Practice: The Beauty of Letting Go

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What if we didn’t need will power at all–ever?

What if bringing anything new into our lives was a normal, natural process that required only one thing before it could happen?

What if this applied to any and all new things: thoughts, beliefs, possessions, people, jobs, health–everything!

Would you believe me?

I had a powerful insight during my morning’s meditation and breathing exercise today.  One I just had to share with you.

I was sitting in the “usual” meditative way–back straight with hands upturned in my lap, listening to soft carillon bell music.

My thoughts went something like this: (actions are in green, thoughts in blue.)

Breathing in.

Breathing out.

Breathing in.

Breathing out.

Wait! There isn’t anything moving. Not my chest, not my stomach, not my shoulders. When you breathe there “should be” movement.  I must not be relaxed.

I tuned into my body as I breathed in and out now.

Breathing in.

Breathing out.

Ah, there it is!  Things are relaxing now. Everything feels softer, easier.

Except for one spot in the middle of my body at my diaphragm. It feels like a clenched fist.

Breathing in to the clenched spot.

Breathing out of the clenched spot.  I do this for a while…

It doesn’t want to let go.

I know what might help. I’ll add a mantra to my breath, “It is safe to let go.”

Breathing in, “It is safe,”

Breathing out, “to let go.”

I did this for about 10 breaths and a thought came in and pushed the words “It is safe” away and replaced them with, “There is beauty…”  Followed by, “in letting go.”

Like this:

Breathing in, “There is beauty…”

Breathing out, “in letting go.”

I fight the new words. That’s not my mantra! I want letting go to be safe, not beautiful!

oh!

(yeah, even clenching on to that!)

I breathe with the new words and feel the fist loosen–just a fraction. I can tell it doesn’t want to let go yet. It’s filled with so much angst and worry. But just for a small moment it relaxed its hold. Just a little bit.

Then I follow-up this meditation with a pranayama, or breath exercise which has been prescribed for me. It’s a practice in which you forcefully exhale, and then with no effort on your part, you inhale naturally in response to the exhale.

I do this maybe 10-15 times. (It’s harder than you think and I get fatigued by the end.)

And suddenly I get it! Totally and completely get it!

I don’t have to try to bring in a new breath. It’s automatic. It’s the natural response to exhaling, or letting go of the old breath. I don’t have to DO anything for it to happen, other than let go of the old breath.

The simplicity and wisdom in that was so profound for me.

We hold on so tight to what we think is ours, even our anger, our worry, our doubt, our habits, our belongings. We fiercely want something different from that.  We admonish ourselves to have more will-power. We feel guilty for not being able to establish anything new.

When, in reality, all we have to do is loosen our grip.

Gently cup your hands together in front of you. Relax your fingers, your wrists, your shoulders. Breathe. How much room is there in your hands for today? Is there room for anything new there? Let’s hold what happens today a little more loosely in our hands, and see how it feels.

There is beauty in letting go.

With Love,

Kel at women making changes

 

 

 

 

PS: Why yes!  I have started doing morning meditation and breathing exercises! 😉

Here’s a quick bit of background on why I’ve started this ritual.

The main reason I took a break from the blog this year was for my health, which had been steadily declining for years. The final straw on this camel’s back was developing C-diff (a terrible, medievalesque type of gut infection) after taking repeated antibiotics for sinus infections. The very last straw was being put on a central line with in home nursing care right before Christmas, and a recommendation to follow-up with surgery in January 2013.

I just couldn’t stand the idea of going through surgery (seriously, yuck!) so I decided to stop everything, including writing for the blog, and concentrated on my health. I could write everyday for a year on what I have learned, changed, and discovered these past 9 months. It was a journey which actually led me back in time–more than 5000 years back in time, to Ayurvedic medicine. I’ll be writing much more about this in future posts.

The gifted Ayurvedic practitioner I was led to (in a blessed and miraculous way) prescribed a breathing pranayama for me to do in the early morning hours. Think of pranayama as a “breathing pill” prescribed for improved health.  There are different pranayama breaths, each one promoting a specific desired state within the individual. 

The Cold Hard Truth about Happiness

Happiness is a choice.

Not a “Folgers commercial” type of choice. You’ve seen it.  It goes something like this: The person gets out of bed and looks as if they are saying, “Today, I’m going to be HAPPY!” (Cue the sun rising over snow-capped mountains and a golden retriever jumping around their legs on the front porch of a palatial log cabin over-looking a dewy meadow.)

It just doesn’t work that way.

If your life is off track, that’s just a really hard thing to do.  And then we feel guilty because we’re “supposed to be” grateful and in control of our thoughts and moods, because happiness is a choice, right? Many self-help books and blogs will mention choosing gratitude and happiness but if the deeper meaning of that idea is misunderstood it can lead to a futile effort that leads to more guilt.

The cold hard truth is that happiness is a choice…but then you have to make that choice again…and then another time after that.

I worked with an accountant years ago. He was getting ready to retire.  He had a wonderful family, grandchildren, and a beautiful home with lots of financial security. Someone commented to him how lucky he was to have such a lovely family, such a happy life.

He smiled and agreed.

Then after that person left he exclaimed that it made him really angry when people said he was lucky to have his life. He said luck had nothing to do with it. He went on to explain how he and his wife had both worked really hard to make that life and that it took a lot of hard choices along the way.

We aren’t in control of everything that happens to us in our lives, but we do have much more control over our happiness than we give ourselves credit for.

It’s our choices that pave the way to happiness.  Everyday choices made again and again, day after day, moment by moment that lead us to a happier place.

It’s a choice:

  • To eat in a way that supports a healthy you
  • To go to bed at an hour that allows you to have a good mood and energy the next day
  • To say something positive instead of negative
  • To find the lesson in criticism
  • To walk instead of watch
  • To be different when it’s hard
  • To speak up when you’re the minority

The cold hard truth is that choosing happiness is more like hiking up that snow-capped mountain in our fabled commercial. Choosing happiness is hard work. It’s a step by step, daily decision-making process, but the hard work is worth it when you get there!

Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park

Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park

I had to take some time off this year to get back on track to my own happiness. It’s been a journey that I’ll share more about in the coming weeks.

Kel at women making changes

Photo credit: Kel Wilson

Maps can tell you…

maps only tell part of the story

Slip of the Tongue

Slip of the Tongue

By Adriel Luis

My glares burn through her.
And I’m sure that such actions aren’t foreign to her
because the essence of her beauty is, well, the essence of beauty.

And in the presence of this higher being,
the weakness of my masculinity kicks in,
causing me to personify my wannabe big-baller, shot-caller,
God’s gift to the female species with shiny suit wrapping rapping like,
“Yo, what’s crackin shorty how you livin’ what’s your sign what’s your size I dig your style, yo.”

Now, this girl was no fool.
She gives me a dirty look with the quickness like,
“Boy, you must be stupid.”
so I’m looking at myself,
“Boy, you must be stupid.”
But looking upon her I am kinda feelin’ her style.

So I try again.
But, instead of addressing her properly,
I blurt out one of my fake-ass playalistic lines like,
“Gurl, you must be a traffic ticket cuz you got fine written all over you.”
Now, she’s trying to leave and I’m trying to keep her here.
So at a final attempt, I utter,
“Gurl, what is your ethnic makeup?”

At this point, her glare was scorching through me,
and somehow she manages to make her brown eyes
resemble some kinda brown fire or something,
but there’s no snap or head movement,
no palm to face, click of tongue, middle finger,
roll of eyes, twist of lips, or girl power chant.
She just glares through me with these burning eyes
and her gaze grabs you by the throat.

She says, “Ethnic makeup?”
She says, “First of all, makeup’s just an anglicized, colonized, commodified utility
that my sisters have been programmed to consume,
forcing them to cover up their natural state
in order to imitate what another sister looks like in her natural state
because people keep telling her
that the other sister’s natural state is more beautiful
than the first sister’s natural state.
At the same time,
the other sister isn’t even in her natural state,
because she’s trying to imitate yet another sister,
so in actuality, the natural state that the first sister’s trying to imitate
wasn’t even natural in the first place.”

Now I’m thinking, “Damn, this girl’s kicking knowledge!”
But, meanwhile, she keeps spitting on it like
“Fine. I’ll tell you bout my ‘ethnic makeup.’
I wear foundation,
not that powdery shit,
I wear the foundation laid by my indigenous people.
It’s that foundation that makes it so that past being globalized,
I can still vocalize with confidence that i know where my roots are.
I wear this foundation not upon my face, but within my soul,
and I take this from my ancestors
because I’ll be damned if I’d ever let an American or European corporation
tell me what my foundation
should look like.”

I wear lipstick,
for my lips stick to the ears of men,
so they can experience in surround sound my screams of agony
with each lash of rulers, measuring tape, and scales,
as if my waistline and weight are inversely proportional to my value as a human being.
See my lips, they stick, but not together.
Rather, they flail open with flames to burn down this culture that once kept them shut.
Now, I mess with eye shadow,
but my eyes shadow over this time where you’ve gone at ends to keep me blind.
But you can’t cover my eyes, look into them.
My eyes foreshadow change.
My eyes foreshadow light.
and I’m not into hair dyeing.
but I’m here, dying, because this oppression won’t get out of my hair.
I have these highlights.
They are highlights of my past atrocities,
they form this oppression I can’t wash off.
It tangles around my mind and twists and braids me in layers,
this oppression manifests,
it’s stressing me so that even though I don’t color my hair,
in a couple of years it’ll look like I dyed it gray.
So what’s my ethnic makeup ?
I don’t have any.
Because your ethnicity isn’t something you can just make up.
And as for that crap my sisters paint on their faces, that’s not makeup, it’s make-believe.”

I can’t seem to look up at her.
and I’m sure that such actions aren’t foreign to her
because the expression on her face
shows that she knows that my mind is in a trance.

As her footsteps fade, my ego is left in crutches.
And rejection never sounded so sweet.

 

The recording of Adriel Luis performing this poem at a poetry slam was turned into a short, award-winning film by Karen Lum.

Click here to watch the video if you’re reading this in email.

The perfect plan and the perfect moment

There is no perfect plan and no perfect moment.

What Guilt is Trying to Tell You

Last week we talked about next-level self care. I hope you’ve spent at least a few moments considering what that would be for you.

Today, I want to talk about the biggest reason women don’t commit to taking care of themselves at a higher level.

I believe that reason is guilt.

What is Guilt Trying to Tell You

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There are as many different kinds of guilt as there are kinds of women feeling it. On Facebook and Twitter, I recently shared an article, When Me Time Makes You Feel Guilty, written by Kasey Edwards. In the comments on our Facebook pageCarol said, “it comes in very many forms – including not wanting to spend money on or the little extras in time and money to make something pretty rather than just utilitarian.

Yes, that. For me, every time I think I’m done dealing with it, it mutates and crops up somewhere else. That’s why I’m still thinking about it. And I’ve boiled my thoughts on guilt about self care to two things:

  1. Brené Brown offers a great definition of guilt:  “guilt = I did something bad.”
  2. Since when is taking care of yourself something wrong? A crime?

I am entirely serious. I don’t think self care is a crime, so what’s up with the guilt about it?

I suspect the guilt is actually a message, pointing you toward the thing you need and testing you to see if you’ll make it happen. Did you really mean it, when you said you were going to take care of yourself? Did you mean it enough to push through guilt?

So, whatever your next level of self care is…are you willing to do what you said you needed, even if you’re feeling guilty about it?

I’d love to know your thoughts. Still figuring out what your next level of self care is? Did you notice guilt creeping back in somewhere? Completely disagree with me? Let’s talk it over in the comments!

Tracy at women making changes

 

 

 

 

Some resources:

Say Good-Bye to Guilt by Lynn Larkin MSW, ACSW

When Free Time Makes You Feel Guilty by Kasey Edwards (the article that set me thinking about guilt again!)

Deepak Chopra’s 7 Step Exercise to Release Emotional Turbulance

Any of Brené Brown’s books:

image credit: Markuso