The Good Medicine of Letting Go

The Good Medicine of Letting Go

An Excerpt From The Power of Energy Medicine


An energy medicine practitioner offers a “prescription” for the powerful practice of letting go.

Once in a while I find myself understanding a beautiful order connecting nature to healing the body. The elusively profound message of “letting go” flows though themes of addiction, trauma, mental illness, and disease. My very best lesson about letting go was taught to me by a fallen maple tree.

When I was a child growing up in New England, I thought all trees that weren’t evergreens died in September and October and came back to life in April and May. Later in life, I associated the four distinct seasons with the seasons of a long life.

Birth connects with spring.
Summer connects childhood into adulthood.
Autumn is the aging process.
Winter is the end of life.

Lessons in Letting Go From a Maple Tree

One day in October, I stopped on a bridge to admire the crimson glow of red leaves from a tree collapsed in the river. A windstorm had struck the night before, and a large maple tree in full brilliance dropped directly into the water.

Above, the sky was clear, and the reflection doubled the magnificence of this tree. It had fallen and was dying, but just like the other trees expressing the cycle of life, I thought, its beauty was majestic.

Every day that week I walked to that dying tree. My route included the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy beyond writer John Knowles’s A Separate Peace tree and into the woods beyond the football fields. My walk to the river begins with brick paths and storied architecture, then flares open to the library designed by architect Louis Kahn. I passed a massive concrete building actually named Love Gymnasium, then into the manicured fields, along the winding river and into the acres of forest trails. The Separate Peace tree was far behind me now, but these walking trails held the spirit of Knowles’s title.

Each day, I returned to the river while the stellar beauty of red leaves became more and more submerged. The yellow and orange foliage from the standing trees framed the whole colorful vista.

My childhood understanding of the cycle of life and the cycle of the seasons was now being affirmed in front of my eyes.

And as autumn often pulls us back to work indoors as the summer light exits, I took too long to return to the river the next week. All around New England the leaves were down. Snow had nature’s permission to descend now. When I returned to the fallen maple tree, the air was cold, but the river still flowed without a wisp of ice. Below the bridge, yellow leaves had pooled into a boat-shaped inlet: stopping, swirling, and sometimes escaping. Standing above the banks were clean, gray branches achingly gorgeous in their complex geometry. Every tree is a great balancing act against weight and wind and height.

And yet, I noticed this fallen maple tree in the water did not drop its leaves. The branches clung to brown and dry chattering leaves. This tree was dead. Above me, the bare trees were alive.

The silhouette of bold trunks and bare branches seemed, all at once, vital and confident for the next season of snow. And, all at once, I understood that dropping leaves is an act of living, not dying.

I stood on the bridge over the water and studied this fallen tree. This collapsed tree represented a more accurate death image. The dry brown leaves stayed attached because a leaf cannot drop without an active life force. The dropping away of foliage is called apoptosis—the same name as the medical term for actions of living cells opening up and letting old matter fall away.

That autumn, the dying tree in the river taught me about the practical wisdom of letting go. Apoptosis is the healthy nature of programmed death. I learned that what we do not release can become cancerous and burdensome. I would bring this lesson to my healing practice.

The Medicine of Apoptosis: A Journaling Exercise

Become aware of your hand and clench your fist while asking yourself, “What do I grip too tightly in my life?” Now write your answer in your journal.

Now open your hands and stretch while looking at your answer above. I walked over a bridge and discovered the symbol of letting go. Imagine yourself on your own special bridge that is leading you to a new place. What is your symbol for letting go?

Let your mind write freely as you release the grip of whatever you are holding on to. It is the definition of health to be able to let go over and over again.

Write it all down in your journal.

This is your prescription for the Good Medicine of Letting Go.

May be surprised to feel more clarity and more energy. Problems may drop away.

Excerpted from The Power of Energy Medicine, Copyright c 2021 by Hilary Crowley, published by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

The Good Medicine of Letting Go

Enjoying this content?

Get this article and many more delivered straight to your inbox weekly.