My hubby and I used to get away each year to the mountains for a little weekend retreat. We would often stay in a rustic cabin at the edge of a beautiful canyon. There was a trail that followed the river to a series of waterfalls. It was one of our favourite places. You could hike the trail with nothing but the sounds of the water and birds and the wind in the trees. Then as it often happens we eventually stopped going to that spot exploring other places instead.
It’s probably been at least 15 years since we were last there. But recently on a trip to the mountains with our daughter and her boyfriend, I decided we should grab the opportunity to hike the canyon. On the way there I shared all the things that were wonderful about the trail.
My, oh my how things have changed.
I immediately knew that it was going to be a different experience when I saw all the cars parked on both sides of the road. They were parked there because a large parking lot was already full of other cars and RVs and tour buses.
That was the first of many times my daughter said,
“Mom you have got to let it go.
Good advice but I wasn’t letting go easily.
Not only were there cars and trucks and buses, there were all the people that had come in those cars and trucks and buses. Wall to wall people…all talking at the same time. The trail was so busy that at best we were strolling. That is when we weren’t stopped waiting while people with selfie sticks took pictures.
Let it go.
Let it go because you can’t go back.
Even though we know that is true, how many times do we still try to go back?
We compare what’s happening now to some lovely memory of the past. Most of the time using that standard, the present moment seems somewhat lacking.
There’s nothing wrong with fond memories. The problem begins when we hold on tightly to the memory of how it was, rather than being present to what is. We cheat ourselves out of the opportunity for the in-the-moment possibilities and instead we create an experience of frustration and whining. It’s pretty hard to see what is right in front of our faces when we are complaining about how it is not like it was last time.
A similar thing happened to me in Italy 25 years ago. On our first trip to Tuscany we visited a quaint medieval town. It was off the beaten track, very quiet and provided a real sense of stepping back in time. Fast forward three years later when we visited the same town again. By this time the guide books had discovered it and the streets were crowded with tourists and the shops full of tacky souvenirs. Yes there was also a large parking lot full of buses.
You can’t go back – at least not in the same way.
Once you let go of what was, you can see what is. In the midst of the crowds and the smart phones and the tour guides, the canyon was still as magnificent as it ever was. I had the chance to look with new eyes as my daughter saw it for the first time. There was a profound sense of gratitude for having experienced the trail all those years ago when it was far more pristine. It became easier and easier to let it go and eventually abandon the trail and head off in search of a new adventure.
When you find yourself frustrated or disappointed by your current experience, check to see if you are in some way trying to go back. If yes, let it go and be mindful of the experience that is right in front of you.
Heraclitus said, “You can’t step in the same river twice.”
I think that’s just a different way of saying you can’t go back, so let it go. Pretty good advice whether it’s coming from an ancient Greek philosopher or your twenty-first century daughter.
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