September 21, 2012

Be The Change Challenge: 30 Day Mind, Body, & Soul Challenge

Letting Go

There are periods in life when we need to look back, examine everything that happened, release what's no longer serving us and renew commitments that are still important. 
When I started this 30 Day Challenge on September 1st, I was afraid of letting go. I was more concerned with perfecting each yoga pose rather than embracing the natural process of yoga. I think most of us have been conditioned to "continually strive for improvement". We are taught to be competitive, not only with other people but also with ourselves: "Winners never quit, quitters never win", "Strive for the best", "Go for the gold", "No pain, no gain", "You can never win if you never begin". I've noticed that when I place too much emphasis and focus on the outcome (which hasn't even happened yet), much of the enjoyment is taken away.

Just for a moment, I'd like you to think about something that you really love to do.  Whether it's a love for cooking or writing, running or painting, even if it seems like something small and trivial. Now, take a moment to think about all the rewarding aspects of this activity. Like, if you win a race you have a ribbon or medal to show off, or a beautiful piece of artwork to display on the wall. Bittersweet isn’t it?  But when you really stop and think about it, these tangible items are only just simple reminders of the pleasure you get out of actually doing.

Taking this approach to the yoga mat has made all the difference. When practicing yoga, I've realized that there are certain poses that can humble even the strongest ego. Take Vrikshasana (Tree pose) for example. Looks simple enough, right?

The yogis I've seen in pictures on the internet or in magazines always look so blissful, balanced on one leg with their arms extending toward the sky. Okay, but when it's my turn, I certainly don't look like a model in a magazine. I still wobble and roll. Sometimes my face is all scrunched up in fierce determination.  Oh no! I just toppled out of the pose anyway. But, guess what, I've executed the pose, achieved balance, relinquished control, remained in the present moment, and, above all, managed to laugh at myself.

The one thing that's even more beautiful than the poses themselves is the transition from one pose to the next.  For me, the transition from upward facing dog to downward facing dog has become more enjoyable than the actual end pose itself.  I notice that when I bring more of my awareness to the "in between” poses, I understand where the word “flow” comes from. The poses are no longer separate, they are part of one giant fluid movement.

The same thing happens when I focus on the now in everything I do.  If I try to find enjoyment in the act of performing, the idea of a goal becomes almost irrelevant.  Guilt pokes me from my past and fear creeps in from the future. Yet, the only thing present is me.

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