Posts Tagged ‘Letting go’

Letting Go- It’s not for Pansies

Comments Off on Letting Go- It’s not for Pansies Written on June 29th, 2014 by
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It’s not just six-year-olds who have beaten the phrase “Let it Go” into the bloody pulp it has become. For me, that statement actually makes me want to hold on very tightly.. to the neck of whoever is uttering this hackneyed phrase. It’s one of those new age cliches that you hear so often that is has become devoid of real meaning in yoga and in life. The problem with this friendly advice is the implication is that if you weren’t so tense and neurotic, life would be easy for you, that you are just being stupid or obstinate.

As a professional aerialist, I can tell you that letting go is the last thing (and would actually be the last thing) I’d ever want to do physically. That said, does all this “holding on” under the Big Top mean everyone who works in the circus is tense? Obviously not, or they would never get off the platform or climb a rope or hold a balance. So why is it so bad to hold on?

What does happen when you completely let go? I’ll tell you. It’s savasana or corpse pose. You end up in a puddle on the floor, lifeless. For many people it is the best part of doing yoga and it’s a healthy necessary part of the practice. It feels great. However, it is hard to do your taxes or grocery shop like that.

Clearly, we don’t want to let go of everything all at once at any other time (other than savasana) so what DO we hang on to then? What are we actually letting go? The obvious answer is that we are supposed to let go of unnecessary tension or thought patterns (duh, not helpful). Where are they, these tensions we don’t need? How do we know what is necessary and what isn’t? How do we let go of something that simply won’t? It’s hard to follow the instruction to “let go” when you don’t know what you are supposed to let go of or how to go about doing it. For me personally, anytime I heard this instruction, I’d essentially just disengage whatever I possibly could and sink into my joints (NOT freeing). Physically, it meant I collapsed on myself so I overstretched some places (that I should have been using to support myself) and crunched others.

Letting go is much more specific and complex. Sifting through what to engage as well as how to engage it and what to soften and how to soften it, takes years and years of building awareness. After 20 years of consistent practice, it is only starting to come together. But I can tell you it has been one of the best things I’ve done with my life. Does it take that long before you start to see progress? No, progress is constantly happening as long as you keep trying.

It isn’t much different with emotional processes. You can’t let go prematurely. It just won’t work and you’ll know because it won’t feel good. When you finally let go of something that is ready to, it feels glorious and freeing. But you have to wait until the thing you need to let go of is darn good and ready. It won’t be ready until a certain amount of time and processing has passed and the support systems are in place to allow it to let go. You can’t really do a backbend with any freedom if your legs are ungrounded and weak, just like you can’t let go of past abuse if you are in the middle of an abusive relationship.

I have spent a lot of time trying to force things to let go prematurely; trying to make my hamstrings stretch by just pulling as much as I could or forcing myself to forgive people that I was still actually angry at. The journey to ease in the body always starts with allowing whatever is there to be there. If you are angry, if your back hurts, nothing will change by wishing it away. Trying to trick your psyche into thinking you’ve really let go in order to make the pain go away is a poor strategy. I know, I’ve tried a lot. It has to be real.

The allowing things to be as they are is constant. You can’t just send your body and mind a memo once and expect it to be done. It’s a never ending dialogue. Only after a seeming unending while of allowing pain and anger to be there, truly sit there without judgment or action, do they begin to dissipate ON THEIR OWN.

So letting go is actually about engaging, really engaging, with things that are difficult physically and emotionally. In our bodies, it’s the dead parts, the weak parts. In our minds, it’s the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to know about, the parts whose existence we can’t see or deny are there. It is ongoing. Very rarely, is forgiveness or softening complete on the first go around. You may need to do it many times before it actually sticks.

The other important thing to know is that the patterns our body or mind have adopted to protect us at one point in our lives were NECESSARY tensions back then. Before I know what I know now, I am grateful my body tightened up certain spots preventing me from really backbending, otherwise my zeal probably would have damaged it. My back is thankfully in good shape. So no beating ourselves up just because these patterns have become unnecessary now. We can only know what we know when we know it and not before. That doesn’t mean we won’t get impatient and frustrated about where we feel we should be vs where we are, but that is part of it too. Sometimes it also means that it takes a destroyed relationship or a bad injury for us to begin real understanding. And all those places that we grip are suddenly in our face. Now we can see them and let these ideas about ourselves, our bodies fall away. Then and only then do you know what “it” is. And then you can bring some meaning to letting it go.

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