Really Letting Go

Your yoga teacher or your yogi friends have probably said the words “let it go” hundreds of times. We let go of expectations, let go of spare possessions, let go of our kids (or maybe hold on progressively more loosely) as they become adults in charge of their own lives. The reason we talk about it so much within the yoga community is because aparigraha, which directly translates to “non-gripping from all sides” or colloquially “non-possession” is one of the core moral values of yoga called the yamas.The yamas are one of the eight limbs of yoga written by Patanjali, an Indian sage and philosopher widely considered the father of yoga. Another reason we talk about “letting go” so much is because like with most disciplines everyone, not just those who practice yoga, can learn something from this concept.

Possession can look like a lot of things: feeling super attached to material goods, or the neighborhood your home is in or the car you drive, or even your ability to give large amounts to charity are obvious ways our ability to hold on to or provide stuff or money can become part of our identity.

But possession can also look like jealousy of another’s happiness or success because you are so attached to your own idea of success that others’ seems like an infringement on your own. It can look like staying in a loveless marriage because your identity is wrapped up in your status as a married person or staying in a soul- crushing career field because of the expectations of others.

Possession can look like our expectations of what “normal” is, or desperately trying to make someone love you as much as you love them. It’s common to wonder at this point whether you are actually that good at letting go of whatever doesn’t serve you, since this business is not as easy as dropping off clothes you don’t want anymore at Saver’s. I have, and continue to be, in your shoes over this conundrum. But what I can share with you confidently is that I have never met someone who was very good at letting go all of the time- it is a lifelong practice to get rid of our attachments to things that don’t align with our path. Our attachments to how we think things should go or how they should look pin our energies down in unhealthy ways, leading to a lot of feelings of anger, impatience, or simple sadness that are all unnecessary.

Where you can begin this practice of figuring out where all of your energetic balls-and-chains are is to teach yourself to check in with why you are anxious, because in the case of attachment, anxiety comes first and then it is anyone’s guess what you will experience after. Will it be anger? or frustrated tears? it’s a surprise!

Ask yourself why you are reacting this way, remembering to use gentle language. Like talking to a young child, using violent language or tone doesn’t do anyone any good. And then ask whether you’re genuinely upset because you are deeply and justifiably hurt? Or are you getting in your feelings over jealousy, career anguish, or status? Even if the answer is embarrassing: listen to it, get out your journal, and begin to let it go.

– Colleen, Sacred Hour Massage Therapist + Head Staff Writer