Learning how to let go
Recently in my yoga classes I seem to be downloading a lot in regard to grief.
Grieving is something I feel I have been doing a lot since becoming a mother. There’s so much you give up, so much you grow out of, so much that changes, it’s hard not to sometimes feel like the rapid change is swallowing you up whole. As new things arise, old things fall away. It’s just the way life works.
I love being a mother. I love it way more than I thought I would, despite the fact that it is unrelentingly hard. It also gives me insight into why my mother may have made some of the choices she did. I’m not at all saying I agree with some of those choices – in fact, I have had to simply let go of ever trying to understand everything, other than the fact that everyone does the best with what they’ve got and what they know at the time. Even that has taken practice.
Since my beautiful mother’s cognition has declined, my heart continues to break for her. Everytime it declines more, I realise that, actually, my heart is also breaking for me. While the grief that I went through in moving from maiden to mother was taking and continues to take place, what I have in exchange is the most wonderful little boy. He makes every ounce of pain worth it and the exchange is nothing I would ever change. I made a choice to fall pregnant, I made a choice to give everything up and I continue to choose to lean into the grief that comes with the choices I make of sometimes walking away from things that are less important than raising this incredible little human.
Nothing, however, prepared me for watching my beautiful mother deteriorate right in front of my eyes at a speed I could not keep up with. While my internal processing system is quite fast, it was simply not as fast as I would liked it to have been. There are so many questions I want to ask about her left-field and out-there, wild life. Questions I thought I had years to ask have simply been tossed in the ‘too late’ pile. While I was busy building businesses, travelling and having a family, I was losing time in a direction we thought we had plenty of time for. Time, it seems, stands still for no one.
Last night while I was teaching, I was holding back tears. Tears from my own processing and grief, which has been downpouring for weeks. I am always holding back tears at the moment. And if I’m not holding them back, they are pouring across my face, while I care for my ever-breaking heart.
I’ve always been futuristic. Planning is a strong suit of mine, but this kind of future planning encompasses more pain than I sometimes think I can tolerate. It physically eats me up from the inside at all hours of everyday and I wake up every single morning with a wet pillow and black rings under my eyes.
So, I teach yoga and I talk about grief. Because it consumes me. I talk about the balance between holding on and letting go. Between effort and surrender. Between leaning into the pain but not setting up camp there. Because, fortunately and unfortunately, life goes on.
So, I’m teaching yoga and the tears are literally swelling under my eyes and I’m breathing in a way that holds them back, knowing that as soon as this class is over and I retreat to my car, I will fall apart. This will be the third time I have fallen apart today, but this time Nahlo is not there to witness it, so I will let it all out. During Savasana, tears streak my face as I talk about the limb of yoga Aparigraha and not being attached. I talk about leaning into pain because it’s part of the healing. I talk about the relationship between the dark and the light and how one cannot exist without the other.
The class finishes and one of my beautiful students asks me where I get my words from. I tell her that those specific words were downloaded from somewhere out there, up there. She starts to cry and tells me the most painful story.
Her 18 year old son went out for his first night ever 10 years ago. He was chased down and bashed to the point of never being able to walk or talk again. From that moment on this beautiful woman and her husband became his carers. It’s so fucked. I can’t even find my arms to give her a hug. I hold the space as she falls apart. I feel the pain and I hold it in. I hold it in because I’m already tipping into a flood of tears that encompass my own pain and I’m selfishly protecting my ego’s need to be solid in that moment. I know that if I reach out, I will fall apart and I will not be able to stop. I will wait until I am in the car. Until then, I listen to her story. My heart still breaks for this family.
So, for me – for us – Aparigraha is difficult when it comes to those we hold close. We know that life is fleeting and that all is impermanent. When the transition of some type of dying comes knocking on the door, we are mostly, not ever, really ready. However, when we practice the art of letting go diligently and kindly, we understand that in this pain is the catalyst of growth. When something or someone dies, something or someone is born.
So, that’s the hard part of Aparigraha. Grief is hard, but the more that we grieve means the more that we loved. When we experience the pain of grief, if you feel into it, you will also feel that the grief is intrinsically woven by love. Otherwise the grief would not exist. There’s that paradox again.
Non-attachment is a big one for most of us. It’s no wonder it comes after Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya and Brahmacharya – it’s almost as if these previous four Yamas are setting us up for the very art of non-attachment – the final and fifth Yama.
I grew up with a dad who places an importance on money and things, and a mum who put happiness before everything. I’m glad I had the extreme of both worlds and understand what it means to walk the middle ground between.
I observe my attachments and I don’t give a toss about my things, to the point that when we bought a brand new car and my friend drove it right into a tree when it was only five-weeks-old, it did not bother me at all. It’s just a car, right?
When I lost my $3000+ camera when travelling, it wasn’t the camera that it was hard to let go of, it was the memories stored in the photos. .
I had a car accident many years ago and got a $37, 000 pay out. I blew it in 18 months on partying and shouting my friends, and my last thousand dollars went on a one way ticket to England. I couldn’t even afford a return and my best friend was the only person who knew I was landing with zero dollars, so she put $500 in a card for me and told me not to open it until I was on the plane.
Money has always flowed for me and I think a lot of it has to do with non-attachment. Also the fact that I don’t need new things means I’m a good saver by default, by not spending. Because things – they don’t bring me happiness.
When Nahlo came along, this practice became very hard. I became fearful of losing something for the very first time in my life. This morning I reprimanded Brendan for leaving Nahlo on the water’s edge for too long before waves would come and almost sweep him away. I still sit here and think its common sense not to do that.
In the first two years of Nahlo’s life, I nagged more than I ever had in our entire 12 year relationship. It was all fear-based. I’ve always been relatively cruisy with most situations but once this mumma bear was born something shifted and this practice became very hard when it came to my son.
I was and am still, utterly attached.
Nothing in this world really belongs to us, although at a very young age we start to decide what is ‘ours’ and what is ‘mine’. Is this instinctual? Or passed down through generations of human-ness? We may never know. We can, however, recognise it as the ego being born.
Whatever we grasp onto can, and will, be lost at some stage.
When we become attached to a person, an object or a situation, we ultimately just push it away. We must endeavor to be in the action and in the moment instead of being attached to any outcome.
“Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action.
Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction.” ~ Krishna
Basically, we need to focus on what is right in front of us at any given time – from moment to moment. Lean into any discomfort and know it is our discomfort, which is mostly based on our own past experiences. Obviously, this isn’t easy and takes practice! That’s why we call it a yoga practice – because we practice, practice, practice.