Last month, as I approached my birthday, I wrote about my theme words for the upcoming year of life. And because there are five of them, and that’s plenty to focus on, I thought I’d spend the next few months delving into each of them separately as a theme of the month (September already covered one, with the theme of (re)connecting). For October, I’ve chosen the one that I added in at the end, but that I actually think may be the most important. It’s almost certainly going to be the most difficult. And that theme is Letting Go. It seemed particularly appropriate as we move into the month that is so synonymous with fall and change of seasons, and heading into the last quarter of the year.
Letting Go can cover numerous areas of life. Sometimes, it’s physical items we need to let go of - clothes that we haven’t worn in five years, items that no longer match our particular stage in life, for instance (i.e. if you used to work in the corporate world and now teach yoga full time, you may not need 10 business suits). To me, this is the most straightforward of the letting go. You physically let go of an object by donating it, selling it, however you get rid of it, and that can often help us to mentally and emotionally let go of anything that was attached to it that no longer works for us.
Other times, it’s letting go of relationships - whether they be with people, with organizations we’ve been a part of, with a job/position, or something else. It doesn’t mean these people or organizations or jobs or whatever it is are “bad”. It may just mean that they no longer serve us. Or maybe they serve us in different capacities and we have to let go of the old relationship to form a different one. Maybe we don’t see that person every day like we used to, but still reach out when we really need someone that knows us. Or maybe that organization we were in is still valuable, but in a different way.
Often, it’s letting go of our own stories. It’s letting go of the guilt, the shame, the self-blame. It’s recognize the negative narratives that we tell ourselves, over and over, for what they are - stories. They may be stories based in truth, or stories of what once was, but they’re stories none the less. They don’t have to define us. They may be our past, or even lingering in the present, but they don’t have to be the future. Letting go of them doesn’t have to mean pretending they don’t exist or never did (also probably not healthy). Instead, it means acknowledging them and saying “yes, that happened” or “yes I feel that way, but maybe that’s not the whole story” or “no, that’s not true, it’s what someone else wanted me to believe, or what I’ve made myself believe because I’m so used to blaming myself,” and then, and this is the key, saying “and here’s what comes next”. And what comes next is that you don’t have to continue to blame/shame/guilt yourself. What comes next is learning from the situation, if it was in fact based in truth and not just a story you told yourself, and learning how to adjust course next time you come into a similar situation.
In yoga, letting go could be letting go of the image that you have to be/look/act a certain way to do yoga/be a yogi. It could be letting go of the negative things you think about yourself when you can’t get into a pose that you want to. Maybe it’s acknowledging that something has changed in your health or your body and you aren’t able to go into certain poses like you used to. It’s letting go of the idea that you’re “not as good” because your health/body/practice has changed. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe you keep telling yourself that you’re bad at (inversions, arm balances, fill in the blank) because you still hang onto the feeling of struggling with them in the past, even though in practice you now go into them regularly.
Letting go is tricky. I certainly haven’t mastered it. Far, from it. And this, in fact, is why it’s a major theme of my year. For me, in addition to working on basically all of the above, I’m letting go of a decade. This past birthday, I crossed the threshold from my 30s to my 40s. And for many, this is a difficult birthday. For some reason, the 40s feels super “grown up”. It feels like you should have your sh...stuff together. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that quite honestly, very few people totally have their stuff together, and even those who appear to likely have a lot going on that I’m not aware of and certainly can’t judge. And so I’m using the opportunity of stepping into this new decade to allow myself to let go - of the negative stories, of the things I thought I “should” be/have/do by this point in life, of the pieces of my life that I’m white knuckle clinging onto, not because they serve me, but simply because I’m afraid to let them go.
What will you work towards letting go of this month?