(Q) How can we know if we have really, finally let something go? Everyone says, ‘you’ll just know,’ but I wonder if there are specific steps that lead to knowing.
(A) Personal knowing, as opposed to acquired knowledge, comes from lived experience. Some events require only one felt experience to know with certainty that the event need not occur again, such as knowing that touching a hot stove will surely burn you. Habitual events and patterned (karmic) experiences usually require more than one event. How many and how often is an individual matter.
Depending upon a person’s make-up it is possible to indicate a preference for how knowing will present itself. My teacher used to say that we learn by decree or degree. For instance, your decree might be, “If I continue to abuse my health in this way, I will surely suffer another heart-attack, therefore I vow never to abuse myself in that way again!” Instead, you may choose to improve by degree saying, “Every day I will make better choices that benefit my well-being. Eventually I will regain my health.” Whatever choice you make, you can be sure you will be tested!
Tests are just notable experiences; they stand out. They may challenge you, but they are not designed to make you fail. Tests can appear randomly or seemingly on cue, as if custom designed by your own subconscious. Lived experience will show you where you are in regard to a specific issue, person, habit, etc. Felt experience invites us to adjust our promises and commitments, and to recognize room for improvement.
Looking back over my own lived experience, I can see real improvement in some important areas. I can also see that choosing a different decree (track) or degree of measurement may be helpful at this time. Letting go is not always a matter of discarding used material by the wayside as if it were jettisoned space-junk. We can recycle what we are given, make it into something more usable for who and where we are today.
The steps, as I see them, could simply be investigation/verification or lived/felt experience. There is no need to complicate things further. Investigation could be summed up in the question, “What is this experience showing me?” Verification might say, “I see that my choices are beneficial.”
Using my own life as an example again, a certain set of circumstances present themselves every year at specific intervals of time – namely holidays! These “opportunities” for growth are no longer unique and repetition has even shown me exactly when to anticipate the arrival of my next test. But only lived and felt experience can offer me the freedom to choose love and wisdom over fear and karmic patterns. The same choices are available to you.
So how can we know that we have really, finally let something go? We rediscover it every time we notice that we chose love and wisdom over fear again – all at once (by decree) or incrementally (by degree). This does not mean that contrary examples will no longer appear, or that we will never be prompted to act against what we know is best. We can expect that life will present us with these opportunities. Over time, the tests will seem less like tests and more like peevish intrusions; a joke whose punchline you have heard once too many times.