Letting Go

 

We are on the brink of a seasonal letting go. A time when the brighter, hotter, busier and more outward energy of summer will give over to the softer, cooler, slower and more inward energy of fall. Nothing in the natural world clings, fights, resents, or laments when it’s time is up. Day gives way to night. Summer gives way to fall. Blooms give way to seed. Leaves give way to their role as fodder for the next year’s growth.

Equally, we as human beings will always have things to let go of; old shoes, rotten food, household clutter, the breath, relationships, and ways of being that no longer serve us. Truly, the list is far too vast and continuous to capture in words. And still, we resist letting go of things we have a strong attachment to. We hold on when we don’t know what will happen next. At times we do let go of our grip only because it has become so glaringly obvious or painful that whatever it is just has to go. And then, of course, there are the times when things gets ripped from us without our permission or consent.

But what if there was a way to begin to cultivate an appreciation, along with a skill set, that allowed for a more conscious response to life in this regard; one that recognized that letting go regularly throughout our lives is as necessary, and ultimately easy, as letting go of one breath in order to make room for the next one to come in?

Swami Kripalu, a wise yogic master, once said that a yogi dies a little bit each day, and then death becomes the next thing. This “dying” that he refers to is not only death in the literal sense, it speaks also to all of the little and big releases we are required to make across a lifetime. When we can loosen a little bit of our hold on life, we not only prepare for the ultimate and unavoidable and big letting go, but as importantly, we make room in life for more ease and more alignment with the realities of life.

If we want some help learning the ins and outs of letting go naturally, rhythmically and cyclically let us look to those forms that know not only how to let go when the time is ripe, but equally how to fully inhabit and express the life they were given when their time is here. Each and every one of us will let go many, many times in one lifetime whether we want to or not. Each and every one of us will let go one last and final time. Why not choose to know this as the approach to living more fully, gracefully and truthfully?

Wild Teachings

 

Wild Rose has been in bloom for the past couple of weeks. She is pretty much gone now up our way. She is the plant of my heart. An ally. A teacher. A guardian. Because Rose’s flowering is so short-lived, I was making a mad dash to make medicine and personal care products before her time was up. One day, in the midst of making medicine, I was thinking that this powerful, natural and healing presence would be available to me all year long. On the heels of that thought came, “No, it won’t. I don’t have near enough for that to happen.”

And in that moment, instead of feeling a lack around this, I saw the beautiful necessity for me of something not being available whenever I wanted it. Everything is not supposed to be there for us constantly and in every moment. And while we might want this to be so, it is not good for us. More to the point; it is damaging. For us. For the planet. And for our relationships with others.

We people live like big shots on the planet. As if it is all here for our taking. As if anything we want should be easy, convenient, and accessible. All the time. And this mindset is only worsening through the proliferation of the technologies that make us feel as if everything should be instantaneous and ever-available.

What will we do in the face of this? How will we learn to govern ourselves voluntarily? Why should we if we don’t have to. Or want to. Because the wisdom that comes from Nature, of which we are a part, demonstrates over and over again that there is most decidedly a season for all things; a time for everything to be here, and not be here. Much as we don’t want to know it, limitation is a vital part of the cycle of Life. It serves as the bedrock for the conditions of Life to flourish, having absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with scarcity or deprivation.

The Life Within

 

I am in morning practice; dancing. The music is loud. At a pivotal moment, I notice a robin outside the window. Even though I am moving around, it stays where it is for quite some time. I can see its beak opening and closing in song, though I cannot hear it. During a lull in the music, I decide to open the window so that I can hear its song. Without hesitation, it flies off. This one encounter encapsulates all that I need to know at this time.

It does not matter who does or does not hear your song. Or like your song. You sing it because you can. And because that is what you do.

When you feel uneasy or  threatened, you feel it only in that moment, and you do what you need to do to protect yourself. Without hesitation, doubt or apology There is no story to this. And there is no carrying the moment of threat forward into the rest of your existence.

Most importantly, only your life is contained within yourself. It does not matter what another wants, expects or has imprinted on you. It does not matter what the world is or is not doing. It only matters that you fully and completely inhabit the life you have been given.

Aliveness

 

The sun is out when I wake up. Within minutes dark clouds have covered the sky. Minutes later rain and snow pelt the ground. The wind gusts. Trees are groaning and cracking. There is so much happening in Nature this morning. There is so much aliveness coursing through the woods. As I step out into all of  this, I too, am brought alive. Well, maybe not at first. At first, my thoughts are anywhere but on the path beneath my feet; my mind skittering here and there. Watching my thoughts, I discover a pattern. Everything I am doing with my mind at this point is so absolutely un-alive. It is old, worn out, and it is dead. I keep coming back to something my teacher would have asked; what does the aliveness in me want? Does it want to replay old stuff for the umpteenth time? Or obsessively anticipate what is to come? Is this what it means to be alive?

We are the only species who can choose not to express our truest nature. By that I mean, we are the only ones who, intentionally or unintentionally, can suppress the aliveness that courses through us. We are the only mammal that can squash the life force itself. We do not start out this way. We do not plan this. But somehow, through the ways of the world, we can end up believing that our aliveness is found in the buzz we get from sugar, caffeine, alcohol, reality TV and the dramas of social media. What wild animal, tree, or weed, suppresses its vitality? Can you imagine a deer or a wolf purposely doing something to limit its energy? Can you imagine a flower suppressing its bloom?

I teach college students and every week I am both deeply concerned and flabbergasted by how many of them walk around like characters from The Dawn of the Living Dead; eyes shrouded and vacant, faces hidden underneath a baseball cap or sullen expression, physical vibrancy noticeably MIA. They tell me they are exhausted, hungry, stressed, sick and overwhelmed. I have come to label this phenomenon in my mind as “the wall;” a difficult to move and difficult energy to penetrate. Where has their aliveness gone? They did not start out this way.

Everything in Nature, except us, keeps expressing every single ounce of its aliveness until it is all gone. Without hesitation. Without explanation. And without apology. You will never see a bear offering a guilty explanation for why he ripped down your bird feeder. And no matter how often you rail against the weeds, not one of them, ever, will  back down. Aliveness does not care about the past or the future. It is not beholding to your fears, your plans or time. It only wants to be expressed. Through you.

At some point, being truly alive becomes a choice. Despite what they showed you, or told you. Despite what those around you are doing. Despite your habits, addictions, mind sets and what is being modeled in the culture. What would it be like to be as vibrant and alive as a small child or wild animal? What would you have to give up? What would you have to open to?

“The great danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

Michelangelo

 

What Is The Point?

 

Last night our dinner conversation turned towards, “What’s the point of it all?” As in, why are we here? What is it all about? Some of us were quiet. Some of us are looking for a theory to explain it all. And some of us are OK with not knowing, feeling like it is changing all of the time so what would the use be in trying to nail it down. When things this big show up for me, I take a circuitous, or depending on how you look at it, a direct route, right through Nature. She is the one who always reminds me of the order of things in ways that are not complicated by the human mind.

Recently, a big limb came down off of a beautiful maple tree in our back yard. The branch was nearly big enough to be a tree unto itself. The breaking off left a scar long and wide down one side of the tree. With the limb being severed from the trunk, a big part of the tree is now gone. And yet, not one part of the remaining tree has recoiled or collapsed under the weight of this loss. No part of it has given up or become less alive. As a matter of fact, even the severed limb, days later, continues to feed the leaves as evidenced by their aliveness and brilliance. Despite the dramatic change in its appearance and size, the tree continues to do the only thing it knows how to do; to keep reaching for Life. To continue to experience its wholeness and integrity despite external changes to its shape.

Maybe that is the point. Keep going. Keep reaching. Keep being alive through all of it, no matter what happens. No matter what falls off. No matter how deep the cut.

Self-Absorption

I am on a walk through the woods. I take a familiar path trying to do the unfamiliar. I am attempting to see and listen in a new way. A way that does not put me in the equation. A way where I am aware of what is around me without making it have to do with me. It is difficult.

Even in the naming of the birds, trees and other life I pass is a kind of claiming on my part, another way of making it have to do with me. Naming is a way of making other life belong to me somehow through my definitions and interpretations, believing I could know that life because I think I know what it is called. While the naming of the world around us serves an important function, it also has its serious drawbacks. As in assumptions we  make. As in believing we have the whole story. As in believing we give something its place. As in believing somehow it belongs to you.

Everything does not have to do with us. The world is not here to be at our beck and call. It is not here to deliver to us our version of how it should be. Other forms of life are sovereign unto themselves, separate from what we want them to be. What would our lives be like if we could simultaneously hold and respect the different forms life takes while knowing on a deeper level that there is Something unifying us all? Or how about on a purely practical level–What would it be like to know that what others do has got absolutely nothing to do with us?

Right Relationship

 

Did you ever stop to notice how it is that you identify yourself? What it is that you believe makes you, You?

We define ourselves in relation to one another; mother, wife, friend, daughter, teacher. It is through our relationship to others that we say; This is who I am.

We define ourselves through our affiliations; the political party we belong to, the religion we hold dear, the schools we went to, the yoga class we attend. It is through belonging that we say; This is who I am.

We define ourselves according to what we can and cannot do; I am a good dancer, I can’t draw, I am good with numbers, I am good with people, I can’t let go. It is through our capacities, or lack of capacity, that we say; This is who I am.

We define ourselves based on what we own; our cell phone, our clothes, our cars, our houses, our degrees, our books. It is through ownership that we say; This is who I am.

We define ourselves based on the past; who they said we were, how they treated us, what we were good at as kids. It is through what no longer exists that we say; This is who I am.

We are relational beings; born to know ourselves within a context of relation. It matters greatly what it is that we put ourselves in relation to. And it also matters greatly that we are connected to something beyond the relational requirements of the world with all of its fickleness, blindness and projections. It matters that we are in relation to something that is more enduring and true than  past experience, or what we do.

The trees, and all of nature for that matter, know the way. They are for no other reason than, they are. Is there something in you that is, just because it is? Something not based on an outer reflection. Something not based on how you will be received. Something not based on what you think you should do, or be. A dimension that is not in relation to anything other than Itself.

We Need Both

 

The light does not fear the dark. The light is not made less than by the dark. The light does not run from the dark. The presence of darkness does not annihilate the light.

Each and every day we need only look to the cycles of nature to understand the truth about light and dark; they are two sides to one coin. We need both.

Winter

 

Winter is the time of quiet. It is the silence following a blizzard. It is the time to go in and in and in. It is the time for slowing down and conserving energies. It is at this time that the seeds of the following seasons are planted. And it is in the darkness that they wait.

Many of us are afraid of the dark. Fairy tales and myths abound with monsters, demons and enemies that live in the dark places, waiting to spring out and get us. Wombs are dark. As are caves. The very bottom of the ocean is darker than the darkest night. These places are beyond the light of ordinary living and sight. And while this may set us on edge, if we deny or ignore the dark places, we refuse great potential and fertility.

Many traditions have a deeply reverent and appreciative relationship with the dark. A shaman is “one who sees in the dark.” The Hindu goddess Kali, the black, fierce and frightening one, is most beloved by her devotees who know her to be a loving and devoted mother. The dark goddess in Yoga is the one who clears the path for the light-filled goddess to bestow her blessings

It is not easy to be in the dark. It is not easy to be still. We are so frightened of what we might find “in there.” And yet, if we miss this part of life, we miss out on one half of our experience. For how can we know the light without the dark? It is in the dark that we are able to hear our small, still voice. It is in the dark that we learn to become attentive to ourselves and what is true. Being brave and patient enough to go there is akin to getting close to a wild animal. Close enough to pick up an owl stuck in a screened-in porch. Close enough to see a fawn trembling. There is magic in the dark places. We need this. Desperately.

This winter, make it a habit to just sit down. Do nothing else. Not even meditating, journaling or reading. Just sit and let yourself be. Do not look for anything. Do not try and figure anything out. Just sit. You will be amazed at what reveals itself to you.

Mugwort

 

I sit at eye level with the plant called Mugwort. In this quiet moment, I realize that even though I know this land, I do not know this land. So much of what I do here has an agenda; let the chickens out, pick fruit, harvest kale. Even when using the land for “higher” pursuits, my outdoor meditations, yoga classes and workshops have a point to them, a destination, a way of using the land as a backdrop to what I do. And so while I notice nature and am grateful for Her, there still stands a divide; a place where I am separate from all that surrounds me. A place where there is the observer and the subject of that observation. A place where I put my stamp on what surrounds me, in a sense believing that nature is something in particular just because I think it is so. Or want it to be so.

Even when we have the best of intentions regarding how we live on this earth, we will always be colored by our perceptions and by the illusion that being in charge, whether to protect or control, is our birthright. It is why we feel entitled to own and to take what we “need” from the earth. It is why we talk about saving the earth, putting ourselves in the position of the ones doing the saving. It is effortless to do something to someone or something, “good” or “bad,” when you see them as being separate from you. What if we looked through the lens of that which I do to you, I do to me. How I feel about you, is how I feel about me. What if instead of living like either we owned nature or had to save her, we learned to realize, we are nature. We are Her. What might we do differently? How would the world around us look through that lens?

P.S. What if we stopped trying to save the earth? What if, instead, we tried to save ourselves. What if we remembered how to be as One with our truest nature.