Friday, June 25, 2010

Free falling

The other day during Savasana, I told the class as I always do to "let go." About 30 seconds into Savasana as I sipped my tea and scanned the room, I saw clenched fists, jaw bones pulsing, eyelashes fluttering, toes curled. Seeing the collective struggle, I tried to push them a little bit, "Holding on is easy people. Letting go is hard." Some slight changes were evident. Slight. Bodies shifted, big breaths were breathed, brows intermittently softened, but the struggle continued. Tight muscles, scattered focus.

This idea of "letting go" has been a prevailing theme in my life forever. Why is letting go so difficult? And why is holding on, the act of gritting through change, physically, mentally and emotionally, an easier place to be? Because staying tethered to things and ideas that are known, while not necessarily more comfortable, is so much safer. "I hate my job." Instead of quitting (stepping into the abyss that is the unknown) we keep the crappy, energy-sucking, life-draining, dead-end job. "I'm unhappy in my relationship." We plug away, staying in the mediocrity instead of listening to the heart.

The idea of stepping into the unknown is scary. Things might get worse before they get better. They might not ever get better. But we don't know if we hang out on the edge of the diving board day after day, week after week, year after year. If we never step off the edge and tread the waters of fear, we can never know what letting go feels like.

The times in I my life when I have been the most frightened, the most confused, the most devastated, have been the times in my life when I have had let go-- letting go of a marriage, a career, a city. At the time these decisions felt like I had no choice. I know now that I needed to some part of me deep down knew I had to make those choices. Not letting go, not moving on, for me was impossible. Each time I have been faced with big change, I have held on tight, pushed against it with Olympic heavy-weight force, before finally taking the leap.

The first time I consciously let go in a big way, I existed in a state of free-fall that I can still remember as the most horrifying experience of my life. Now each time I do it (which is not a lot), it gets easier. Taking a relationship risk I never would have made ten years ago or making a business decision that feels right but makes no sense on paper. There are moments in these times when I feel like I am ruining my life or throwing so much to chance that I am literally petrified, paralyzed like in a scary dream. And then, I am out of the free fall. The fear is gone and I am on solid ground, hardly able to remember that the fear existed.

Whether you are lying in Savasana wishing the person to your left would stop nose-whistling or sitting in your idling car at 2am pondering the meaning of your life, the act of letting go is the same. It is trusting that letting go will take you somewhere different. Letting go makes room for new feelings, ideas, sensations, pushing aside what would usually fill that mental, emotional and physical space. Angst, anticipation, analysis, anger. For most of us, these experiences are familiar, comfortable. Instead of staying there, try something different. Soften your jaw, relax your toes, let your fingertips curl. You'll be scared, uneasy, for a few seconds, maybe a minute, maybe a week or a month. But then you're there--in the land of the unknown. And that's just the beginning.

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