by Angela Clark
“Let it go.” We hear this phrase a lot. Maybe from our yoga teacher, our spouse, a friend or maybe we repeat it to ourselves in times of stress.
You also may have realized how saying the phrase is much easier than actually letting something go. No matter how many times we repeat the mantra, “let it go, let it go,” it feels as though we’re fueling the fire rather than extinguishing it. Even when we know that holding on to whatever it is we may be holding on to – anger, annoyance, jealousy, or sadness – is not healthy for our bodies or our psyche.
We can take some advice from the sage, Patanjali. In his yoga sutra text, there is a sutra I’ve found helpful in times of stress.
Sutra 1.12: Abhyasavairagiabham tannirodahah.
The translation that I like, and that resonates with me is, “the way of stilling the fluctuations (of the mind) is through engaged practice and letting go.”
Yes, I know. There’s that phrase again.
However, if we look a little closer at this sutra, we see that it’s not by only letting go do we still the mind’s fluctuations. It is also through an engaged practice.
We need to be present with what’s arising in us to be fully engaged with it. To be fully engaged we need to be curious about the emotion or feelings that have come up, not critical. It’s a trap we can all fall into. “Oh look. I’m getting upset with this person. I should not be getting upset. I should be more understanding.” That’s the critical voice coming to the conversation, not the curious one.
One of the best things to remember is that there is a right time for letting go. This is not something we force upon ourselves, but something that happens as a result of loosening the grip of the clenched fist in order to help us to release. It’s when we can be inquisitive and open that we understand what it means to be fully engaged and present. We create the space and time we need for the release we may be so desperately seeking to happen.