The art of letting go...

So I think fate or the universe or whatever is trying to tell me something. For the first full day of my time here in Atsista I sat here and plotted a plan to spend one day getting my ‘internet’ or ‘online’ stuff done and dusted so that I could officially ‘let go’ and focus on my time here sharing my course on the yin and yang of yoga.

On day two I gathered my laptop, cords and water and walked for 20 minutes to the nearest café of which was guaranteed to provide me with the wifi that I so desperately needed.

I arrived, sat down, ordered a frappe and asked for the wifi code. I searched for signal, for my access to the online world and as fate would have it, the satellite was down. There was no wifi signal to be found, no ability to connect, no blogs to be uploaded, no newsletter to be shared, no timetable to go online… As I sat there I figured I may as well spend the time preparing for my class that afternoon which was focused on pranayama and asana.

To recap our previous class on the Yamas & Niyamas in practice I was drawn to talk more about aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and started to write down the following questions prompted by some great blogs, reading and research I had already collected:

  • What are you holding onto?
  • “How many suitcases of expectations did you bring with you today?”
  • What is stopping you from letting go?
  • Can you let go?

I was exploring the notion that yoga means to ‘yoke’, or union, and through bringing the breath and movements of the body together we are able to begin to feel that union that is always within us. But if we hold onto things that stop our breath or our bodies to be still, to focus, or things that simply weigh us down, it can become difficult to find that internal union let alone the union between our self and the world around us.

There was this exercise I wanted to share where we would draw in a deep breath, hold it for as long as we could and become an observer of the way that something so full of nutrients, something so good for you, our life force can too become toxic and heavy and detrimental to your body (not to mention your ability to continue to live) when held onto for too long.  

I also wanted to share some practical breathing techniques that everyone could take home with them to manage or overcome stressful situations. When considering this in conjunction with our ability to ‘let go’ I was reminded of some research that shows that human beings can and should live with a certain amount of stress. We were made to have a sympathetic (stress) and parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system as we need to use them both to not only be motivated to ‘do’ but to stop and to ‘be’. What we don’t do however, is to take the time to acknowledge the stress that we hold onto or the baggage and to let it go in order to free up space in our hearts, our minds and our bodies to grow and develop. When we hold onto things, like stress, even when they are good for us for a period of time it becomes hard to recognise the point in which they turn toxic, let alone release it when it does. Stress is perhaps an easy example of the toxicity that you could experience if you don’t know or learn how to let go. A very real consequence could be debilitating anxiety, panic attacks or depression. In a perfect world, where we know exactly how to let go, we should be able to experience stress every day and thrive in what we do – it can be good for us.

So it brings me back to my point, learning the art of letting go. Let’s face it, there is a certain amount of knowing, of inner calm and peace that needs to be found before we can simply detach from what we are holding onto and let it go. We tell ourselves so many stories like “if I don’t have my timetable up no one will come to my classes”, “if no one comes to my classes I won’t make any money”, “if I don’t make any money how will I survive”, “I’ve already not achieved or booked in what I wanted to and so now I need to catch up, I’m behind, I’m not successful”… etc. etc. etc.

How can I let go when all of these things are important to me? I want to be successful, I want to share what I love with people, I want to make this work.

At some point I realised that there is no good time to focus on letting go, there are always things to hold on to, there are always things to do. I can set ultimatums like “if I get some Internet I will complete my tasks and THEN I can let go” but in reality it’s not necessarily going to solve any more than the first dilemma I had. It’s great to have a goal, something to works towards, and end point and to feel successful. But then what? We move onto the next thing and hold onto that until we decide it’s expired. And do we really need everything to fall into place in order for us to let go?

Given my internet woes, I realised that there was never a better time than the present, that sometimes stepping back is the only way to step forward. That the stories I was telling myself are purely mine, and I am reflecting exactly what I am going to get from the world (thanks Melissa Ambrosini for introducing me to the concept of “you attract what you fear and repel what you want”).

And so, I packed up my things, paid my bill and went for a swim. I didn’t give up – I let go.

When I got back to the retreat centre that afternoon the internet was working, I connected my laptop to it, uploaded my timetable and updated parts of my website, it worked. The moment I stepped back and accepted that I may not get things done the way I had planned, it suddenly fell into place.

Knowing when and how to move on from the thing that previously drove us to greater heights or made us feel successful; in order to actually grow and experience all that life has on offer for us is hard. Through our breath we are able to decrease stress, increase energy, focus inwards rather than outwards (on the simple flow of our breath within us), through meditation we are able to still the mind for just long enough to recognise our true self and detach from the world and the stories we tell ourselves, through our asana practice we are able to concentrate, to be present and to try to coordinate our bodies to keep them supple and prepared for our flight/fight/freeze responses.