“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Letting Go

When I left St. Homeostasis a few months ago I received some good advice from a colleague, the Jungian Priest. He said, "It's a sick church, let it go."

Letting go seems to be a theme in my life these days, something I blogged about in my post yesterday on the yoga DVD Gravity and Grace. A day later I find myself thinking more about this:

"In letting go, by relaxing into the postures, one builds strength, stamina, and flexibility. Counter-intuitive, perhaps. But I think there is great wisdom in that principle which can be applied to life in many ways - letting go, breathing, relaxing into the posture, the situation, or whatever life throws at us - builds us up. Letting go is not the same thing as collapsing or giving up, letting go is a process of holding a very difficult posture/life experience while at the same time breathing, relaxing into it, and letting go."

This process of letting go, as I describe above, is a process of working through resistance. Stiff muscles are resistant to stretching. One does not force muscles to stretch - doing so only causes muscles to tear. Force causes injury.

When I was a massage therapist, after years of giving treatments, I finally realized that the proper approach to tight muscles was not increasing the pressure and force of the treatment. Instead the same principle applies: hold steady pressure at just the right degree, not too much nor too little (discerned by asking the client how the pressure feels on a scale of 1-10 - the appropriate pressure should be at about a 7). And while the therapist holds steady pressure the client breaths, slowly, in and out, until the sensation of the pressure/pain eases and the tense area releases.

Yes. It works. Yoga helped me realize this. Holding yoga postures is the same thing - holding a posture to just the degree that it causes some strain, but not enough to injure or hurt. Hold it while breathing, and the muscle will relax and stretch with the breath. Stretching, holding and ultimately releasing causes the muscle to become stronger.

When life throws us challenges our natural response is to become defensive. The natural defenses we exhibit will vary depending on the situation. Sometimes the defense is denial. Sometimes its anger. Sometimes its grief. Sometimes its self-righteousness. These are all feelings and valid. Defenses serve a purpose by protecting us in fragile moments. But defenses can also become limitations. For example defenses that worked for us when we were children may no longer work for us as adults. The feelings can take over our lives and control us, thus limiting us. The feelings can narrow our vision. Sometimes our defenses define us in unhelpful ways. Eventually there comes a time when we need to examine our defenses and assess their healthiness and impact on our overall well being.

This process of self-examination may then lead to a process of letting go. And here is where we learn to meet our internal resistance with gentle firmness, with breath, stretching, letting go, becoming stronger, and ultimately finding balance.