I have a daily practice of letting go disguised as yoga. On the surface, my physical practice, especially my more dynamic practice, looks like something I'm striving for; like flexibility, mobility, and strength. For sure, these are wonderful benefits of the practice. But, most days my practice, my daily bread, is my reminder to surrender and let go.
Some days I wake up with the weight of the world on my shoulders. It doesn't seem to matter so much what the content of my life is and to be clear, I have many things to be very grateful for...so it's not about cultivating more gratitude or trying to force happier thoughts to replace negative thoughts...nope. Somedays, I'm a little more hyper-sensitive to the suffering of others; small and grand in the world. It's everywhere. The struggle of a houseplant trying to fight an infestation of tiny flies, a loved one fighting a disease or old age (a true losing battle), communities struggling for justice, or the earth struggling to thrive. I notice these things and I try to help. We all do.
As human beings, we all care...deeply. We care about our jobs, our friend's cancer diagnosis, glacial decline. It's our human nature to care and want to make things better. The human heart and its boundlessness is beautiful, but it's also terrifying.
In those moments, I try to get curious. How can I work on my peace in my own heart, mind and body, so I can have the small "butterfly effect" of change? Or, what I like to call "the ripple effect." It's also what is referred to in Buddhism as being a "bodhisattva" or having "Christ consciousness' or what Mister Rogers referred to as being "a good neighbor." But, how to show up each day with this strong intention of eliminating suffering in the world, without getting lost or burnt out along the way? Or, as I joked with my dear friend this morning, "How to care deeply and not give a sh*t at the same time?"
So, I try to show up every day, pull up my bootstraps, and spend the next 24 hours doing my best to be kind, compassionate, and, as much as I can, try to make the world a slightly better place, while letting go of the results.
This is where my practice comes in handy. I can use my yoga practice as a daily reminder to surrender to the outcomes.
"Right," I say to myself as I vigorously rub my hands together, "Do what Ghandi said...'be the peace you want to see in the world.' (uh...no pressure...I giggle to my sometimes overly dramatic self). Then, I roll out my mat. "Bootstraps. You got this," a voice says. "Keep it, simple sweetheart," I gently remind myself as I take a few deep cleansing breaths.
Then I start very simply by feeling my feet rooted in the floor below me, and perhaps equanimity as I try to find an equal balance between left and right side of my body. The sense of feeling a little more grounded starts to form during my first few standing poses. And, if I feel wobbly that day, my self-compassion muscle kicks in. In strength-building poses, I am reminded that I still have a strong, healthy body, and, if I'm not feeling so strong that day, I can still be kind towards this body that has carried me through 55 years without too many complaints. In the poses that make me feel more expansive; triangle pose, warrior pose, or any shoulder or hip opener, my mind slowly starts to catch up and I start to see the bigger picture. The gentle child pose or savasana reminds me to practice with ease, to rest, and the importance of doing a little less and not trying so damn hard. In the final few moments of practice, I end with a short meditation to allow my body, mind, and heart to absorb everything I practiced. I often silently set an intention to take these lessons from my practice (stability, strength, compassion, and ease) with me through the rest of my day. As a bonus, when I practice moving through these poses, connected with others by breath, I'm reminded of the importance of community. When we practice in community, we all work with the collective intention of creating strength as well as ease in our minds, hearts and bodies so we can share these qualities with others.
When I remember to practice with this strong intention, I remember that letting go doesn't mean giving up or not caring. Truly letting go is an empowered surrender. It's caring deeply, being mindful of my actions (what I can change, and what I can't), and letting go of the outcomes. This type of surrender is liberating and reminds me that I can still care about the small and big things in life, but I won't get dragged down by the results. It reminds me to be open to this beautiful, often messy life and, like LR Knost's quote says, "to breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and exhale during the ordinary".
“Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful, it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living a heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful.”
Please join me for my next weekend Yoga and Mindfulness retreat in the alps April 15-17, 2022. Practice dynamic and restorative yoga, breath by breath, in community, surrounded by beautiful nature. An opportunity to connect with your own heart, mind, and body while feeling grounded and supported by the strong collective intention of others. And very possibly, learning through self-practice, how to make the world a slightly better place without getting dragged. :)