Tag Archives: letting go

Letting go

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So much of our pain is caused by holding on – to feelings, possessions, people (who we often treat as if they are possessions).  If we could learn to let go more easily, accepting that everything changes and evolves over time, perhaps even making room for a new and equally exciting phase of our lives, we would have an easier time emotionally. And when the pain does feel too much to bear, we allow ourselves to truly feel the intensity of that pain so that it can, in its own time, lessen its grip on our heart. 

Pema Chodron talks of the way in which pain wakes us up, cracking us open with the ‘sheer force of whatever energy arises’ (‘When Things Fall Apart’ p23) and allowing us to recognise the oneness between us all, fostering our growing sense of compassion – maitri, or loving-kindness.

I have just finished reading a short story by Rachel Joyce, ‘A Faraway Smell of Lemon’, which beautifully evokes the way in which we need to open ourselves to the pain of changes we might never have chosen, to accept the fundamental impermanence of everything in our lives. I don’t want to spoil the story, but would love to include a quote from the end of the story, where the protagonist is reflecting that:

No matter how much she rails,  some things are gone forever….. So why, then, do we behave as if everything we have blessed with our loving should be ours for keeps? It is enough to have tiptoed to that space beyond the skin, beyond the nerve endings,  and to have glimpsed things that beforehand we only half knew.

This is a very short story but one which it is worth taking time over. There are great insights too into the way mindfulness of our everyday activities can help us by providing an anchor in times of difficulty, soothing a troubled and pained mind.

A feeling of belonging

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We all like the feeling that we belong – that we are part of a group, whether that be in school or work, with our family or friends, or our communities.  Children initially belong within their families, and, when they are very young, they accept their family’s way of doing things as the way. As we grow older, we learn that there are so many different ways of doing everything in life.  And this is where judgements can start to creep in.  We may still like to believe  the way we have been brought up is the right way.  Or we may admire someone else’s approach to life and adopt it wholeheartedly.  As parents, we can try to encourage our children to be accepting of other traditions and values, and to keep an open mind.

The sense of belonging is a comfort in difficult times.  No-one really wants to feel different to everyone else, or to feel as if nobody understands them.  But how much should we compromise our own inner guidance in order to fit in with our chosen group?  We all have an innate sense of what is right for us,  and the challenge is to adhere to that without judging someone else’s views as inferior or wrong in some way.  As we grow spiritually, we begin to see ourselves as belonging more widely –  not only all humanity but the whole planet and universe are one.  We remind ourselves of this every time we are tempted to set ourselves or others aside by our strong attachment to our own way of doing things, and we allow ourselves to lighten up.

To belong is to feel secure.  The sense of belonging is associated with our base chakra, mooladhara,  the chakra concerned with our sense of security and stability in life.  With our ability to weather the storm, and to withstand life’s ups and downs.  When our security is challenged, we may become fearful and depressed, unable to see our way out, and this can often happen when we feel rejected by a group with whom we have identified, or when a phase of our lives comes to an end and we are literally removed from a group – for example, when we leave a job,  a school or a relationship.  It can also happen when we move home, leaving the familiar and the comfortable and starting again somewhere new.

At times such as these, it is important to work on increasing our sense of security through our work on mooladhara.  This can be done through grounding yoga asanas, such as tadasana or trikonasana, feeling the ground beneath our feet.  The beautiful Dru yoga Earth sequence, Prithvi Nasmaskara, particularly when done outside, is wonderful for enhancing our sense of belonging, our sense of oneness with everything around us.  Connecting with our breath in pranayama and meditation can also help our sense of embodiment, of being safe and secure within our bodies.  Getting out into nature is another way to connect with mooladhara – exercising outdoors in the fresh air, going for a walk by the sea or in the countryside, or doing some gardening or cooking, can all help to enhance our sense of wellbeing, and our sense of belonging in our world.  When we moved home, I really started to feel settled when I went out into the garden with my son, picking rhubarb from a huge clump we had inherited, and then cooking it together in a lovely sticky cake. Amidst the boxes still waiting to be unpacked!

When we feel strong and grounded through our base chakra, we are more open to the changes that will occur throughout our lives – we feel less threatened by the movement of our lives.  As  Mary Burmeister, who brought Jin Shin Jyutsu to the West, used to say, “movement is harmony”.  Without movement, without change, we stagnate, we get stuck.  The movement of our lives keeps us fresh; change keeps us engaged in our lives with vitality and interest.  We let go of phases of our lives we have outgrown, and develop and grow with our new circumstances.  We are more able to take risks and to move into the unfamiliar.  To feel that we belong, not only in the past, not only in some imagined future, but right here, right now.

More musings on spring…

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We really are having a beautiful early spring.  I am so enjoying the sunshine and blue skies, and the energy of the new season.  I heard a priest talking on the radio this morning about Lent, and how the meaning of Lent is spring.  How it signifies the death of the old, and the birth of the new.  So many of us give things up for Lent – for me it’s chocolate again this year! – but how many of us take up something new?  Many years ago, I heard someone talking about Lent being an important time to adopt positive changes, rather than denying ourselves something for a matter of weeks, and then simply going back to our old selves.  But this message of Lent, and of the spring, is so often forgotten.

Think of spring cleaning, and we think of cleaning out our homes, but could we take this further and clean out the clutter of our wider lives, our minds, our beliefs, our behaviour patterns?  Could we use the energy of spring to rid ourselves of our outdated opinions and thoughts, could we really die to our old selves, and be reborn?  Could we let go of the old, and see clearly what we need to do to move forward in new, fresh ways?

Buddhist writer Pema Chodron suggests in her book ‘When Things Fall Apart’ that we need to hold our opinions more lightly, to stop ourselves from taking a stand and using our position to alienate and distance ourselves from others. To be less attached to our beliefs.  In ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’, we are urged to let go of everything, to let every moment be like a little death.  If we don’t let go of each moment as it happens, then how can the new moment be born?  It is so easy to end up living in the past, dwelling on perceived slights and harms, and to miss the beauty of the moment.

In Jin Shin Jyutsu, the Safety Energy Lock 9, located around the lower shoulder blades, relates to this cycle of life.  Its meaning is ‘let go of the old, receive the new’ and interestingly the next Safety Energy Lock 10 is known as the ‘warehouse of abundance’.  This suggests that by letting go, by letting the natural cycle of life work in us, we will  step into our true nature, one which is truly rich and wonderful.

One way we can work with letting go is by watching and meditating on the breath.  Sitting quietly and just observing the breath flowing in, flowing out.  Allowing ourselves to let go with the outbreath, and then to receive the inbreath – not taking, not reaching and straining with the breath, but simply allowing it to flow in –  and then to leave again.  Letting go of the old breath cleanses the body, and makes space for the new breath to flow in. Similarly, in life, letting go of what no longer serves us allows a breathing space, a place where possibilities are endless, where the more positive has room to flow into our lives.  In pranayama practice, we learn that it is the spaces, the pauses between the inhale and the exhale, where meditation can truly begin.  At first, we work gently, just noticing the pauses, without trying to sustain them in any way.

In ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’, Sogyal Rinpoche describes the pause at the end of the outbreath as a profound experience:

‘Each time you breathe out, you are letting go and releasing all your grasping….Each time you breathe out, and before you breathe in again, you will find that there will be a natural gap, as the grasping dissolves.  Rest in that gap, the open space’ 

(Rinpoche 1992: 68-69)

 Every aspect of our lives tends to be full and cluttered, not just our homes, our days, our diaries, but also our mind with its endless chatter, its endless preoccupation with what might happen, what has already happened earlier…it’s easy to miss the present moment.  This is what mindfulness meditation is all about.  Really savouring the moment, feeling yourself walking, cooking, eating, whatever it might be.  Sitting and observing your breath is a wonderful place to start and to embrace the spirit of the season.