Monday, June 20, 2016

Letting go of what no longer serves

For the past three years I have been both contemplating this idea and living this practice: letting go of what no longer serves. Ever since we  moved from our duplex (occupied both units) to our condo (1/2 the livable space, limited garage storage, and no basement) I have been in the practice of letting things go.

The hardest of course was realizing that our beloved dog was in too much pain and just too sick to make the move with us. Having to let go of her was the most emotionally traumatizing. Of course it's a no-brainer that having her put to sleep was horrible and hard. But it's surprising that what shouldn't be hard to let go often can be.
  • The pull-out couch: No, it doesn't fit in our new space but what will we do if we have company?
  • Tools: No, I don't need a table saw, extension ladder, snow blower, etc. anymore. But what if I need them in the future?
  • My yoga room: I don't have my private space any more. Where will I practice? And where will I put all my props?
  • The yard and garden: What will I do if I can't garden? What will I do if I can't spend lots of time outside?

Thinking about all these things that I have let go, I am reminded of Deborah Adele's book, The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice. In particular, the message on Aparigraha (non-possessiveness): what you posses, possesses you. I do not want to end up as a little old lady who keeps all the things that ever meant something, piled up and tucked away, creating clutter and the feeling of grasping the past, or maybe being buried by the past as things pile up around me. I want to keep fresh in my life, my ideas, my practice.

I recently read Marie Kondo's books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and her follow up book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. I was amazed at her methodology. The practice of tidying up and decluttering for her means the practice of letting go of what no longer serves. She does this by holding each item to see if it still sparks joy. If it does, keep it; if it doesn't, let it go with thanks and gratitude.

Although I have already let go of so many things these past three years, after reading her books I was inspired to renew my efforts. There were some things I always skipped over when reducing: old ballet outfits, old swing dancing clothes, my stash of fabric, family mementos and hand-me-downs that had no use to me but which had a guilty hold over me, etc.

When I took the time to honestly look at these things, to hold them, remember the memories, realize this was no longer relevant to me any more, and give thanks to these items for the part they played in my life at the time I used them, I found a joy in remembering and in letting go. I was able to set aside the things that no longer served and I was able to reappreciate the things that still did spark joy.

Even though I have made an effort to have a gratitude practice in my yoga practice, it had not carried over into my decluttering practice. Reduce-and-reuse efforts in the past held more of a "Oh gosh, I really don't want to let this go" feeling, versus a "Thank you for being part of my life and providing joy and meaning" feeling. This change of attitude in decluttering really felt good. It feels so good to lighten my load and to do it with gratitude for the things that served me in the past.

In Marie Kondo's second book she says, "Tiding is the act of confronting yourself; cleaning is the act of confronting nature." Ms. Kondo only refers to yoga and meditation in passing but I am strongly reminded of Aparigraha by this practice of tidying. Especially since she insists that you must hold each thing to learn to hone your skill at what sparks joy for you. What this means is that you are honing your skill in what is true and relevant for you now. This enable us to let go of what no longer serves. If that's not yoga, I don't know what is.

Interested in lightening your load? I invite you to ask yourself, "What am I holding onto that no longer serves?"

Here's a few of my favorite quotes from the Aparigraha chapter in Ms. Adele's book, The Yamas and Niyamas, to help you along:
Like the breath when it is held too long, the things that nourish us can become toxic.

Anything we cling to creates a maintenance problem for us.

Our expectations keep us captive and often disgruntled, and yet we choose our attachments rather than our freedoms.

Best wishes to you in your practice of developing your "letting go" muscle and lightening your load.
Namaste ~ Sara