You’d think that after a year of listening to Elsa sing “let it go” on our stereo system at home, in the car, on vacation and basically every darn place you can think of, I’d be the last person to use it as the title of this post! HA! Elsa, nicely played……
Since the beginning of this year I’ve been obessed with the subject of letting things go. You see, this for me is very difficult. I grew up thinking that if you threw something away, it had no meaning to you, and that you rather overeat and feel sick right after just to avoid putting away/throwing away the last few spoonfuls of food on your plate (don’t get me wrong, I don’t encourage food wastage, but I never thought to myself that I could take smaller portions at a time). So what happened down the line? I saved EVERYTHING – down to ticket stubs….and for years (can you imagine what a nightmare it is to move house as a hoarder?!). Oh, and I overate – a lot! (food and weight are a HUGE aspect of the Indian culture. If you’re lean, you’re unhealthy; if your not stuffed to your eyes with food by your host/hostess, it’s not good hospitallity; watching what you eat/eating smaller portions is “complicated” and “unnecessary” if you’re lean because you need to have fat on you.)
Starting out as a mum, I was pretty sure I was doing the right thing passing on this “quality” to my kids…..up until the beginning of this year when I took my yoga practice to a different level and made the decision to teach. I realised that “keeping memoires” (as I like to tell myself I was doing) wasn’t a fantastic quality to have…the truth was that I was hanging on to everything from years gone by. That meant I had a whole lot of unresolved issues and emotional baggage I had been lugging around for years. I now realise how this has been affecting realtionships around me….
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali talk about non-attachment. Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t care, it just means that you don’t place importance on things, emotions, acts, status, ego etc. Placing undue importance creates chains around your mental ability to think clearly…it binds your heart so tight that it is not open to receiving anymore.
Two core principles: Practice (abhyasa, 1.13) and non-attachment (vairagya, 1.15) are the two core principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests (1.12). It is through the cultivation of these two that the other practices evolve, by which mastery over the mind field occurs (1.2), and allows the realization of the true Self (1.3).
Abhyasa/Practice: Abhyasa means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility (1.13). To become well established, this needs to be done for a long time, without a break (1.14). From this stance the deeper practice continues to unfold, going ever deeper towards the direct experience of the eternal core of our being.
Vairagya/Non-attachment: The essential companion is non-attachment (1.15), learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self.
They work together: Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way.
Hurt, dissapointment, emotional wounds – we’ve all experienced them. If you analysed past situations in a non-judgemental way, you’d see that most of these “injuries” arise from expectations…..expectations of the other person involved or of what you thought the outcome should have been. In the present, these past unfulfilled expectations still leave a sour taste in your mouth. You’re always wary and cautious. You’ve built some form of armour around yourself. Now, imagine how many layers of armour you’d have built over the years everytime you encountered unpleasant, “not-what-you-expected” situations…..how much inner strength do you think it will take for you to break those walls down and get to the core of who you really are? Breaking those walls is nothing but forgiving, bidding good bye to the past, and moving forward…..breaking those walls is letting go.
“The root of suffering is attachment” – The Buddha
Letting go doesn’t necessarily mean something from the past (although in most cases, the roots will lie back in time. The past is usually what shapes the present), it can be in the here and now too (down the line “today” will be a day in your past) – maybe it’s something you did/said, something someone did/said to you, maybe it’s a relationship that’s either not benefitting you in a positive way, maybe you can’t change the situation/the person involved and it’s tearing you up inside. Ask yourself if it’s worth all the time and emotion you invest into the feelings these people/situations conjure up in you. Depending on your honest answer, you will know what to do.
So how can you start breaking down the armour, letting go and moving forward? Ok I’ll be honest here, each of us have our own battles…and whilst some things are easier to kiss good bye to, others need a lot of time. I’m in no way saying that you have to move on from one day to the next, but just setting the intention and knowing where you want to be sometime in the future is enough to start with. Setting honest intentions and repeating these to yourself everyday (maybe even multiple times in a day) can work wonders in manipulating your subconscious mind.
How did I start out?
Well, first thing I did was to get rid of clothes. This was the first exercise I set for myself and it was TOUGH!
Second, toiletries (yes, you may be laughing here, but I actually developed an unhealthy obsession with stocking up on toiletries that I never used for fear that the container would be empty one day!)..in 3 months I haven’t had to buy shower gel because of the stockpile I have lying around!!! These might seem really lame, but I kid you not they’ve wonders in changing my attitude and outlook.
I’d read an article not long ago about how clutter in the house is a barrier to free flowing energy, and that clearing up clutter pockets like drawers, closets etc. can have a huge effect on how you feel. I can vouch for that…
Third, I made a 2 column list of people from the yesteryears – one for those I never really forgave and the other for those I’d hurt and never apologised to. I went through each name on the list and had the “conversation” I should have had, ending with “it’s over…let’s move on”.
Fourth, my kids – I make them clear out their rooms once a month (or every week depending on the clutter) and make it a point they understand how to regulate their food portions and appetite. If they skip a meal, big deal – they’re healthy and happy and more than honest with me when it comes to hunger!
Maybe you have a few toxic relationships in your life and you’re scared to “let them go” because (perhaps) society would see you as being cold, or maybe because you don’t want to hurt them. Let me tell you from personal experience, that if a relationship is pulling you down so much that it’s stopping you from moving forward, affecting the innocent people around you and leaving you depleted…it’s not worth having in your life at the moment (if you feel you’re not strong enough to handle it) or at all….the choice is yours. The resolution you may choose to make is to always keep your heart and mind receiving, open and full of love to these people if and when they are ready to re-enter into a fullfilling, positive and nurturing relationship. Again, let not expectations drive any of these decisions.
Negative emotions cause blockages in the flow of vital energy within us. When left to fester for too long these can manifest as diseases of the body and mind. A documentary I watched a few months back said that physical ailments can be treated by first cleansing the mind. An unhealthy mind results in an unhealthy body. I’ve come to believe strongly in this.
We’re all on our personal journeys with challenges and achievements that are unique to us. Your yoga practice can only help you on this journey. It is so unique to you and is different from one day to the next. Keep practicing, keep your intentions clear and keep your breath flowing. Honour the present moment and be thankful for it. It is in this moment you can decide where you place the step in your path – forward or back.