Each Fall I come back to the lessons I have learned about letting go, moving on, and release. This is no surprise really, as we are all creatures of this earth governed by her natural rhythms. This week as I looked out my window at a bright yellow tree I was reminded of the saying “fall reminds us of the beauty of letting go.” My mind of course wanted to unpack that for a while, and I began to muse about our collective struggle with attachment, what keeps us holding on so tight? It is beautiful to let go, but letting go of something beautiful is a lesson we are still trying to learn.
Abhinivesha is one of the 5 Kleshas, or causes of suffering explained in the yoga sutras. It is our inherent fear of death, literally translated to clinging to life. The word cling is emotionally charged in itself, and usually used to express a form of desperation or irrational attachment. I think most of us can agree that we don’t want to spend this precious life in a state of constant desperation! While we can acknowledge this on a rational level, we subconsciously do it anyways leading to stress, fear, and controlling in many aspects of our life. How can our yoga practice help us to lose or at least lessen this intense fear of letting go, dying, or more accurately our intense attachment to things as they are?
Many of my yoga classes start in child’s pose, and end in Savasana or corpse pose (note many of my online classes do not, as it is difficult to talk into a mic while in child’s pose without a lot of technical issues!). My most influential teachers taught classes in this way which is why I initially started to do the same. After years of study, I came to understand the reason for this, our asana practice is an opportunity to practice life itself. The reason our “outside” life tends to transform after years of a consistent yoga practice is directly related. With each practice we have the opportunity to shift towards the person our soul is yearning to be, kind of like a quiet and focused simulation. The brain itself is rewired by this over time, shifting the way we relate and react to specific stimuli in our practice, our life, and our relationships. This subtle way of shifting happens when we practice savasana too, intentionally pausing, resting, and letting go. This is the key to softening our desperate cling, or grip on life, to practice the art of letting go one savasana at a time.
My intention here is not just to help you learn how to pass on with grace and ease, though that may be a wonderful way to eventually leave this world. My intention in this conversation is to help you loosen the grip and fear so that you are no longer paralyzed by it, so you can learn how to truly live. Each of us at some point in our life confronted the realization that WE would someday die, at least in a mortal way. For a small percentage, the lucky ones, this shift of perspective activates an eagerness to live life fully, to be present and consider each moment a special gift that is no way guaranteed. For many of us, we start to recoil a bit from living, we construct a buffer of sorts that we think in some way may save us from pain. Our practice teaches us time and again is that quantity is not nearly as important as quality. Holding back for a day, week, month, year, or decade, is stealing from ourselves.
If we think of the practice as a practice round for what we live, we can see that there are constant opportunities to help us with this idea. Each time we meet those moments of challenge, resistance, or boredom we have an opportunity to be present, process, pause, respond, and release. Some days we forgo those opportunities and meet the challenging moment with aggression, aversion, distraction, blame, or denial. The same opportunities are present in the moments we love and want to linger in forever, yet the same clinging or attachment is at play here. We must learn to meet even the sweetest moments with presence, and eventual harmonious release.
As we take this off the mat, we invite ourselves to loosen our grip on the way we think our life should look, the things we think we need to have, the timeframe in which we need to have them. We learn to love openly so we don’t allow regret to take up room in our mind or our heart, we give with less expectation on outcome. We love knowing that the object of our love may not always be around and that inspires us to love more and control less. Ultimately these principles are reflected inwardly, we learn to love our own mortal body and life, more openly with less judgment. Ultimately there is a shift in how we perceive impermanence; rather than fearing impermanence, we are inspired by it.
Some things to ponder this month: Where do you cling in your own life? To an object or idea? What is the fear behind that grip? What could you do or say today to ease some of that fear? What are you putting off because you think you have time later to deal with it? What space and energy might you free by dealing with it now? If you were to leave this life tomorrow, what would you regret the most?