paragliding photo from wallpapers.org
I have started working on a project with Cheryl to create a place on our island in Second Life that will allow our members and visitors to go through a “letting go” exercise. The idea is that they will have their avatar (the character that represents them in the Second Life virtual world) willingly jumping off our island’s mountain, and being wafted by updrafts as they consider what is involved in “letting go” of some thought and/or feeling that is holding them back from being happy and truly themselves, and then landing safely on the ground. It’s intended as a metaphoric journey that may enable them to make a similar liberating journey in real life.
There are many, many websites, self-help books, methodologies and therapies that prescribe ways to “let go”. We are not presuming to tell people what to do or how to self-treat illnesses, phobias or traumas. We recognize that in the immediate aftermath of a tragic or unexpected event, not only should one not “let go” of one’s feelings, they are an essential and healthy reaction and part of the coping and healing process. We also recognize that treatment of profound or chronic mental stress and illness may need professional counsel, or at least the support of people who have the context to appreciate and guide the healing process. But in many cases the need to “let go” is just a matter of self-acknowledging, understanding, appreciating and accepting what is, and what we’re trying to do is create an experience to help people get past their “stuck” places and do this.
So with those caveats, here are some of my early thoughts on what the Letting Go experience might look like.
For those not familiar with Second Life, it’s a virtual world, created by its millions of “residents”, in which the residents create an avatar (a customized cartoon-like character) to represent themselves, and interact with others and the places they have “built”, in real time. Many people in Second Life create a space that gives them what they can’t or don’t have in real life — often a great body, youthful face, dazzling wardrobe, ideal home and longed-for possessions — and allows them to safely act out their avatar’s life anonymously, and in the process practice social skills, learn about themselves and other people, role-play doing things they would never dream of doing in real life, and even fall in love.
The magic of Second Life is that behind each avatar is a real person. And of course those real people have real feelings and real issues, one of which, often, is the inability to let go of thoughts and feelings that hold them back from being who they are, from being happy, or from doing what they really want to do.
Here’s how the Letting Go ritual might work:
- You walk up the mountain trail thinking about what it is that you want to let go of. It might be a cycle of thoughts and feelings that brings you a recurring sense of grief, sadness or shame. It could be some idea or situation that repeatedly instills anger. It could be some irrational belief, hope or expectation that imprisons you. It could be some constantly triggered anxiety or fear. As you walk up the trail, you just think about it, name it, articulate it in your own mind.
- As you reach the top of the mountain, you now have clarity about the thought or feeling you want to let go of. Now, you state it, in whatever way works for you. You might just say it quietly. You might shout it, or sing it, or dance it. You might write it down. You might draw it, or otherwise portray it visually.
- At the edge of the mountain, you pick up a rock from a rock pile. This rock symbolizes and embodies what you want to let go of.
- Now, you jump. Initially, you fall quickly, but as soon as you throw away the rock, your descent slows and stops, and breezes begin to waft around you, and you are carried by the updrafts so that you are “flying” instead of falling. You might choose to say certain affirmations as part of the Letting Go process, such as
- I acknowledge and honour my feelings and thoughts as valid and real for me.
- I will give myself time to understand and heal the damage that holding on to this thought or feeling has caused me.
- I will spend some time focused on things that I enjoy or care about as I’m working through this issue.
- I will accept what is, and what can’t be changed, predicted or controlled.
- I will accept that I am a good person, and be good to myself.
- I will seek closure about these issues, so they will not be re-stimulated in future if similar situations arise.
- Finally, you land gently on the ground. At your feet, there is a selection of shells, crystals and other beautiful mementos of your “letting go”. You select one that you like, which you carry as a reminder of this experience, so that if/when something happens to you that might once have provoked the old thought or emotion, you can look at it and remember that you have let go of this thought or emotion, and that it no longer troubles you.
I am not an expert in ritual, so I’d value your thoughts on this idea. What do you think?