Dr. Albert Villoldo: Letting Go of What’s Not Working for You

By Dr. Albert Villoldo | Four Winds Society

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. Click for details on South … 


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