“One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go. Whether it’s guilt, anger, love, loss or betrayal. Change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go.” Dr Anil Kumar Sinha
Mother Nature can be the best guide and teacher. The trees and plants don’t fight to hold on to their leaves at this time of year. You don’t hear them bemoaning their annual shed because it’s part of a cycle, a process that happens year in, year out. This letting go happens for a reason, for if it didn’t, where would growth happen? Where would we be in Spring when there is no room for growth and change?
Can we say the same? How often do we find ourselves resisting change, holding on to unhealthy habits or behaviour patterns, relationships or careers? From a psychological perspective, this is completely normal human behaviour. Humans resist change as we are creatures of habit, and change can be uncomfortable, even when it is change for the better.
Letting go requires us to open our hearts and heads, and this can be where we meet our resistance. Thought patterns turn into cunning arguments that talk us out of letting go. At its deepest level, letting go forces us to face three very powerful emotions: anger, fear and love. Change, in particular, seems to invoke fear and anger: fear of the unknown and anger at loss of control.
From a yoga perspective, we have Aparigraha: non-grasping or non-attachment; one of the 8 Yamas from Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. This important yama teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what is serving us right now, and to know when to let go when the time is right.
Humans tend to associate an emotion with a situation. For example eating chocolate makes us happy and getting stuck in traffic makes us frustrated. Because we prefer the serotonin from eating chocolate over the cortisol from being stuck and possibly late, we try to avoid the traffic and eat more chocolate. Happiness and joy are important emotions but so too are sadness, anger and loss. If we only experience the good stuff then we are only experiencing half of what life has on offer to us. When you allow yourself the full experience of the light and the dark, trying not to push away the emotions we don’t want to feel and allow them to happen. Sit with them for a while and they too shall pass. When you are able to truly let a moment be, without clinging to it or pushing it away, allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and let it go without the need to hold on or possess it.
Not long ago, I attended a workshop where we were asked to list all of the things our energy was spent on during a day or week. The point of the exercise was to look at where our energy was directed and if it was being spent on activities that gave us as much energy in return, therefore being able to identify what we would like to let go. Amongst a long list of things on my list was guilt. At the time I was working 2 jobs, both of which meant I wasn’t spending as much time with my kids. And the time that I did spend with them, I felt guilty for not being there when I wanted to. Sounds crazy? It was.
Because it was there, written down in black and white, on my list; I had no other choice but to sit with this uncomfortable realisation and then work on letting this go. It was an unhelpful thought pattern that was not serving me, and certainly not serving my family. I left the workshop feeling lighter than I had in months. It hasn’t been easy to stop the thought pattern, but once I was able to see what I was doing, I was able to pull myself back from the emotion and let the thoughts go. I now get more time with my boys and it’s (mostly!) guilt free.
Those of us who practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness regularly know how good it feels when we strip away layers of tension or resistance. We meet our edge and breathe right there, revealing space to grow into; finding ways to navigate through difficult changes and embracing the positive ones.
My latest workshop offering will provide a safe space for you to explore things that are no longer serving you. We will work through a strong yoga practice to peel back our layers of resistance, and using meditation and pranayama (breathing techniques) to release tension. I aim for you to feel relaxed by letting go, and exhilarated by welcoming some much needed space you create for yourself.
See you on the mat!