One of the easiest and paradoxically most challenging Small Acts you can practice is letting things go. Freeing yourself of negative mental energy can be quite invigorating and positively affects the quality of your life after doing so. I have a story to illustrate:
It is a blustery day in Charlottesville today. Biking in the very cold wind is always a challenge. I ride my bike nearly everywhere. I get exercise while commuting and saving gas.
Maybe they thought it was just too cold and windy for people to bike, but I encountered not one, but two cars illegally parked in the bike lane in the road today. I hadn't encountered this much in Charlottesville up until this point.
I knew I would need to get over, but I didn't think it was the right time. The hood on my coat was up creating a blind spot. When I got ready to merge into the car lane to go around the parked car, I stuck my arm out to signal to the cars behind me, pulled my hood down so I could turn and see, and almost went for it. The approaching car did not slow down or yield to me.
My initial instinct was anger. I wanted to be angry at this person for not letting me over, causing me to have to stop my bike behind this car. Then I wanted to be angry at the person in the car for parking there in the first place.
While standing there with my arm out waiting for traffic to subside, I remembered that my anger contributes negatively to our collective energy. It's affecting the world around me. Even if I can't see it or know what the effect is, it's there.
More importantly, it affects me. I made a choice at that point to let it go, and I instantly felt better. There was no need or good to come out of being angry at those people for their inconsideration. The only control I have over the situation was whether or not I'm going to leave a trail of negative funk for a little while or just get over it.
The second time I encountered a car in the bike lane half a mile down the road, I just gave myself some extra time to get over so I could go around and wished that person well.
No more than a half hour later, I found out that the event I was biking to in the first place was actually on Thursday, two days later. My reaction here could have been that I wasted my time and ventured out into the cold for nothing. Instead I chose to let it go and seize an opportunity to go pass out stickers for C'Ville-ian Brewing Company, and let people know we were giving away free hot dogs that day. It made me happy to offer someone a free hot dog, whether they went and ate it or not.
The heavy stuff
In a situation like this, the funky negative trail wouldn't have followed me around very long. In other circumstances, where I can just as easily make the choice to let something go, it would follow me for a few days. I have had the bad habit of taking things personally, especially in close relationships. I would hold on to an injustice or my own misstep longer than is necessary. I needed to analyze it and figure out how I could have behaved differently to alter the outcome, or try to figure out why that person doesn't behave the way I think is appropriate or right. Both are a waste of time, a negative anchor, weighing me down. It does no justice to the future, to be stuck trying to mentally manipulate the past.
Work in progress
I will still do this, I'm sure, as I am a work in progress, and I am human. I'm not meant to be perfect, as I have struggled so hard to achieve, but I can practice self awareness. As a human, I am bound to feel emotion, both positive and negative. As a conscious being, I can choose to reflect on that emotion and decide where to put my energy. The first step is being aware that you have the choice. I have the choice to use my energy toward positive change and can do so by learning to "let it go."
An Old Cherokee Legend
"A fight is going on inside me," says an old Cherokee to his grandson as he teaches him about life. "It's a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, guilt, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego."
He continued, "the other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, truth, compassion, generosity, and faith. The same fight is going on inside of you - and inside every other person too."
The grandson thought about it for a while and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."