My wise daughter saw a poster in our favorite spiritual bookstore the other day that read “Let go of the things you like in order to make room for the things you love.” She decided to adopt it as her motto, telling people about it and ultimately spending a significant amount of time last weekend really purging the things in her room that she did not Love, with a capital “L.”

Of course this thought isn’t new to most of us living in the KonMari era. We can organize by touch, manically embracing the letting go process, hoping for liberation.

The thing about it that struck me differently as I observed my daughter’s incorporation of this into her 9 year-old world, is that the act of letting go is actually just the act of overcoming our fears. When we get rid of something we don’t like or even just like, but not love, what we’re doing is saying out loud to the Universe “I trust that I don’t need this anymore.” We are moving past that human desire to hold on to things for a rainy or possibly even tsunami day.

Most of us have had layers of success with this approach. We can easily discard that old sweater that we’ve only touched once in the past 2 years. We may even have success with those items that we know we’ve held on to for nostalgic or even hopeful reasons, in spite of the fact that we’ve outgrown the object in hand.

But at some point we hit the thing that causes a pang in our heart. Something that would require a huge leap of faith. And sometimes reason dictates that we should hold on.

Holding on to things helps us shape our identity, but more than that it can give us a sense of purpose. On my inner path, I have recently hit the core of the anorexic impulse that almost killed me. The surprising thing is that it isn’t wanting to be thin that was my obsession – it was not wanting to be fat. While they may seem one in the same, the subtle difference is between letting go and holding on. Although I am long “healed” from those days, the impulse at the center of it is the core issue that creates my life’s spiritual curriculum.

Though on the surface I am just like most other women in a body image obsessed society, who eats healthy and exercises, I have actually been enacting a masterful work around. And while I have made peace with not needing to be thin, I have still held on to wanting to be “not fat.” The problem is that when you don’t want to be fat, you will never feel anything but fat to yourself. So, I’ve spent my adulthood never feeling good about my body – or not for more than a fleeting moment. It’s a sad truth I don’t often share, because I have a great body through most people’s eyes. But of course the only ones that matter are my own.

So now I face the seemingly monumental act of letting go of not wanting to be fat. Which means embracing my feelings of being fat without resistance. It’s a very subtle thing. It’s letting go of the desire to get rid of weight. So when I have an extra three pounds on me, like I do now, instead of adopting the self-hating attitude of doing things to get rid of it, I allow it and love it very specifically and all the while observe all of the judgments and experiences that accompany the highly uncomfortable feelings.

As I move deeper into the allowing and loving, I realize that letting go of not wanting to be fat, isn’t what I’m actually grappling with either. The real fear is whether I can trust whatever comes next. Like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, not being fat has been my longest, deepest pursuit. When I was a child with a body at the 75th or 80th percentile of weight, I wished for a pill that would make me thin so that maybe my mom would like me. Of course now I know it wasn’t that she didn’t like me, but that she was afraid of her daughter being shunned and outcast in a harsh world as much as she was afraid for herself. And so her quest to spear the whale that threatened to undo her became mine. But motivated by the desire to feel good enough for the one person who mattered the most, it became my obsession.

As I slowly begin to realize that my world does not end as I embrace feeling fat, it feels like shattering a piece of glass that changes my entire point of reference. Like in the Truman Show – opening the door and realizing his existence hinged on an untruth. Walking through the door for the first time is beyond comprehension. Maybe like taking birth. Because what I glimpse is the beginning of a type of love, hidden from myself all of this time. Trusting that love to be the truth in direct contradiction to the foundation of my belief system means allowing a new world view, but more importantly letting go of a coping mechanism that I thought would quite literally allow me to fit into a world in which I did not. Trusting that I will be safe without it is a big leap, but trying to love myself while holding on to it is impossible.

Watching my daughter this past weekend, I see that in order to make the big leap across the chasm, I absolutely have to make the small seemingly less important ones too. Every time I think to myself, “I should hang on to that just in case” or “if I get rid of this, I may regret it”, all I’m really doing is giving permission to the deepest biggest fears inside to stay put. Hanging on to things that no longer serve me is actually an act of keeping limitations in my life. And when I do that whether it’s in the physical world with objects or in the emotional space of feelings, I am only reinforcing my ultimate fear that I won’t survive, even though I actually thrive.

And so, I am really on a path of letting go into myself and finding that bigger source of love seated inside the darkest caverns of my body. Luckily for me, I have some incredible beings like my daughter who light the lanterns along the way.