So much in my life recently, and in the lives of the ones I love, I feel there are a number of situations which are asking us to let go. Typically yoga teachers talk about letting go in the Autumn, but Summer seems to be where it’s at in my world…!
There comes a time for most of us that we realise we’re hanging on to something which isn’t serving us anymore. Maybe it’s a person, a place, a habit, something we spend our time doing, an idea of who we are or how something should be. And often, if we’re human (which most of us are ;P), it can be surprisingly hard to let go.
Why is that? I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently when I come up against resistance in myself and see myself continuing to walk on those hard-worn paths that no longer serve me.
On a neurobiological level there is a scientific reason why it is hard to stop doing something we have done for a while. There is a saying; “neurones that fire together, wire together”. Literally, when we do a certain thing, and then we keep on doing it again and again, our brain finds it easier and easier to do that thing. It’s similar to learning any skill, or walking down any well-trodden path; we get better and better at doing the thing that is familiar. Which means that when we try to change or do it in a different way our brain finds it harder, of course, to tread on the path it hasn’t trodden on before.
And this can apply to patterns of thinking, habits, behaviours, tendencies to relate to ourselves or others in a certain way.
Luckily there is this thing called neuroplasticity which is well recognised that allows for some shifting of patterns if we keep on hustling hard enough. Regardless, it’s not easy. So, it is helpful, as ever, to be compassionate and give ourselves a break!
The science is interesting, but the lived experience is more interesting (mostly). Practically speaking, often what happens for me when I am intending to release something is that I come up against resistance.
Resistance is a challenging beast. And an important one to listen to. Mainly if I cosy up to resistance I smell fear. If I contemplate releasing a way of thinking, a way of relating, a way of interacting with the world, fear is one of the things that manifests. What will there be in the space of the thing I already know? How will my world look, my job look, my relationships look? Will I need to approach them differently? And importantly, can I trust myself to hold space for myself as I take this step?
When we let go of something, we are stepping out of the familiar into the unknown. And we are required to embrace uncertainty. I know that I, for one, find uncertainty challenging, often even fear-inducing ;P
So, this resistance that we have serves a purpose. Our resistance is a self-protective mechanism, a way of keeping ourselves safe. It encourages us to do the same thing, not let go, in order to make sure that we don’t do something that is unfamiliar to us and potentially risky. And sometimes, resistance can be super helpful. If there is a tiger chasing us, it would seem stupid to do anything other than run. But letting go of something that doesn’t serve us? Perhaps there are spaces sometimes for contextualising and working with resistance in order to support ourselves to do something differently.
Today, I chose to work lovingly with the thing I was letting go and with my resistance (with a little bit of prompting from a wonderful meditation teacher). And somehow by honouring that which has served me for a time, by loving the part of myself that is holding on and recognising it is and was an important part of what I needed, by acknowledging that it probably brought me some really important things, it is easier to release.
For me, this is the practice. Honouring the path, honouring the individual steps that we are all taking, understanding that they are unique, and recognising the challenge that arises in stepping into something different. All the while holding ourselves in a loving, listening and curious space.
The practice of yoga, meditation and breathwork can be fertile ground to foster new approaches. And it is also important to recognise that we don’t ever need to let go, because we are all just muddling through on our individual yet interconnected journeys, doing our best, and (for me at least), making it up as we go along.
She let go. By Safire Rose
She let go.
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyse whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…