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Finding Maya Angelou’s “subtle balance of holding on and letting go”


When is the right time to seek help for a loved one? How do we know when we need it ourselves?

Buddhist teachings tell us: “When the student is willing, the master appears” – powerful, simple, and true.  Likewise, we’ve grown accustomed to messages such as “You have to want it”, “You can’t help someone if they don’t want to help themselves”, and “Recovery isn’t for those who need it, it’s for those who want it.”

But what about people who want to want it, who want to be willing to recover and heal? What about family members who know they cannot push a loved one into recovery but still yearn to be part of their loved one’s journey towards health? 

At SBC we know –and have experienced– that when the timing is right, acceptance and guidance can create willingness. We also know the rhythm of long-term change includes moments of stillness and silence. Learning to discern when to act and when to pause can make all the difference–for our loved ones, and for ourselves. Maya Angelou says,  “we learn to let go of our children from the moment they start walking. And yet, we keep one hand on their back, just to let them know that, “in case you ever need me….I got you.” And it is in this subtle balance of holding on and letting go that we learn to liberate our children into life.”

How do we know when it’s time to seek help?   If we find ourselves curious about whether or not we ourselves need help, we are well on our way to answering that question.  Help has many faces. What might help look like, today? How might you know when it shows up?  Help can enter our lives in surprising ways.

How do we know when to offer help to a loved one? Focusing on our own awareness is a crucial first step.  Practicing mindfulness is one way we begin to consciously invite the clarity we seek into our lives.  Seeking counsel from people we look up to in life is another. Mentors, trusted friends, trained professionals, and people whose own struggles yielded wisdom and peace– these vital resources can help us find Angelou’s  “subtle balance of holding on and letting go.”

As long as there is life, there is hope. This core belief anchors our work at SBC.  I’m reminded of the story about a late-in-life yoga student afraid to try a challenging pose.  The student laments, “Do you know how old I’ll be when I finally learn how to do this pose??” The teacher replies, “Yes. The same age you will be if you don’t.”

There is a time to help, a time to heal, and a time to pause.

Which will you do today?

In Service,

Natasha