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Practice of Letting Go

Woman holding up 4 blue balloons

According to Google, there are anywhere from 40 to 16 to 5 steps or ways of letting go.

I first heard this idea of measuring experiences with steps when I was a young child. Even then I knew one size didn’t fit all. My steps were not the same length as my older brother’s any more than our shoes were the same size. And yet, I loved the simplicity and directness the idea perpetuated, that everything could be broken into concise, measurable steps. Everything was doable. All journeys can be traveled. One step at a time.

And yet, there is another dimension to this equation: Time. Not only did my brothers take fewer steps (longer strides) when they walked to school, they walked them faster. I trailed behind no matter how fast my little legs tried to carry me. I even tried waking up earlier than anyone else as to get a head start on the day. I learned to walk fast and think quickly.

But it wasn’t enough. Often my early arrival just meant waiting at the destination. Sometimes I would still be the last to arrive at our destination, the pool, the library, school, church, despite my efforts, often missing something along the way because I was busy trying to get somewhere else.

Incongruity and dissonance are the enemies of the intellectual mind AND fertilizer for our personal growth. Our brains actively seek out dissonance and incongruity to solve, resolve, and overcome these pain points. The space and time between recognizing the problem and solving the problem can be the hardest days of my life. These are the days of “waiting.” In times of turmoil and change, I have a history of framing my experience as a challenge to fix, a problem to solve. If I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time, then I walk faster, work harder, do more. But maybe the timing and the place are exactly where I need to be? Here. Now.

What if it isn’t patience that is needed in times of waiting? What if striving for patience is the mind’s way of trying to match strides and pace with elder brothers?  What if what we need is more in line with compassion than a solution? Patanjali listed compassion (ahimsa) before truth (satya) in the sutras, and both came way before surrender (ishvara prandihana) in the list of yamas and niyamas. And nowhere that I have studied does yoga prescribe one, universally perfect answer.

Yoga is the inquiry, the process. Yoga is the practice of exploring possibilities in mind, body and energy without attaching to any one problem or even any specific solution. Yoga is the intentional habit of choosing to live in alignment as if all things are already united as one. Yoga is about experiencing where one-ness is not “felt” and welcoming the perception as a temporary state in the journey of being.

In the waiting, I discover incongruities and as a result of these discoveries, I experience dissonance. My mind frames dissonance as an opportunity to fix while my heart receives it as an invitation to affirm and confirm (these could be uplifting or detrimental). The yoga practice teaches me to receive moments of dissonance (and moments of ease) as an opportunity to explore and inquire without judgment or attachment. In reflection and contemplation, I sort out expectations of who I have been and who I am becoming. As I clarify who I am in my truth, I invariably rub up against habits and expectations that no longer fit.

Since practicing Yoga, I feel and think differently about life’s journey and the manner of arriving at a “destination”. Whether it’s a physical location or a psychological state of being, I try to live (and arrive) in what I call Transparent Alignment. Transparent Alignment is a state of being comprised of two basic components, transparency and alignment. Transparency is about allowing my intentions to be evident so that those close to me can clearly see them. The alignment component is that others recognize my actions and ways of being as familiar and consistent with the whole of who they know me to be. With this in mind, I practice my own learning and knowing through meditation, reflection and svadyaya (self-study and study of the great teachings) and then choose behaviors, words, and commitments that reflect those intentions based on the guidance of internal and external wisdom. In my actions I test and see what works and fails and the consequences, both intentional and unintentional.

When in alignment there is agreement between who I am and who I be in the world, that my words and actions are congruent and complementary to one another and in accord with my intentions. This is not an easy practice, but the more I practice it, the more easeful it is becoming. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hard days, weeks or even years.

Years ago I wrote a purpose statement for my life’s work:

I create and hold space for non-judgmental inquiry and exploration, to invite passion and purpose into work, life and play, and to facilitate transformation and growth in my community.

This statement is as true today as the day I discovered it. Over the last year or so, I lost sight of some of its nuances. I got caught up racing to get somewhere someone else had chosen as the goal. In walking faster and working harder in pursuit of that goal, I accomplished a lot. In fact, I did a lot of good work. But I also sacrificed in ways that were not in my best interest nor in support of doing my life’s work. In an effort to solve a problem, I made choices and created projects that were outside my primary work of holding safe and sacred space for the practice of living, learning and being. It is to this practice, that I recommit myself today.

I don’t have a simple 5-step program for letting go. I don’t even have a 40-step plan! Nor do I have a time-table for when is the right time to being again. But I know they are related. Letting go is the pre-cursor to beginning again. And being willing to begin again is what allows the letting go.

What if RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, is the perfect place and perfect time to discover, remember or realign with your life’s work? What is if you could begin again with me?

Are you in an ease state in your life? Or are you facing challenges and dissonance? Either way, can you allow your current state to be a place of observation and witness? This is the fertilizer for your shift, your becoming, your aligning with your best life.

I don’t know what your life’s work is, but I do know that none of us do our best work alone. We do it one breath, one step, one day at a time, sometimes with tears and sometimes with grace, but never entirely on our own.  Whether we work independently or with others, the more we do our work together in Transparent Alignment, the more ease and joy we bring to our days and nights. 

I’m ready to begin again. It will invariably look different and may even require some messy readjustments, but I know it will be worth it! Won’t you join me?