The Spiritual Practice of Letting Go
Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi spoke to us about love and saying "no" in her 5Q interview. She expands her thoughts from that session with a nuanced look at what is to be gained, and what we may lose, when we surrender to The Spiritual Practice of Letting Go.
Letting go can be a very painful process. I have been called to let go of much over the course of my life: people, places, things, doctrines and even communities. The process of letting go can be filled with much soul searching and more than a few tears. Sometimes, I have held on until it seemed there was no more water left in my body. Other times, I have left armed with powerful foresight. Every time, I wrestled with whether it was trauma or spiritual awareness calling me to move forward into myself and away from where I was.
I grew up in the ghettos of Baltimore in the 1980s and 90s, at the height of the “war on drugs.” This “war” was orchestrated to disguise the president’s allegiance to big banks over the American People. Shows like Dynasty were in full swing, and hip-hop was becoming a tool for liberation. Hoteps insisted everybody came from Egypt. Black women led an undercurrent of Black Liberation, which invited us to shift our focus to Indigenous ways. Fewer people were discussing trauma, both generational and personal, and those who did were seen as oddities.
I am the daughter of evangelist mother and a Muslim father. My mother’s side of the family were devout Christians, though they still held on to indigenous practices from Africa and the Americas. My father, a Nigerian immigrant, was deeply invested in the practice of Islam. My spiritual education was one of many continents, and stood as a testament to the globalized identity of what it means to be religious and black. I was raised primarily by my mother and her sisters. They were the product of a Father who converted to Christianity and indoctrinated his daughters, and a mother who hid the Ancestral Goddess Ways deep in so-called “folkloric practices.” “Family over everything” was an unspoken tenet.
When I was forced to attend church, Pastors sometimes focused on letting go in their sermon. It came coated with stipulations that centered cis men, and demanded obedience to a version of God that seemed as abusive as any man I had ever encountered. I recognized the shaming that kept people in line, the avoidance of accountability, and the fear that kept us from recognizing and utilizing our power. Their version of God seemed as inept in his Godhood as the misogynist cis men preaching about him. I remember Christian “preachers” and “prophets” doing unspeakable acts and following it up by saying “touch not my anointed” when called into accountability. I wondered why their version of letting go seemed to demand the congregation remove their dull shackles only to accept shimmering chains.
The way we talk about and ground ourselves within religious practices has changed. Yet, time and again, I observe people using religion as a drug, with God as the dealer. These people attempt to make the image of God their slave to wield against detractors. Bullying is abundant. It wasn’t just the Church where misogyny was the order of the day, I witnessed it in many different religions and communities of faith. I came to the conclusion that we must learn to let go of corrupt, abusive, and manipulative people.
I often talk about the abuse I encountered growing up, and how returning to an Ancestral Goddess centered practice aligns me with myself. The Goddess honored my Trans identity. The Goddess Way told me I was beautiful when so many in the world told me I was unworthy to enjoy my reflection in a mirror. The Goddess Way pushed me to remember who I was before trauma, before pain, before men attempted to steal away those memories. She was the spiritual home I had been looking for, and reminded me that She and I were in fact one in the same. Things began to shift as I found myself; I learned letting go is not about discarding people, but rather healing from trauma and honoring who you are. Letting go is an invitation to travel deeper into oneself.
I learned that there are so many methods, so many ways to let go, so many rituals and systems that our indigenous ancestors gave us. For me, letting go begins with recognizing your power, and it is amplified by honoring the fact that you are deserving of love. It is codified by engaging in relationships that are invested deeply in your joy. A spiritual practice, like the keys of a piano, must be tuned . As my awareness and clarity expanded, I learned I had the greatest power of all: choice.
I can choose what to keep. I can choose who and what are truly for me. I can choose to prioritize my healing, happiness, and joy. What the misogynist and anti-trans teachers and religious leaders from my past wanted me to let go of was my dignity and power. They wanted me to yield to their guidance so they could feel powerful and important. They wanted to be the savior. Their version of letting go was an avoidance: handing over my power to choose, stewing in my pain, and giving up. Their version of letting go told me I was not worthy. Yet surely as I am here writing this article, I am worthy, and so are you.
Letting go should always be an act of empowerment. I learned healing and dealing with our trauma cannot be avoided. I learned one of the healer’s truest purposes is to awaken the healer in others. I bore witness to how healing activated my spiritual practice of letting go. Letting go is a shift, a celebration, a making of space, an eruption of joy. Letting go is a spiritual practice steeped in healing, becoming whole, and connection to ancestral practices. It reminds me I have the power, not only to rediscover who I am, not only to renew my commitment to love and healing every day, but to recognize just what I need to let go.