I have always associated the idea of "letting go" with giving up negative feelings connected to bad experiences. Primarily in times when there has been pain or hurt involved in a particular circumstance and in order to move on, we must "let go" of the emotional pain so that we no longer keep feeling it. However, what about the times when our experience is enormously positive and filled with great things? Do we have to let that go as well? The answer is yes.
This week my family and I took a vacation where we visited and hiked through several national and state parks. We stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, hiked down into it, drove the winding roads of Zion National Park and hiked up two of its glorious peaks. We played in pink sand and stark white snow. We watched and smiled and enjoyed as an ever changing landscape passed by in the span of just two states. We laughed a lot. I can honestly say that there is not one thing I would have changed about the week, the time we spent together and the memories that we created. Then as I was gleefully watching my husband play in the backyard of our little cabin with the dog and our daughter, I uttered to myself "I don't want this to end" and that end of vacation sadness began to creep over me.
There is a word in yoga, "Aparigraha", which means non-possessiveness or non-hoarding. In fact it is one of the Yamas (moral disciplines) and part of the eight limbs of yoga. I haven't thought about this word in quite some time and yet as soon as I wished for those moments to not end, the word came rushing into my brain. It's funny what the mind stores. I began to think about how of course this all has to end, we will pack up our bags and the car and get back to our life on the road and Justin will go back to doing the show eight times a week while I assume the role of primary caretaker for Audrey. Our life as we know it will resume.
Let me take a pause here and just openly state this: our life as we know it is still incredibly wonderful and filled with adventure. I know that it is important to keep perspective and recognize that what we could be "going back to" could be so much worse. That being said, everything is relative and no matter how we exist in this world, at one point or another we will all (hopefully) experience theses moments that we feel we could live inside forever, and yet as certain as anything, it will change.
So why is it important to consciously let go of the times in our life when we feel joy? Think of it this way: when we hold our breath, we actively prevent the experience of the next breath. It is important to let each chapter end, no matter the emotions involved, so that the next can begin. Whether we are talking about possessions themselves, ideas and philosophies, or important moments in our life; holding on to any of them once their time has passed keeps us living far away from the present and limits what could happen in the future. Letting go of something requires a great deal of trust that, with what comes next, we will be ok. I truly believe, as Gabby Bernstein so often says "The Universe has your back". By not giving up the moments we hold so dear, we are saying to ourselves and to the universe that this is as good as it gets and it couldn't possibly be any better. Perhaps it will get better. Perhaps it will get worse. Either way holding on will most certainly make sure that the latter is true. Also what a powerful statement to make to yourself and to your life that no matter what, you've got this!
Another way that I have heard Aparigraha described is "the art of keeping only what you need." What a concept, in a world where such a strong emphasis is placed on getting what you want. One thing that this time of living life on the road with a toddler has shown me is how little it is that we actually need. We travel a bagful of toys and another bagful of books for my daughter. She absolutely loves and desires having these few possessions around when she sees them. The other times when they are stored away in our trunk she is just as content playing with or discovering the world around her, with whatever it has to offer. Perhaps children are the masters of Aparigraha. She makes it clear when one of her needs isn't being met (food, water, attention, etc.). Other than that, she is ready and waiting for whatever comes next with a kind of neutrality that is super inspiring.
As adults, who have had years of practice aiming to get what we want out of life and less focused on just what we need, we too can bring ourselves back to a more neutral place. For me, I find getting out into nature helps. As I stood looking out at the Grand Canyon, I listened to one of the guides who was talking to an older couple. He was saying what a humbling experience looking out onto this millions of years old, gorgeous, natural hole in the earth is. He said that on days when he thinks he has hit "rock bottom" and he comes to this place he is reminded that any "rock bottom" he is experiencing is self-inflicted and usually based on not getting certain things in his life that he wanted. The importance that we put onto things and experiences, both good and bad, is completely of our own creation. What we think matters to us will matter to us. We could actually choose to give up the idea that it does, take a deep breath, refocus on getting only what we need for a while and watch as our life and all of the limitless possibilities open up. We could choose to see our life as neutral space, ready to be filled with the next experience, and then of course, emptied out again. There is an incredible freedom to this kind of living and thinking. This is also why taking time to sit in meditation so that you can practice just observing without reacting is so important.
Taking a page from my daughter, everything is what it is, what is in front of me now matters and getting only what I need can bring an unlimited amount of happiness and joy.
is a Mama, Wife, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Coach, Writer and Activist. You can read more about her here.