Sunday, March 3, 2013

What Does "Letting Go" Really Mean?

“I realize there's something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they're experts at letting things go.” ~ Jeffrey McDaniel

Letting go.

So many meanings behind those words. Some people view them as giving up or losing something. Others view it is letting loose or dropping something.

But they've been uttered to me, around me, near me several times the last few weeks, even months. And as someone who does believe in the quiet, whispering language all around us, the kind many of us never listen to, I'm choosing to pay attention.

During my last yoga training weekend in February, one thing my teacher said a few times was "let go."

She said it more than once and in different contexts, but the meaning in the end was the same ... let go, release, trust.

We did several physical poses that week coinciding with those words. Some of them we had to partner up for, but the underlying theme, at least to me, was this trust in the letting go process, putting your trust in others to hold you up or gently let you down, etc.

It got me thinking about how much tension we consistently hold in our minds and bodies almost every minute of the day. We don't even think about it because we are so used to it, our minds are so used to spinning those wheels.

One example I can pull from class is this exercise where you stand behind someone and ask them to shrug there shoulders and hold it. Then you hold their upper arms and ask them to release. When you let go of their arms, if they had truly "let go" and released their tension, their arms would immediately drop.

Almost everyone's did not.

Another quick example for me personally. There's a balance pose called "Crane" where you crouch down, lean forward slightly so your elbows are bent and are supposed to balance your knees on your triceps so that your entire body is balled up, your feet off the ground and everything balanced on your hands. I never understood why I couldn't do this one after so many years of mastering other balance poses.

One day, we talked in class about mental blocks we instinctively put up and don't realize it. Which is why yoga block props come in handy for some poses. A light bulb went off. So the next time I tried this pose, I put a pillow on the floor in front of me just in case I fell forward. And suddenly ... off the floor I went, easily!

I never actually touched the pillow, but knowing it was there removed the mental block I had anchoring my toes to the ground, causing my arms to always waver and shake.

It's like we are constantly bracing for something ... in protection, fight or flight mode, or perhaps just holding onto every care or worry, every fear and emotion in our physical beings. Imagine being those muscles, that brain, constantly taut with exhaustive energy, sapping the good and replacing it with ailments, emotional strive, physical disease. No wonder we have so many illnesses, both mental and physical, in our species.

But when we DID let go in class, when we did trust in the letting go, the peace and feeling of life that ensued was awe inspiring.

Now shift gears a moment and think of other things we hold onto, besides tension ... possessions, people, the past, the future, relationships, friendships, anger, pain, resentment. Why is it so hard for us to "let go?"

Because letting go is surrender. And surrender is terrifying to the ego, to the mind. Because those people, things, relationships, are all the mind identifies with. But what if letting go can be thought of as letting go of a mask, of a false self, a disguise ... letting go of what isn't real to embrace what IS real?

What if surrender was not thought of as giving up ... but rather, giving in?

This isn't to say the people and relationships in our lives aren't "real," but the false sense of identity or permanency we have with them is a farce. The people,  possessions, relationships, degrees, careers, titles in our lives ... those things are never really ours to begin with when you truly think about it.

Imagine if we viewed everything outside of us as temporary ... because the truth is, everything outside of our energy, souls, spirits, IS temporary, even our own bodies.

But it's so hard to let go of things we find meaning in. I know this more than most can imagine. However, what I've come to realize is, the meaning and realness I find in those people or relationships, that friendship or experience is energy ... and energy is continuous, long after the tangible person or experience is gone.

Yet, ironically enough, and perhaps by design, this makes me appreciate and cherish the sources of that energy so much more while they are here with me.

So, in letting go, we merely shed the falsities and let in what is true and real. And eventually we are able to stand without a pillow beneath us and give into gravity.

Eventually we are able to surrender to life.

After all ... as C. JoyBell C. says, “Last night I lost the world, and gained the universe.”


1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this Cassandra. May I use that quote as one of my "thoughts of the day"?

    Letting go is something I've worked very hard on the past couple of years. Thank you for this post.