Dec 1, 2019
In two weeks time, I will be eight months alcohol-free! Eight months of sunrises, Eight months of letting go in order to receive. "Letting go in order to receive" - it's been something I've thought a lot about over this past year. We workshopped this theme during my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Rolf Gates this summer, and I taught a yoga class a few months ago with this theme. Letting go comes up repeatedly in the Yoga Sutras, the philosophy of yoga, and I talk about doing it all the time in my classes - "Let go of the energy it took to arrive at yoga, receive the energy of being at yoga." or "Let go of movement, receive stillness."
Letting go sounds simple, right? And yoga teachers are always telling us to just "let go". But if letting go were that easy, why would we need to remind ourselves and each other to do it over and over again? Why would it receive so much elaboration in Pantajali's Yoga Sutras?
I think it is our tendency as human beings to want to hold on rather than let go. Jobs, places, commitments, objects, relationships, habits...we hold on to things long after we've outgrown them and long after they've served their purpose. We might do this because we fear the unknown - "What will our life be like without it?" Stepping into the unknown can be scary. But what we receive from finally letting go, can be beautiful, if we open our minds to it.
My first time experiencing the beauty of letting go in a tangible, memorable way, was when I moved to Kuwait at age 23. As a child growing up, I had this tendency to hold onto everything- and my childhood friends could probably attest to this. My bedroom was full of everything I had basically ever touched - movie tickets, photographs, show programs - I could just not let go. I felt like everything held meaning and significance.
When I moved to Kuwait at age 23, I couldn't pack up all of this stuff and take it with me - it just wasn't physically possible. I had to let it go.
By letting go, I don't mean I actually got rid of it all....I really just left it all at my mom's house when I got on the plane. But the point is, when I moved to Kuwait I had to go through everything and decide - "What are the most important things? What can I not live without?" and everything else I left behind. And when I moved into my apartment in Kuwait, for the first time in my life my living space wasn't packed with stuff. It was mostly empty. And what I received in this process of letting go, was the most beautiful sense of lightness and spaciousness that I'd never experienced before. Because I'd always lived with clutter, I didn't know how beautiful it would feel to let go and start fresh. The process of letting go was grounding and healing for me.
The largest way in my life I have let go and received was eight months ago, when I finally let go of drinking. Prior to this...I was holding on to alcohol so tightly. Because it was such an important part of my social life. Because it was part of the family life I was raised in. And I didn't really know adult life without alcohol. And I didn't want to let it go, and I was scared of what my life would be like without it.
And what I received from finally letting go, was the beauty of being not-hungover. Every sunrise was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. My body has felt like it's a teenager again. I became a vegetarian. I learned to cook. I have so much less anxiety. In these eight months the money I've saved on alcohol has been invested back in other ways. I became a life coach, a barre instructor and a spinning instructor. My life has changed in ways I'd never could have imagined before. Letting go in order to receive - I was so afraid of letting go...so much so that for years and years I held on...and when I finally let go, what I ended up receiving was something so much better in the process.
I think one of the hardest things about letting go is that we tend to look at it from what we are losing instead of what we will gain in the process. Of course, going through a breakup is hard, because you can't imagine your life without that partner. But it's so much easier to let go if we have something to look forward to that we will gain from the process of letting go. A new job. A new relationship. Even a visualization of what it could be. The key to letting go is not holding on to what we're losing, but holding on to what we are gaining, from the process.
When I was just quitting alcohol (around ten days into it) I actually practiced this. I wrote a poem about what my life would be like 30 days alcohol-free. It was a visualization exercise more than anything. But it helped me hold on to what I was gaining from this process, rather than what I was losing. "Letting go in order to receive."
Finish this sentence: "I would be lighter if I let go of..."
What are you holding on to?
What would it look like if you let go?
What can you receive from letting go?