One of the watershed moments of the spiritual path–a moment when somebody starts to understand what this path and this life are all about–is when they have to give up something they don’t want to give up.

I can’t tell you when it’ll come. It can come early on your spiritual journey or late. It depends on you and your particular ego-self. Some of us with particularly sneaky egos actually want the spiritual path, so some of the initial things that get left behind are easy to do. But, this is because we don’t really have an ego investment in them. So what’s really interesting is when someone well on their spiritual path has to give up something that they are invested in.

This type of choice happens to most sincere parents all the time when they have kids. They suddenly are forced to grow up by putting someone else’s needs first. For many adults, they’ve never actually done this before, but the further we grow, the more often life will challenge our attachments. However, it is the first really big time that we have to let go that can really set the stage for future growth or continued grasping, and I felt like helping you prepare and/or let go in this spiritual blog post today.

It Was All Going So Well…

In our ignorance, life can seem to be going our way. We’ve got whatever it is that we think we want, and we can’t imagine that this is still only a temporary situation. All of human life is just a temporary situation. We have temporary jobs, temporary relationships, temporary homes, and so forth. The illusion of permanence is one of the fundamental issues that life likes to explode, and it is one that we’re essentially talking about today.

So you had this illusion that life was playing by your rules and you were getting what you wanted. Then something happened. Life happened. I could list a million possibilities, but it really depends on the person. For someone who enjoyed being single and childless, they are or a recent partner is now pregnant. For someone with children, it could be the sudden death of a child. It could be the death of a partner. It could be the death of close friend. Death is a big bell-ringer that reminds us that we are all just temping here on this world.

It doesn’t always have to be something so big as a death, but it has to be significant to you. Because of its weight for you, this issue forces you into a situation where it is extremely difficult to remain in your illusion and resist accepting what is. The only sane thing to do is to accept that your whole life just shifted and you now have to give up something that mattered a whole bunch to you.

The Aftermath of a Tragedy

To be sure, people don’t give up their illusions without a fight. So sometimes, life brings out the big gun like full on tragedies such as the death of a child. It could be a major car accident that paralyzes part of your body. A tragedy is not the bad break-up with your ex-partner unless there’s serious abuse. I like to add this caveat in here because so many people get so bent out of shape around letting go of a relationship. It doesn’t mean that that can’t be the something you don’t want to give up. It certainly can, but in terms of the intense pain and suffering that goes on in the world, let’s leave the word tragedy for really serious things like death, mutilation, and multiple deaths.

In these intense situations, letting go and accepting what is are so important. Without that acceptance, you cannot heal and grieve. Without that process, you get stuck in pain, and you can never really live again until you process that pain. Getting stuck in pain is a huge problem for human beings. With our ability to remember things and hold onto energy, we have become magnets for a lot of suffering–mostly our own. That suffering and agitated energy isn’t any fun, and that causes us to self-medicate and attempt to self-avoid in numerous ways. This, ultimately, makes the tragedy that has been experienced 100 times worse, and it means that the tragedy lives on through you.

Numbing Yourself to Life and Over-stimulation

Acceptance and Moving Into the Unknown

Depending on what you’re giving up, you can find yourself moving into new territory. You may no longer feel like you know who you are. You may not be sure what you want. Many people try to fill in the hole left by that person, situation, job, belief, or whatever that you’ve had to give up. But I encourage you to stay in this unknown for awhile. See if you can see what else is here. Let your questions come up, and see if you can let your eyes open up further. Our unconscious ego desires meld together to create tunnel vision, and that inherently limits what we see as possible. Since we can’t see beyond our desires, when an issue that was part of a desire has to go, more of the original desire can be seen.

For those who are early on their path of self-discovery, you probably won’t think there’s anything wrong with your desires. If you had to give up a special soulmate, you are still unlikely to question why you need a romantic partner. But if you do, you have a chance to start to break out of a lot of old patterns that you had no idea were limiting you and confining your life to such small and few ways to be happy. In letting go of our wants and desires, we are actually opening up to a far more vast emotional spectrum; we are opening up to the fullness of love.

The Backslide and Attempts to Re-Build Your Sandcastle

Two posts I’ve written in the past “The Spiritual Backslide” and “How to Build Your Sandcastle” speak to what typically follows. Few people are rarely ready to give up whatever is being pried out of their hands. So if they had to give up a dream job for some reason, they are frantically scrambling to get it back. If they’re lucky, their efforts are blowing up in their face. If not, then, they’ll go back to the job and stay stuck. Many people go back and find that the job no longer feels as good as they remembered. This is because some part of you has moved on. Some part of you has completed, and now, this job will feel uncomfortable in someways that before never bothered you.

This is another way consciousness rises up inside of us. Since the initial smack in the face wasn’t enough, you are going to be getting the long-term self-torture route that can make you feel increasingly upset. These upset feelings can be:

  • Feeling out-of-place
  • Feeling more and more discontent
  • A sense of being lost or adrift
  • Moving into apathy or indifference about the thing that used to matter so much

There are certainly other feelings that come up, but these give you a flavor of how we typically communicate to ourselves that it is time to move on from someone, some place, or something.

Embracing the Opportunity

My hope, however, is that you see this moment of giving up as a kind of surrender, as an opportunity to let go. In so doing, you are embracing the opportunity. You can start to shine a light on this desire and your ideas about how life should be going for you. In this way, we begin to notice the jail cell rather than focusing on what we have inside of it. We can begin to ask why we are here. Why do we believe what we believe? What are we really trying to get? Having a soulmate or a job is just an attempt to get something else. What is that?

I know that this truth may not be immediately apparent for many of you, so I would point to the fact that a lot of what we really want are feelings. Generally speaking, we want to feel good. We sometimes call that feeling safe, feeling connected, feeling loved, and feeling alive.

If you don’t feel good in a relationship, you don’t really want to be there. Ironically, we end up in a lot of relationships that don’t feel good because of our unconscious programming. So in the instance of the soulmate example, you may find that that relationship was actually quite toxic. This person was helping you to see all the unhealthy patterns you were stuck in, and having to let them go is truly a great gift. Now, you can see more about the unhealthy patterns you learned while growing up and can address them. If the relationship hadn’t ended, you’d still be stuck in ignorance thinking you’re happy even though you really weren’t.

The Continued Illumination of False Happiness

It sounds crazy to think that we might not actually be happy when we think we are. But this is very common place. We’ve learned to interpret a lot of things as feeling happy or good, which actually aren’t the case at all. Alcohol is an easy one to pick on. It is essentially a poison. It’s great for sterilizing equipment, which means it is killing bacteria. It does not serve anyone’s body. But people teach themselves to like it. They think it makes them more themselves. It helps them calm down. It helps them to be social. But really it is just adding toxins to an already upset energy system. The happiness people can feel while drunk is a false happiness based on ignorance and forgetfulness. It’s like walking on a broken foot while being unable to feel the foot. You’re damaging yourself. This is not real happiness or healthiness. It’s false happiness brought on through numbness, and we can numb ourselves out in a multitude of ways.

As you turn your attention inwards, however, you can notice these types of false happiness. You’ll start to realize many things. You may realize that you don’t really like your friends. Everyone is actually mean to each other. You’re not actually laughing together; you’re mainly laughing at someone’s expense. You may realize how grueling your work is and that you aren’t really that happy about making your quota–whatever quota that may be. You may realize how little you like your home, your family, and a whole host of other things that you blindly thought you liked. Yes, the light of your own inner illumination is turning on, and it’s time to look at what’s here.

And none of these realizations were possible until you gave up that thing that you thought you couldn’t live without.

Building Towards Conscious Change and Decisions

We cannot make real decisions when we’re in ignorance. However, we all have certain blindspots even after a lot of self-introspection. As such, we do the best we can. Sometimes people get bogged down waiting for a perfect answer after they’ve started to realize how hemmed in by old toxic beliefs they are. But a lot of times we simply must strike out in a direction and make changes as we go. It’s an imperfect world (except in the sense of higher truth). We do the best we can.

But by being engaged with life, we can see more of ourselves and see more of life around us. This helps us to make more conscious decisions and change our lives accordingly. We also learn to feel that inner awareness, that inner truth in us, to help guide us in the directions that are most true for us. Listening to our inner knowing is a practice in and of itself, and if you’ve just given up something you really didn’t want to give up, now is a particularly important time to start listening. Because it will help you work through a lot of your blindness and bring you towards a greater awareness and clarity. This usually means you start to work more consciously on your issues, and you build momentum as you move to mindfully work with your first issues.

That is the start of finding the edge of your comfort zone, and a really important step to take. If you’re ready for that step, then this story continues on in this following blog post:

Finding Your Edge for the First Time


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.


  1. Hi Jim, Thank you for sending this post in your newsletter. I've just lost my partner and shortly before that I had given up my 'dream' job so that I could take care of him. This post touched me very much, and helped me to understand what's happening and what to be mindful about. It does feel messy and I'm still not sure what to do while my surroundings and my fears are pushing me to get 'back on track'. I'm balancing on the edge and I'm hoping to make the step!

  2. Thank you Jim! This post is what I needed when I needed it. Thank you again for helping the world to awaken!

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