Letting go is a choice rooted in the desire to be free from emotions that do us more harm than good, and the circumstances that cause those emotions. They’re often deeply entrenched within us and that familiarity, no matter if those emotions are positive or negative, breeds a certain level of comfort. We’re sure of those emotions, even if we don’t necessarily like them. To release them is to drift out into the unknown. Here’s what I’m learning: when you let go, you don’t sink. You float.
Inspired: Memorial Day
For all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for people they would never know so that all of us could be free, thank you.
Beautiful: Make Your Own Freedom
Action does not imply aggression. You don’t need to bully and bust your way onto the path that is best for you. It’s so tempting to push and prod and throw an elbow to exhibit strength. But there is a better way. A surer way. A happier, more peaceful option.
Just be your best self. Invest your time and effort not in making others see and behave in the way you want them to. Go about this work on your own and inspire through example.
Live your life. Make your choices. And not for the sake of achieving something or changing someone but only because they fill you with happiness and gratitude. That is the truest definition of freedom, something we all define on our own terms and in our own time.
Leap: We All Need Forgiveness
“There is a hard law. When an injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.” ~ Alan Paton
Forgiveness is the hardest task before us and yet it is the most necessary. We can’t grow or learn without it. We can’t put our best selves out into the world without it. Forgiveness is the key to fulfilling our potential.
A long time ago, I had a boss who taught me a truth about the act of forgiveness that still lives at the forefront of my mind. One of the people on our team had been very rude to him in front of a large group of people. I was furious with the team member’s behavior. My boss was clearly hurt and embarrassed and I felt the team member had been cruel, insensitive, and ungrateful for the efforts my boss put into his job.
A couple of days later this same team member came into our office. I almost threw him out but he was there to see my boss so I held my tongue. The team member quietly said how sorry he was for his behavior. My first thought was “well maybe you should state that publicly just like you did your rude comments.” My boss graciously accepted his apology and the entire exchange was over in about 30 seconds.
“That’s it?” I asked my boss once the team member left. “You’re letting him off the hook with a barely audible ‘I’m sorry’?”
“Yep,” said my boss.
“Why?” I asked. Now I was even more annoyed.
“Christa, it’s so hard to ask for forgiveness. And if someone has the courage to apologize then I should have the courage to forgive them.”
I was stunned. In that one moment he taught me everything I ever needed to learn about forgiveness. We are all capable of asking for it. We are all capable of giving it. And that exchange has the power to save us all.
Leap: You Were Given Wings For the Purpose of Flying
Why do we stay stuck?
Our minds will rattle off a myriad of excuses about why we cannot change, why we cannot grow and evolve, why we must remain as we are, where we are. The mind is doing the best it can. It is trying to protect you and keep you safe.
The poor mind – it is going it alone. When we are stuck, the heart is not participating in the conversation. The soul remains a silent spectator. Your mind needs the heart and soul to be more active. It cannot and should not be expected to make all of the decisions. It needs balance and guidance to get the full value from its contributions.
If you want to free yourself from the patterns of the past, engage the heart. Engage the soul. Give the mind an opportunity to voice its concerns and receive help to craft those concerns into new ideas that will generate the circumstances for much-needed and long-overdue change. Freedom is a choice.
Leap: Use the Founders of Our Country as the Inspiration for Your Own Leap
As I reflect today on the meaning behind the 4th of July, I’m thinking of independence from a new vantage point – freedom and liberation in my work life.
Today I’m inspired by the people who took the Greatest Risk for all of us and founded our nation. When the time to rise up arrived, they didn’t shrink back from their chance at freedom. They risked a sentence of treason and death for the sake of liberty. The risks were high but so were the potential rewards.
In comparison, any leap we take isn’t even close to that scary! They took a chance, a planned and passionate chance, and they worked like hell through tremendously difficult circumstances to create the nation we have today. We are blessed by their courage and taking our own leaps, however large or small, is our way of saying thanks for all that they sacrificed for us.
Now that I’m out on my own, I’m realizing the triumphs and challenges of a freelance life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every morning I wake up and pinch myself – I am so fortunate to have this time and space to work on projects with my whole heart. And after a moment set aside for pure gratitude, I get to work.
The same is true for anyone who takes a risk and goes out on a limb to tear a dream right out of the sky. It’s scary and thrilling, and both of those feelings motivate in equal measure. Sure, you can absolutely be bogged down by the idea of, “What if it doesn’t work out?” But you can be equally raised up by the idea of, “And what if it does?” Rise up out of the bog. Life is so damn short. Do work that matters.
This road ain’t easy but good God it is worth it – today we’re all living proof of that. Happy 4th!
Leap: Truth Steps Into the Spotlight
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~Buddha via A Charmed Yogi
Once we begin to live our truth, once we begin to walk the path that we were meant to take, we cannot turn back. Like a genie free from its bottle, the truth cannot be sent back into hiding and we have no choice but to embrace its power and wisdom. It will force us to be who are at our very essence. It cannot be unseen, undone, nor deterred. Once free, it sets us free, too.
Yesterday I arrived home after a long and productive day of yoga teacher training at ISHTA to a lone piece of mail from the University of Virginia, one of my alma maters. It was clearly a bulk mailing sent to tens of thousands of alums and many times that type of mail finds its home in my recycle bin. On the elevator ride up to my apartment, I heard a clear and confident voice say, “Open it.” It surprised me, so much so that without hesitation I opened it immediately.
And there it was – on the front cover a story that confirmed my decision to leap from my current full-time job in financial services to focus on my career in health and wellness. Following the advice of my friend and mentor, Richard, I went to my stationery box and wrote out two notes to the people featured in the article to offer my assistance and partnership in their recent efforts at the University. In the last few years, it’s become a habit of mine to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) every time I see someone doing something interesting that overlaps with my interests and to whom I can be helpful. Many times, there is no response. The times there is a response have altered my life and path in very profound ways. I hope my recent notes fall into the latter camp.
The truth has a power more potent than we realize – it allows us to connect and collaborate with other like minds. Once we howl, and that howl is clear, concentrated, and genuine, we find our pack. The truth is the vehicle that allows us to tap into a higher consciousness. Once we open to it, it opens doors for us that we never even knew were available to us. It’s as if we’ve been staring into the dark for so long, fumbling and futzing our way forward when suddenly the truth strikes the match that lights up the whole path. It will point out our obstacles and then show us a way around them. It will hand us the tools we need to continue our journey, free from the constant hang-ups of worry, fear, and doubt.
My truth is that I was meant to spend my days teaching people to be well before they ever get sick and teaching those who are sick that within them they have the strength to be well. What’s your truth?
Leap: Catch and Release – a Lesson in Breathing and Letting Go
“Why do we work so hard on the (yoga) mat? We concentrate and focus so that we can then let go. It’s why we practice the limbs of yoga. It’s the reason for everything we’re doing here.” ~ Mel Brasier, ISHTA Yoga Senior Teacher
On Sunday, we studied bhastrika, a pranyama (breathing) technique in our yoga teacher training. It requires that we fully let go on the exhale, catch the breath, and then fully engage on the inhale. We need both pieces to feel the full benefits of the technique. It’s challenging because if we don’t catch the breath on the bottom of the exhale, then the inhale happens automatically rather than intentionally.
Mel explained to us that this intention of full concentration and full release mirrors the limbs of yoga that we study. First we focus, through our actions on and off the mat, and then we let it all go. We don’t get cold; we release heat. We can’t try to relax; we release our tension. We can’t draw breath in; we create a vacuum within our bodies that makes room for breath. We can’t try to reach samadhi, or the bliss state; we just allow our concentration to fade and then disappear to create a blank screen.
The difference is subtle but powerful. It’s like riding a bike – we concentrate so hard as we’re learning to balance, then we get it, and then we can let it go to fully enjoy the experience of the ride. We begin by gaining control over our own bodies and minds, and then we understand that control so well that we’re able to let it all fall away so that we’re left completely free. Freedom and bliss are found in that pause between the inhale and exhale when we stand on the very edge of our pure potential. All we need to do is show up and let ourselves be.
Leap: We Have to Let Go to Be Free
“If you come to the yoga mat expecting freedom from your emotions, you’ll never be free, just disappointed. Freedom comes when you can fully be with your emotions, watch them, and then let them go.” ~ Mona Anand, Senior ISHTA Yoga Teacher
Mona taught our asana practice on Sunday. It was a heavy back bending day, and by their nature, back bends induce strong emotions concentrated in the area around the heart. Ideally, we hope to feel those emotions and then release them. That latter bit is the tricky part that eludes us all too often. We come to our yoga mat as if it is a refuge, an escape, when truthfully our mat is a mirror. And perhaps a mirror that amplifies the good, the bad, and the ugly. What we live, we bring to the mat.
Mona encouraged us to be with our emotions, all of them, and then find the courage and strength to let them go without judgement. She asked us to soften so that we can release. We sometimes take our feelings and wrap them around us, holding tight to their skirt strings even though we long to be free from them. As it turns out freedom if often scarier than retracing our familiar patterns. Our familiar patterns give us something to work on. Once we’re free, then what will we do?
That’s the real unknown.
Beginning: Let Yourself Get Carried Away
“If you hold on to the handle, she said, it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it’s more fun if you just let the wind carry you. “ ~ Brian Andreas
The image to the right the latest piece of art gracing the walls of my tiny New York apartment. Brian Andreas is one of my favorite artists so I was thrilled to find this print of his at the new Housing Works store in my neighborhood just after writing a post about “Letting Go to Be Free”. It was like a universal affirmation telling me, “Hey kid, you’re on the right track. Keep going and have fun in the process.” Thank you, Universe. Duly noted.
I have often written about the illusion of control that came crashing down on us for a solid 18 months starting in 2008. The economy had been chugging along at a healthy clip for a number of years with only a few naysayers wondering just where on Earth all this growth was coming from. We wrote them off as fast as possible, covering our ears, smiling widely, and spending to our heart’s content. And we learned that the heart is never content. It always wants more so we leveraged ourselves to the hilt, the government included, and fooled ourselves into thinking that we were safe. The mind is a slippery place; we can convince ourselves of anything if we try hard enough.
Safety lies not in your company or your professional network. Both are as slippery as the mind. Like the girl in Brian’s painting above, you can hold onto the handle to maintain the illusion of control – after all, that’s what handles are for, right?
Or you could trust the wind, your own intuition. You can tune in to the circumstances around you in a very honest way, understand exactly the resources that you have at-hand (literally), and find the best way to get the two to mesh. The wind will carry you, like it or not. Try to fight those winds, and you’re likely to struggle to no avail. Recognize their power and give yourself a chance to steer them in a direction that works for best for you. Less struggle, more fun, more learning.
From one control freak to another, let’s hold hands and see where the ride takes us.