For years, I’ve practiced letting go—letting go of old stories of shame, responsibility for the world, and wanting things to be a certain way. I’ve sat multiple silent meditation retreats, feeling sensations in my throat and heart, trying to let go, release, and receive. Just recently, I started acupuncture as a new experiment in letting go.

Last week, my acupuncturist did a front-body treatment, including a needle in my heart. She described how that heart point is where we hold our old, deep grief; grief that we think defines us. She wiggled the tip of the needle, then left the room. I cried the whole session. A good cry, where I both released and received.

Afterward, I realized that letting go has become a project for me, another way for me to push and strive: Joy, you must let go before you can be free. Yet another option—or perhaps just put a different way—is to accept. To accept my shame and grief; my vulnerability and flaws; my wanting things to be a certain way while trusting that things are just as they should be. If I accept all this, knowing that darkness helps my light shine brighter, then I’m whole. The resistance is exhausting. The acceptance opens my heart. My old stories don’t define me, but they’re part of me. They’re part of my empathy and compassion; they’re part of my bravery. I no longer want to listen to shame or fear, but I can accept they’re in the background, helping me remember what it’s like to be human.