What Will You Let Go Of?

LettingGo by Mr Littlehand

Many parts of life are a process of letting go (or, at least they are to get through them in a healthy way). Having children means letting go of the self you were before children, and letting go of your privacy and “me time.” Raising children means gradually letting go of what you expected/planned they would be like so that you can see and enjoy who they are. Looking for a new job means letting go of the understanding of self as being part of the company you are leaving, and the idea that they can’t function without you. And there are so many more examples.

Sometimes, this process of letting go, or aparigraha, involves things that you expect to let go of. For example, all parents understand that they need to let go of their children some when the children start school. But, sometimes, it turns out that what you thought was not about letting go really is, or the letting go is really about something different.

Recently, I’ve been experiencing two “letting gos” that I didn’t realize were happening until they were (there are actually four, but I am going to only discuss two here).

After an odd conversation with a medical practitioner who didn’t really know me, I decided to grow my hair. This is a big deal because I’ve been bald for 15 years. I don’t really know if my hair will grow (due to autoimmune disease, which is why I shaved it in the first place), but I’m giving it a try. I went into this not realizing how much letting go it would require. The understanding of myself as a bald woman has apparently become very deeply ingrained over the last decade and a half. It’s a big part of my identity and has come to symbolize, for me, things beyond hairstyle: buddhism, rejection of gender standards, individuality, etc. As I watch my hair grow (very very slowly), I’m struggling with how to let go of this part of who I have been for a long time. It’s interesting to me, because I expected it when I cut my hair, but didn’t realize it would happen when I started growing it.

In a second experience of unexpected letting go, I’ve had an ongoing increase in body struggles over the last year. This has resulted in a range of things including, but not limited to, decreased strength and range of motion, reduction of fresh fruits/veg in my diet, and increased fatigue and tremors. The combination has had an interesting impact (and I probably mean awful) on my understandings of self as yogi. A few years ago, when I completed yoga teacher training, I felt so strong. I had a 5-6 day a week practice and it was kickin’. Headstands, handstands, arm balances, I was developing new abilities all the time. My diet was very sound, with about 80% raw food. I was meditating regularly. There have been a lot of changes in all of that. I’m finding it challenging to adjust my understanding of self as a yoga practitioner with a very different practice – very challenging. I didn’t expect this to happen, yet is has.

Despite the struggles that I’m having right now on my physical yoga practice, I know that yoga is a good way to practice letting go, and finding out what you need to let go of. The act of taking a pose and scanning the body and mind to see where the resistance is to moving into the pose is helpful and instructive, and good practice for the letting go we have to do in so many other arenas.

So, I keep practicing, because that’s what it is, right?

Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That’s a triumph.
~ Ray Bradbury, Farewell Summer

Aparigraha – Not Coveting the Unhad Physical Form

I’ve posted before about aparigraha – the yama (ethical restraint) of non-coveting. This particular yama seems to speak to me a lot. Maybe that’s because I am more covety than most people? I’m not sure. But, in any case, I was thinking about it today and how it connects to other issues that I’ve talked about recently, including body emotions and pain.

It’s easy to understand how coveting is related to the objects in the world that we have or want. We all experience times of wanting the “stuff” that other people have, or that we don’t/can’t have. Heck, I just posted the other day about several things I’m wanting. But, it’s not just the stuff that we covet.

We also covet experiences that we might not have had, but we know others have. So, when a Facebook friend asked who had traveled out of the country and where, I found myself looking at my response and some of the others and thinking, “I want to travel to ____ and _______!”

And, we even may covet the bodies that others live. Having had some issues (understatement) with body image and eating, and now having chronic medical conditions, I know that there are times when I look at other people and wish that I could have a body more like what I think their body is like. It might be for a belly that is flatter, a chest that is less flat, hands that don’t shake, or joints that move easily, but in all of those cases, I’m wishing for what I don’t have, and not particularly appreciating what I do have.  I’m losing the experience I’m living in my desire to be experiencing another.  As I told the students in my yoga for chronic pain class last week, even if in pain or exhausted or not cooperating, the body is a miracle.  It’s a wonder and it deserves to be appreciated for that.

I don’t always find myself coveting the unhad body, but it does happen, and I have to work to fight it off sometimes and to keep my focus on the body/experience that I’m in, instead of the many that I’m not. It’s a bit of an effort, but one that is worth it. So, I’ll keep trying!

A few blogs that I read that have addressed the issue of aparigraha (as related to the body) in one way or another:

Stop Chasing Skinny

Curvy Yoga

Living in the (k)Now

Running A Life

Flowtation Devices

Enjoy and love the physical form you have today!


Free Yoga Classes and Event during National Yoga Month September

Aparigraha Playlist

For my final teach in YTT, my theme was aparigraha. So, the playlist revolved around the idea of grasping/coveting. The first half(ish) was about how it leads to suffering and the second half was about the decrease in suffering as we let go. By request, here is what was on it.

  • Man of Constant Sorrow (Instrumental)
  • Charlie Darwin (Low Anthem)
  • Where the Streets Have No Name (Earl Pickens and Family)
  • Ill With Want (The Avett Brothers)
  • Everybody Hurts (REM)
  • Timshel (Mumford & Sons)
  • When My Time Comes (Dawes)
  • Hang On (Dr. Dog)
  • Carries On (Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros)
  • Across the Universe (The Beatles)
  • Let It Grow (Eric Clapton)
  • What Light (Wilco)
  • Life is Wonderful (Jason Mraz)
  • Quiet (Paul Simon)
  • Be Here Now (Ray Lamontagne)
  • Om Mani Padme Hum (Jane Winther)
  • Watermark (Enya)

So, for what it’s worth, there it is!