. When our forceful attempts fail we become frustrated.
Letting go of control – A scary thought?
Thinking about letting go of control of something you are used to controlling can at first feel intimidating, however once put in practice it is surprising how liberating it is.
The mind and body feel less constricted and more free. It feels like you can breathe again.
There is an old zen saying:
“If you wish to control your cow, give it a bigger pasture”
Master Suzuki Roshi
I believe this means the cow does better when it is afforded more space.
The same is true for the many situations and interactions in our lives. Giving them space allows positive outcomes to organically produce.
When we stop fighting with ourselves, others, and the environment to ensure certain things happen something beautiful takes place.
Things happen without the stress and anxiety that comes with control.
We stop using excessive energy, and all the other symptoms associated with control disappear.
Letting go of control produces better results as all the energy that was directed to things outside of our control is redirected to what wants to happen.
The art of letting go of control
In learning the letting go of control in our own lives, it can be useful to apply the same principles that work when rewilding ecosystems.
Interaction without forcing change
We can step back from the things we are used to controlling. Instead of trying to control something that doesn’t need to be controlled such as, other people, or situations, we take a step back and allow them some room to breathe.
We can then continue our interaction without forcing change. Instead of trying to have a person or situation conform the way we would like, we can interact without expectation.
We can trust that the situation will turn out how it supposed to.
By practicing these three principles we can learn to accept the uncontrollable nature of each moment and enjoy the outcome that is naturally produced.
Letting go of control is different from inaction
Letting go is true freedom. It is however different from inaction or laziness. If we have decided to do something such as a movement practice, a new habit, or anything else, we can still do them.
We have already decided to do it. Letting go of control doesn’t mean not doing them if we no longer feel like it due to the lazy side of the brain taking over.
It means loosening our time frames, or our expected outcomes. It can even mean letting go and accepting we have to do them the way we originally intended without resisting.
It is a small switch in mindset. One mindset says I must now force myself to do this! The other says I will let go and stop trying to resist doing this. The latter uses significantly less energy than the former.
The foolish resist and try to force, the wise observe or do without resisting.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”