Letting Go of What’s Not Working for You

From Alberto Villoldo’s book, The Four Insights, here is a simple exercise that gets you involved in “letting go of what you know,” or in his terms, “practicing beginner’s mind.”

When we practice beginner’s mind, we learn to let go of our preconceived notions. As Jesus said, “To enter the kingdom of heaven, you must become like a child.” When we practice the art of letting go, our lives become much simpler when we aren’t weighed down by the baggage of our stories and our expectations. We stop being jaded and, instead, open ourselves up to the opportunities presented to us. This is a life-changing exercise.

Make a commitment to yourself to set time aside for the following exercise as you begin to let go and open yourself to new directions:

Achieving Beginner’s Mind

We can return to a more creative, open, childlike way by making simple changes in our routines and habits, such as eating with the opposite hand we normally eat with, taking the route we never take, and smiling instead of fuming when we’re upset. We can shatter our complicity with the mediocrity around us and open ourselves up to a much wider range of possibilities.

Of course, it’s important not to get stuck in the literal interpretation of this practice. There was a CEO of a major corporation who was told by a consultant that he would become more creative if he took his shoes off while attending business meetings. It may have made some difference in his ability to break out of his usual way of thinking, but this gesture on its own wasn’t enough to make a difference in how he ran his business. He thought he’d found a magic bullet, a shortcut to creativity, but he was only breaking out of the confines of his shoes on the most literal level. He needed to let go of the beliefs that were holding him in place. The soul he needed to set free was not the sole of his foot.

The following exercise will help you to open yourself up to the new by getting rid of what is not working for you. It’s a specific exercise that teaches the art of letting go.

Exercise: Clear the Junk out of Your Life

 To practice beginner’s mind, you must clear the debris from your life. At the level of Serpent (which is where we begin with our “South” courses at the Four Winds), this means emptying your closets of all the junk and “collectibles” you don’t need and have been reluctant to get rid of. After you die, your children will throw it all away anyway. This clutter keeps you tied to the past—that stuffed animal you won at the county fair, that college sweatshirt that you’ve outgrown and have no occasion to wear anyway, and so on. You’ll still remember the pleasures of those experiences, without the tangible symbols that are stuffing your closets.

Throw away that lava lamp you never liked, which represents the lifestyle you thought you were supposed to have back in your bachelor years. Let go of the books you feel you really ought to read someday and the craft projects you feel compelled to complete even though you’ve lost interest in them. Allow yourself to let go of the expectations you had of yourself, and accept that you’ve made different choices.

Clear out your attic, your basement, and your overstuffed bookshelves and CD racks. Let go of the belief that you have to continue to possess any object that might be “worth something.” Give it to those less fortunate than you are, rather than clinging to the illusion that the more objects you possess, the more security and prosperity you have.

Make your house, your desk, your closet, and your mind minimalist spaces. Then, observe what happens in your life – and in your mind – over the next several weeks and months.


To learn more about incorporating the beginner’s mind in your life for exquisite shifts, consider enrolling in our “South” (Illumination) courses at any one of our campuses. for details on South … 




  1. phil hollis says:

    It’s funny how things come about, I have recently been reading Alberto’s Illumination book and after driving myself (and my partner) up the wall for some time , I came to the realisation that my pride was the root of most of my life’s problems. I felt a lot better straight away and resolved to go and make my peace with my old boss at the charity shop where I used to volunteer (I had walked out in a fit of pique last year). The thing was I just coudln’t bring myself to go and say sorry until I read the lesson about clearing out clutter. This gave me the final impetus to take some old books down and apologise while I was there. I now feel a lot better for it. Thanks Alberto.

  2. I absolutely agree with the above exercise. I am on board but my husband is of a different persuasion. This is a consistent point of conflict. I would like to do the exercise but he is contradiction to this . He loves clutter and is generally a messy person. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to deal with this?

  3. I have the Four Insights and continually work through the exercises. This one is particularly refreshing. And the benefits, like surrendering to Spirit, are always more interesting than anything one could have tried to predict. Returning yet again to this exercise as I write. Thank you, Alberto, for sharing your experiences with us through your books and this website! You give us all courage to walk our path.

  4. Shobha Balu says:

    I just completed ‘North’ last night I was making plans to de-clutter my house and start ‘fresh’ on my beginner’s life. This morning I am reading this email from Four Winds. Yes, it is beautiful to look at everything around you from a child’s eyes. I have been discovering my childhood once more through the eyes of my grandchildren. I recommend having grandchildren! If you have them in your life, but have not had much to do with them – rediscover them! What a gift and a lesson!

  5. This mail came to me at a time that was so hilarious, that I just had to send a little reaction.

    After a Holiday to Tuscany I started doing just what is described here above. Getting rid of
    all kinds of old things I don’t use anymore…Can you imagine how funny it was to receive this mail? It was a confirmation for me that I am in a (southern) flow….

    I am receiving your emails for a long time, but my busy life and situation did not give me
    the opportunity to follow any courses yet… maybe this little coincidence can bring further changes…

    Thank you for bringing a broad smile on my face with the email…

    The Netherlands

  6. Aaron Forbes Christensen says:

    I believe this can be achieved through a life changing event. I know because I have lived it. I have experienced this by leaving my hometown aproximately 2 months ago with my dog Bear after a divorce being finalized and walking away from everything I had. Such a drastic event is not needed though. I like to tell people find what works for you….and run with it!

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