2013 Wellness Challenge Week 25: Let go

There are some ways of being we can practice that have tangible results and other activities we practice that are good for us but don’t necessarily involve physical work or visible differences in our day-to-day life. These non-tangible activities are the hardest to complete, but also the most rewarding and long-lasting.

Letting go is one of those non-tangible life skills. In the yoga world, many teachers ask students to let go in every class, but very few students actually know what that really means.

Letting go could also be  called releasing, relaxing, embracing, accepting or moving on.

Whatever you call it, letting go is always an interesting experiment.

When to practice letting go

To practice letting go in the first place, you have to become aware of the situations in your life that you hold on to and why. This can bring up big questions and underlying base-need fears that are hard to face and even more difficult to handle with grace.

For example, this past week I was asked to sub a lot of classes for some friends who were out of town, ill or otherwise unable to teach for various reasons. Even though I was available, there was a certain letting go that needed to take place so that I could show up as all of me for every class. Specifically, I needed to let go of my schedule that I so carefully craft each day to accommodate some last minute changes (and change backs).

Some other places where I practiced letting go included:

  • Learning last minute that I would be attending a formal function and needed to buy appropriate clothing for an event I’ve known about for the past year
  • Pretending I knew less than I did to cover up a less than desirable situation for a particular family member (long story)
  • Cancelling a low attendance workshop
  • Cancelling plans to go to San Antonio the day we were supposed to leave
  • Taking a trip to the hairdresser for the first time in my life (my mom has always done my hair)

In all of these cases, big issues and small, letting go is about going with the flow of life and accepting the changes that happen minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

It’s a very rare case when everything goes exactly as planned, and the more you get stressed about holding on to your plans, the harder it is to move forward and enjoy the reality staring you in the face. Believe me, in a past life I was an absolute expert at holding on to plans.

How to let go

It certainly isn’t easy to just start letting go, but by consciously practicing, you’ll find life gets a lot easier, more joyful and less frantic.

The best way to actually let go is to take deep breaths and reframe your situation.

Let me give you an example based on one of the bigger “let go” moments of my week. We were supposed to go to San Antonio for a few days to complete some training but my boyfriend ended up getting a nasty case of poison ivy that rendered him incapable of sustaining 9 gs in a flights suit, lest he wanted to keep healthy legs. Because this all went down over the weekend, it wasn’t until this morning – yes, this very morning as I’m writing this now – that he was able to contact the proper people to confirm that he was able to change the training to a later week.

Which means that even at this moment, we are waiting for a phone call to give us the okay to cancel our plans. Granted, this type of thing is more common in military situations than others, but the same type of last-minute plan changing can occur at any time and requires a keen ability to ride the waves as the tide changes.

At one point in my life, I would have gotten really annoyed because I wouldn’t know how to plan my Monday, if I needed to pack, if I was going to be riding in a car for 6 hours or if I needed to find a dog-sitter at the last minute.

A reframe of the situation might look like this: not going to San Antonio, while admittedly disappointing, actually works out for the better because I already have other travel plans at the end of the week and this frees up time for me to get situated for my next trip. I’m now able to catch up on work, rather than feel totally overwhelmed when I return next week and by having more time to prepare for the next trip, I’ll feel better about the whole situation overall.

So at the end of the day, by reframing the situation and breathing through the more tense moments facing the unknown, I’m able to go with the flow without getting thrown off track, depressed, angry, etc. Without dragging about with negative emotions, I’m able to be more productive and more happy.

Why letting go is so hard

Now there are times when I do get thrown of track by something that happens out of the blue, and surprisingly in my experience, it’s excitement that really gets the best of me. If I’m excited about something, my producitivity will plummet because I just can’t seem to focus on the task at hand. In these situations, the same concept of letting go is helpful.

Yoga philosophy can be somewhat controversial at times because letting go applies to everything, good and bad. Critics argue that this ends up creating emotionless people whose ultimate aim is to eliminate all feeling from human experience. This is not true.

In fact, most yoga traditions are all about feeling. Feeling is extremely important to understanding your true self – your needs, wants and desires – in any given moment. But it’s the moments after the moment when attachment to feeling derails us. When we become attached to feelings of excitement, anger, nervousness, stress, etc., we allow these feelings to take over our lives. It is the attachment or our choice to ignore the feeling altogether that causes more problems than it solves. Feeling what you feel is being true to you. Ignoring or latching on to a particular feeling causes problems.

In yoga, these concepts are called Kleshas, and they represent the demons or monsters that hold us back from experiencing life fully.

The 5 kelshas are as follows:

  • Avidya – an inability to see things for what they really are; ignorance or delusion
  • Asmita – over-identification with the ego; false belief of your Self
  • Raga – addiction to pleasure
  • Dvesa – aversion to pain
  • Abhinivesa – fear of death; clinging to life

With these concepts in the back of your head, start to notice what causes you to lose focus, what depletes your energy and causes you to lose productive creation time, and what generally ruins your day. Also see if you can identify with any of the Kleshas; are there moments when you feel yourself making a decision because you’re afraid of pain, afraid of death or ignorant of reality? I know, these are super hard questions to ask of yourself.

Once you’ve identified these situations, practice letting go by taking deep breaths, acknowledging the situation for what it is and trying to reframe into a more benefical and positive outcome.

Test this out this week and see how it goes! Remember to have fun with it, even when things get serious. A sense of humor can take you a long way – just beware you don’t get in the habit of using humor to deflect 🙂

Let me know in the comments below what has been throwing you off track this week.

Image Credit: deeplifequotes