Letting Go

A story:
“Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.
But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.
Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.”

Clearly, this is a story about letting go. Anyone who has been in the world of yoga for even just a minute has heard a teacher say, “Let Go.” For a long time, I didn’t understand what those words meant. It is my experience that even with the passage of time, every one of my painful memories has stayed painful, that every tragic event and moment of sadness in my life still invoked the same feeling it always had. Trying to will a thing to go or even telling myself, “Let go. Let go. Let go.” never worked. In fact, trying to force the feeling to go away only made it worse. At times, I may have come into a functional relationship with certain aspects of my life, but I certainly was not the one in charge of the letting go. Rather, the event/relationship would loosen its grip on me but without my facilitating it. IT let ME go.

I also thought the act of letting go would somehow arrive at a peaceful resolution or reconciliation. I thought letting go meant I no longer had an emotion tied to specific events in my life. I thought let it go meant we made peace with our painful memories and that peace meant we no longer felt a pang of sadness when remembering our worst stories.

Here’s what I learned through yoga: let it go means completely immersing yourself in the present moment. When we are completely immersed in the present moment, staying attentive to our breath, to the sensations in our bodies, we are ‘setting the woman on the side of the river’. When we are completely integrated which can only happen in the present moment, the mind is at peace. The mind can’t concentrate on the present moment AND our old stories. Letting go is setting the old story down, taking a moment of respite from the mind, and engaging fully in what’s right in front of us. This is how to find peace.

Our stories will still be there, and the feelings surrounding those stories will still be there. When we want peace, we don’t engage the mind in telling the story again. We set the story down. We immerse ourselves in the present moment. This is letting go.

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4 Responses to Letting Go

  1. Stan says:

    …and yet, I feel that we all are the sum total of who we were until the “now”….which (by the way) is the past as I write. I too must think of what is to “BE” (the future) to present this post at all. “Letting go” is to rid oneself of “baggage”…that which is unwanted, however, keeping one’s “self” and building upon it as growth is valuable. Each of us deals with the self using our own tools. Yoga presents yet another tool for us to deal with the great questions that are presented to us. In the end, it only matters, if it matters at all.

    • Yoga Breeze says:

      Hello Stan!

      Thank you as always for responding and engaging in my classes and now on the website! Your insight is valuable and helpful for all at our studio. (virtual high five!!)

      Above, you mentioned ‘self’ a few times, and I wanted to address that piece first. Who am I? This is where self examination begins. Who Am I? Who is it that has always been aware of every event in my life? There is something unchanging, timeless, boundless, and formless that has been a witness to every passing moment in my life. The Yogis call this Atman or Purusha. Christians call this Christ Consciousness. I am going to refer to it as Witness.

      We know we are not our bodies because they are constantly changing. We were babies,then toddlers, children, teens, young adults, etc. Our bodies are always changing. What is it that is aware of our bodies? We know we are not our thoughts because they, too, are constantly changing. Our opinions change, our preferences change, our ideals and even morals change. We are also not our emotions; again, they are not constant. What is it that is unchanging that is aware of all of the changes in our lives?

      What is aware of the changes is who WE really are. We are AWARENESS. We are WITNESS.

      This person who I think I am, Shelly, *the amazing Sunday yoga instructor* is Prakriti (someone in my awareness), or we can call it ego.

      Now the ego is definitely the sum total of who we were until now, and we NEED the ego to be the sum total of who we were because we wouldn’t be able to function in the world. For example, if I didn’t have past knowledge that keys were what we use to start a car, I wouldn’t be able to start it. If I didn’t identify myself as someone who had taken driver’s ed, I wouldn’t be able to drive a car. We need our past experiences to function in the world.

      However, the vast majority of our problems are a result of mis-identification. In other words, we believe we are this person (ego) with all of his/her problems, but when we realize we are the Witness, all of those problems fall away (at least in the moment where we are present and integrated).

      When we enter the present moment fully, when we are completely integrated, this person who we think we are falls away, and there is just presence, awareness, WITNESS. It is here that we find a peace beyond understanding.

      My experience with integration/immersion is that I always have *this girl* to come back to. So the stories don’t change, and the feelings surrounding the stories don’t change. I just understand that *this girl* is not who I really AM. Immersion/Integration is an opportunity to ‘let go’ of this girl and have a moment of respite (my girl can be kind of bitchy). 😉

      The Sufi poet, Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek for love but to seek and destroy the barriers you have built against it. What you seek is seeking you.”

      Lots of love Stan! I’m alwways available to chat more! 🙂 Shelly

  2. Stanley Green says:

    I am happy for you that you have found “Your” way….as for ME….I am wired a bit differently. As a child, I happened to turn on this new fangled gadget called the tv, and discovered Leonard Bernstein talking about a dead guy with a strange name and something called a Symphony which was written by a really odd man who called himself Beethoven. I went to the library and found out that he was a crook, a pediphile, and a slob…but could this guy invent music!! Anyway….I found that absolutely fascinating….so much so, that while walking down the street and hearing music played from above…I asked my mother if we could find out what that was. The result was accordion lessons. I realized that this came easy to me, and was interesting, so I grew a bit at a time to learn every instrument, composition, and eventually got a PHD….not because I found peace…but that I was constantly looking for another angle..another conquest…a reach for everything musical. This energy of mine stood me in good stead spiritually (you have to hear Das Lied VonDer Erde by Mahler) and financially. My favorite food is nuts. I don’t let the shells get in my way…I blast through them to savor the enclosed sweet meat inside. Even now that I don’t HAVE to do anything at all, I choose to be very active…horseback riding, golf, hiking, bicycling, yoga, etc., etc., etc. and always throw myself into each of these. My “self” also dictates that I not harm. I find life – all life precious. I suppose that’s because I feel that we only have this finite time on earth. I am ALWAYS looking for something new…I find this energy pleasing. This is ME. I am not looking to change anyone’s lives…everyone must find their own way. There are some people that I love more than others….you are right up there at the top.

  3. Yoga Breeze says:

    I think you understand integration more than most, Stan. I also think we might have different words for the same things. Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday! Love-S

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