There are some problems and squabbles that aren’t worth our effort to pursue. Maybe we’re never going to see that person again, or it’s a small enough problem that we know we won’t care about it in a few days, weeks, or months. If your mind keeps chewing on little problems like these, try this brief visualization for letting them go.
My mother died during an asthma attack when I was in my mid-twenties. I grieved and grieved for the loss of both my mother and my best friend. And when I was diagnosed with adult-onset asthma a few years later, I took it very seriously.
That’s when I discovered visualizations and their power to change my body’s or mind’s reaction to something.
I created the following visualization out of my own need to let go of things my mind just wouldn’t shut up about.
Use it for letting go of things you can’t change, for letting go of things you can change but aren’t things you’ll really care about when you’re 100 and looking back on your life, for letting go of the daily little hassles that you don’t want crowding out your joy, for letting go of the things that annoy you in your relationship with your partner or spouse, those things that you know down deep don’t really matter in the grand scheme.
This visualization works best if you can find a quiet spot for a couple of minutes, someplace you won’t be interrupted or disturbed, and a spot in which you can close your eyes.
Picture this in your mind’s eye: It’s a sunny, beautiful day, just the perfect temperature. You’re walking on a gravel path with the warmth of the sun on your face, a light breeze moving across your cheek. You hear the birds chirping. You smell the fragrance of nearby flowers. All your senses are alive.
You reach a low footbridge extending over a small, slow-moving creek. You walk up on the bridge, which curves upward to an apex over the moving water. Picture the sound your footsteps make on the bridge, the feel of your body moving up a slight hill to the point where the bridge is the highest, just a few feet above the water.
You stand near the waist-high railing at the apex and gaze downstream, watching the water move lazily and recede into the distance. Hear the birds chirping and feel the breeze again.
Cup your hands as though you’re about to receive a gift in them. But today you’re not receiving, you’re giving. In your cupped hands is the memory, the trouble, the problem, the thing you want to let go of. Look down and see it there.
You say good-bye to it, not with venom or sadness, just with clarity. Good-bye.
You toss the thing from your cupped hands into the water below. It lands with a slight splash and begins to move away from you in the slow current. You watch it. It bumps for a moment against a submerged rock, then continues downstream. You never take your eyes off of it. You watch it until it reaches the point where the water also disappears from your sight. Good-bye for good, you say.
You raise up your arms and stretch slowly, feeling what it’s like to have a weight off your shoulders. You feel lighter.
Then you turn, not looking again at the water, and continue off the far side of bridge, into your future.
Originally published in 2009, updated in 2018.