This blog post is taken from one of my weekly Digests. If you're interested in receiving it, you can sign up right here (and also read some old ones to "try before you buy", so to speak, except for it's free!
"getting yourself together.
what about undoing yourself."
- Nayyirah Waheed
We're cosying up in the belly of Autumn. How's that going for you?
This season can be a great reminder of the cycles of life - endings and beginnings, holding on and letting go, harvesting and sowing, as we move from the lighter warmth of summer to the colder darker season in the northern hemisphere at least. The transitions and changes that occur at this time of year can have a physical, mental and emotional effect for many of us.
This week i've been thinking a lot about this idea of “letting go” - it's a phrase that´s banded about a lot (i've defo been a culprit in the past!). Sometimes it's implied letting go is a simple and easeful action - a no brainer. But it's a bit of a contradiction i feel. The phrase itself demands awareness and action about a thing, which is ironic considering what the state you're hoping to achieve: non attachment to something, probably.
I've always been wary, offering a hearty side eye to anyone who says “just let go!” in my vicinity - especially in a yoga class! What do you mean, "just let go?!" How is that even possible?!
It´s like someone asking you not to think about a giant pink elephant wearing knickers. It becomes impossible to not think about it.
Or better yet, someone telling you not to think about pie. Dear reader, you know my thoughts are not often far from this pastry treat. Let me not wander too far down the pie track though, instead let´s consider how we can apply this phrase in a way that works for us.
For me, thinking about letting go of physical tension can be a good place to start when considering the practice of "letting go".
Stress on the body - tension, contraction, the big squeeze - is reflected over time in our postures.
The way we walk, the way we move or can´t move.
The body carries memories.
Great ones and the not so great ones.
You might think about it like holding each end of a twig and bending it into an arch, then holding it for a really long time. Inevitably, the branch will either snap or stay bent in that shape.
Bodies can act in similar ways.
Brains too (obvs, part of the body, Dionne!).
And of course our breath.
Which affects our mood, our emotions and our health. If that's being subjected to a lot of clenching for long periods, over time it will inevitably impact on our health, mood and vibes.
It's not ideal to always being in a state of gripping. So “letting go” of that tension can be useful. I was talking about that in class this week - describing my return to the UK from Norway on Sunday.
I was tired, a bit (lot) hangry and my body was a bit broken carrying (as usual) too much luggage, and was also a bit stressed after a bus driver tried to fight me - that's another story. I was, in effect, that bent out of shape branch. Then, as i sat on the plane i noticed i was gripping and clenching my groin (is that tmi? I'm not sure but i'll go with it for now)
But you know that realisation when you're sitting, perhaps a bit on edge, then you consider, what's tight? What feels tense or contracted? Then come across that groin grip (try it now if you´re seated - so many of us do it unconsciously, especially if we're on a plane - as if clenching our groins is going to hold it up in the air somehow - lol).
I practiced increasing the sensation of clenching, then gently releasing, as much as i could. Letting go, if you will (i'm eyerolling myself but also accepting it too...)
It worked, the plane stayed up and i also felt a little less tired too. It's exhausting to grip your muscles for long periods.
The brain sometimes gets caught up in unhelpful thoughts that aren´t the best investment for our energy. I wrote about that and namely the inner critic here, so if you're interested head over for some tips to explore ways of managing that.
To "let go" of something means we need to see what it is we want to release. This might be really simple for some, but what if we simply can´t “let go”?
Perhaps we've suffered traumas and things that are so challenging to even think about that the mere utterance of those said words, especially with a whispy etherial tone (no disrespek) triggers us horribly.
Then, i´d say: fake it until you make it, babes.
You are allowed to separate yourself from anything or anyone that triggers you. That makes you feel crappy. And that goes for words, objects and songs too - hello Elton John*...
...*insert annecdote about that time in 2007 when i was invited to dance onstage with Prince and Elton John stole my thunder and all these years later i'm still not over it...
Instead, in your own time, and at your own pace, dance a wide ring around the tension that the trigger is pointing to.
Come back to the body if that feels like a safe thing to do.
Sometimes we clench in situations that make us feel physically unsafe.
Other times it´s in emotional situations. Relationships, for example. Or being around big paper mache sculptures (me).
But the body has a great way of letting us know how we´re feeling and offers us a pathway to release - or at least, an offering to create a little bit of space around the drama.
If being with thoughts is a challenge, divert and consider what physical tension might be in your body. If you identify something, lean into it a little more if it feels ok to do so.
For example, if you notice your little toe is madly scrunched up, then clench it up some more! Hold for a moment, before releasing that badboy.
Notice the contrast between holding on and letting go.
Repeat as necessary. See if you can create a little bit of ease.
We can´t will ourselves to “let go” of something. In fact, that will or force often amplifies the gripping and the clenching around it. Instead we can use it to practice shifting the focus to things that feel accessible. Noticing what´s tight or trying to grip. And if possible, trying to soften a little.
If we can't shift the tension, then perhaps we can observe it - by noticing what's clenching up and getting stuck is you seeing it for what it is - meaning, you are not your mind!
And therefore, you are not controlled by this clench, the related drama or tension. It's (yet another) wonderful teachable moment from our bodies that we can use to take care of ourselves a little better.
What do you think? Is letting go realistic? Attainable for real people in real life situations? How do you practice letting go? Or do you think it's a crock?
I wanna know!
I hope that you are able to free your mind and your groins and stay moisturised!