Why Letting Go Is Good for Growth

Spring cleaning. Growing up it was a ritual. Clean up, clear out, and move on. Growing up an Army Brat, we lived a pretty nomadic life. While I’m happy about the experiences, the countries and the people I was fortunate enough to meet and see, it also forced us to live very light on possessions.messy yoga

 

Moving every few years meant that everything we owned was packed up and shipped to the next post, and no one wanted to fill boxes upon boxes with junk. This was especially true when we were headed overseas. The houses were smaller; less room = less stuff.

 

Little did I know the very important life lesson I was learning; how to let go of things that were no longer helping me. I don’t mean that in the narcissistic way, but in the way that when looking at my stuff, I learned to quickly (before Mom did it for me….) determine what clothes I no longer wore, the toys I no longer played with, etc. And those things were let go. We would donate what was still in good condition, and what wasn’t, was re-purposed (dress shirts as paint shirts) or disposed of.

 

From that lesson (repeated many times throughout my childhood), I came to understand the necessity in cutting back or cutting away things and even people that no longer served a positive purpose for me. This might sound harsh, but it helps to understand that sometimes people come into your life simply to nudge you in a direction, and once they do that, they need to move on. Sometimes they need to be invited to move on.

Image courtesy of cirquedumot.com Page by Susan Silver.

Image courtesy of cirquedumot.com Page by Susan Silver.

 

Sometimes it’s a matter of sentimentality. Much like a favorite stuffed toy that we drag around until it disintegrates, some friendships we just hang on to. Maybe it’s habit, maybe it’s sentimental. Either way, some friendships are toxic and need to be evaluated, and if necessary, pruned, so that you can continue to grow.

 

Once you’ve identified what is no longer helping you, the next step (and sometimes more difficult step) is to actually get rid of it. When I was first given this advice, I was also given the analogy of throwing away the things I no longer needed. At least that’s what I was supposed to visualize. I sometimes found that visualization didn’t really work for me.

 

 

What I eventually came to visualize was simple; let it go. To throw something away, the very first thing I need to do is grasp it. When I grasp it (physically, emotionally, etc.) I hold it tighter. Instead I picture that whatever it is I need to move past is in my hand. Then instead of gripping it to throw it away, I simply turn my hand over, and let it fall away.

 

Image courtesy of www.naturerocks.org.

Image courtesy of http://www.naturerocks.org.

This subtle shift in how I prepare myself for “spring cleaning” has allowed me to make these changes in a way that is less jarring I suppose. Instead of the act of (at least in my visualizations) throwing something as hard as I could (emotionally and mentally linking that to a negative of get it away from me) I can picture a simple parting of the ways; acknowledging that for a time at least, this did help me and I’m grateful for that. The time has just come to part ways.

 

Whether it is a person, a thing, or some combination, it takes considerable introspection and sometimes brutal honesty to dig deep enough to see what is no longer working in our lives. It can be painful, but in the end, removing the toxic components from our lives makes room for new, healthier, happier things to move in. The next time you find it’s time to clean out, I invite you to not throw out what you need to get rid of, but instead, let it go.

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The Experience of Options

This topic has come up many times recently, and I wanted to share. Options, and no, not stock options (although those are nice too), frame how comfortable we are in a situation. My wife recently posted about how she gets nervous when I drive, even knowing I would never do anything to endanger her or our daughter. And when she drives, she often feels frustrated and finds herself stuck behind slow or erratic drivers.scaredchickenclipart

 

In working through an advanced curriculum in her own coaching career, she determined that the difference was options. When I drive, I see options everywhere. Some options are better than others and based on where I am and where I want to be, I choose the best option available. When she drives, she doesn’t see as many options on the road as I do. So when she isn’t driving, the mismatch of perceived options makes my driving seem more daring from her perspective.

 

 

 

Applying this to a larger scope, take a moment and think about a time where you felt trapped or pressured in a decision. Keep thinking about that time and remember the number of options or choices you felt you had at the time. Now think of a time where you felt completely at ease in making a decision. And think of the number of choices you felt you had then. Odds are the more pressure you felt, the fewer options you felt you had, and vice versus. That has certainly been my experience.

 

The question becomes how to change what we perceive in order to be able to see more options. I have a few techniques that work for me.

 

Breathe – My go to method for dealing with almost anything. Take a moment (or more), step away from the situation and just breathe. Breathing settles the mind and the emotions and allows for decisions and reactions to be made from a place of choice and not reflex.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Meditate – For the really big ones where I have time, I look at meditation as breathing on steroids. Same benefits of adding space and allow for shifts in reaction to become consciously chosen and not a habitual reflex.noncompete

 

 

 

 

 
Gut check – There has been a lot of buzz about the importance of our digestive system in overall health. I’m a big proponent of listening to my gut (instincts would be a good substitute here). Sometimes I will picture the scenario I’m in and choose one of my options. Then I wait for that tell-tale tightening that signals a less favorable decision. If I get a calm stomach, I’m probably on the right track.

Image courtesy of seeker9.com

Image courtesy of seeker9.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Make a list – Make a list of options you see. Make a second list of what the outcome you’d most like to see. Set the two side by side. Are there any options that get you to any of the acceptable results? If yes, you have a starting place for working towards your ideal resolution. If not, take a step and, breathe and think a little more. If all else fails, move on to the next one.

Some rights reserved by moonhouse

Some rights reserved by moonhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Ask for help – I don’t know everything. Sometimes the options I see are limited by the fact that I don’t know enough about the topic. In those cases, I find a friend or mentor who knows more, and I ask for help. Not that they will make the decision for me, but they will be able to help me see more options so I can make choices that get me to or at least closer to my ideal outcome.

Image courtesy of pyrat_wesly.

Image courtesy of pyrat_wesly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Listen – I put this one in because it’s probably the most important tool. It is an essential component for all of the above to be successful. If you don’t listen to what you feel, to suggestions, to the other options that arise, you won’t be able to expand your available options and will likely remain stuck, see limited choices and feel frustrated and pressure.

Image courtesy of www.naturerocks.org.

Image courtesy of http://www.naturerocks.org.

 

Each of these can be used alone, or in groups (except for listen, which I advocate using in all of them). The thread that weaves all of them together is space. Making space for yourself to clear your mind, bring your full attention to your choices and see if you are able to lift some of the pressure, get creative and see the other options that might be available. Because the more options you see, the less pressure you’ll likely feel and the happier you’ll be with your choices.

Adding Breath

Breathing. Something we do automatically; without thinking. I’ve discussed different types of breathing and why it’s important in other posts. Today I’ll explore the effects of adding different breathing techniques to yoga (or anything else).

 

Breath is the central focus of many disciplines ranging from yoga to martial arts to various meditative disciplines. The reason for this is the impact that breathing has on, well,manwatchingtv

everything. For example, I can be sitting in a barcalounger and use a calming breath (ujayii, longer exhale than inhale, dirgha, to name a few) and it will settle my body and mind. Sitting in the exact same chair in the exact same position but using a more aggressive breath (kapalabhati, bellows, fire breath, short inhale/exhales, etc.) will result in my heart rate increasing and my mind becomes more alert. The difference is how I breathe.

 

First a little experiment. Sit comfortably, or lie down. Take a moment to connect to how you are breathing now. Notice if it’s fast and shallow or a slower more full breath. Next take inventory of your mind. Are you feeling sluggish and foggy, or is the monkey mind reigning at the moment. Depending on where you fall, go through the exercise below that most closely fits where you are in this moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Monkey mind:

Image courtesy of NASA

Image courtesy of NASA

To settle a monkey mind (you know the one; it jumps from thought to thought and never sits still, whirling around like crazy), I’ve found this breathing technique to be quite soothing.

 

Place your hands on your belly. As you inhale focus on your lower belly expanding like a balloon. On the exhale, feel the belly sink all the way back to the spine. Start with about a 4 second inhale through the nose and a 5-6 second exhale through the lips. Repeat this cycle until your breathing natural slows and allow it to move to a 5-6 second inhale/exhale pattern. When the breath gets to this point, gently seal the lips and breathe through your nose only. Continue this pattern as long as you like until your mind settles.

 

If your mind still won’t settle, begin to count the thoughts as they fly through your mind and let them go.

 

With time, patience and practice, I’ve found this to be a simple and highly effective method for calming the monkey mind.

 

 

Foggy mind:autoresponse

It’s been a long day, just after lunch and your ability to focus is sort of like looking through coconut oil; you know those days.

 

To refocus the mind and get your day back on track, here is a breathing exercise that I find helpful. Sit or lie comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your belly. Take deliberate, slightly forceful inhales filling your lungs about 75% of the way and then an equally forceful exhale emptying out about 90% of the air. Repeat this pattern for about 10-12 breaths. Slowly let a normal breathing pattern return and open your eyes. Open your eyes slowly and notice a new sense of alertness in your mind and body. If, during the forceful breathing, dizziness or a headache starts to occur, resume normal breathing immediately.

 

 

Now that you’ve seen first-hand the effects breathing can have on the body and mind, I want to explore how adding different breathing techniques can change the experience of things like yoga, meditation and even just standing.

 

For this post, I’d like to explore standing. That’s it, just standing, no funky twists, bends or contortions, just good old teeth brushing, dish washing standing.

 

To start, stand up. Find a comfortable standing position, weight even on both feet, knees straight but not locked, abs engaged in and up, chest loose, shoulders relaxed and lengthen through the crown of the head. From there, notice (no commentary, no criticism) where you are breathing. Chest, belly, all over. Lungs full of air or only partially. Now notice how you feel mentally. Alert and present or a little fuzzy and disconnected.menyogaclothes

 

Changing nothing else, start breathing using the Foggy Mind method above. Just a few minutes is enough. Now notice how you’re feeling. The same, or different? Hopefully you feel a little more alert and are breathing deeper into the lungs with each breath.

 

Now switch to Monkey Mind as described above. Again, a few minutes are all it takes. Notice the changes in your mind, in your emotions and breathing. Ideally you now feel calm, centered and steady.

 

If this didn’t work for you, I recommend trying it sitting (if comfort was an issue) or just trying it again but perhaps for a longer period of time. Once you do start feeling the differences, breathing (at least for me) becomes this fun, fascinating tool that I can use to augment pretty much anything in my daily life and not just on a yoga or meditation mat.

 

These are two very simple breathing techniques layered with a simple posture. I encourage you to play with other types of breathing and to do it in other “postures” and situations. The effects are often unexpected and spectacular.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.