When my yoga class begins, one of my teachers will often remind me to “let go” of what happened during the day. This first step is part of an overall readiness for yogi’s, helping us to clear our minds and become present and focused before class. I thought also of how it’s important to let go of what didn’t happen during the day.
Recently, I was holding on to expectations and waiting to hear news about writing, news about how my daughter was doing after her dog was run over by a car, waiting to hear about plans with friends, hoping for news about my work. Responding to anxious feelings, I checked my email and social media accounts too many times. Nothing happened.
By early evening, I went to class wishing that I’d had a better day. That’s when I realized that I needed to let go of those things that didn’t happen – what I might call my wishes.
I was in the right place, for I’ve learned that yoga teaches me how come to terms with what happens and also what doesn’t happen. It does so by grounding me on the mat with intentionality and presence. I’ve also come to believe that the harder those moments are on my mat, the more present I am by necessity.
Maybe that’s why I love yoga so much, it takes me away from the un-happening and stretches out my emotional maturity so that at least for a while, I’m taken away from my selfish self and am at peace.
Yoga practice has become a pause button; momentarily stopping me on the fast track of thinking about the future and how I can plan, angle, or strategize for something I might want. So much planning for the future is exhausting, and a ridiculous waste of effort, and I hate to admit, but I’ve spent too much time in that anxious tunnel aiming toward something called, “the future,” the bright lights of my ambition attempting to light up the dark path ahead.
The present is all I have, and I’m learning to embrace what it brings.
Some may think this is a way to simply rationalize or set the bar lower and deal with what didn’t happen by bringing down expectations. I prefer to look at it another way, I think of being more fully in the present as a way of widening the scope of my existence. It’s a strategy to slow down my life here and it works.
A couple days ago, I went to my favorite spot for encountering dolphins in the Pacific. They didn’t show up. At the time I was disappointed, but it lead to a new awareness when encountering the life in front of me.
Taking a big breath, I dove low and circled under a school of 50 colorful fish. In that brief moment, I had joined the world of fish and the mighty power of the Pacific gently rocked me and fed my need for motion.
My brain fired with visions of orange, my vision was stretched by tails and fins, scales and glassy eyes. I was in the present.
The fish were moving slower in the warm water and I was too. I didn’t know what was behind me as I rose to the surface, when suddenly one of my favorite fish, a bright Mooish Idol (Kihikihi in Hawaii) came from behind my head, swimming directly over my mask just inches away. It was my gift in the present.
I would have been happy to stay there, but my lungs screamed for oxygen. I rose up from the blue into a sun drenched world of people swimming.
That rising, that new breath, is always life-giving, and it reminds me to be grateful for every breath each and every day. Letting go and breathing is what I’m learning and the more I hear it, the more I read it, the more I experience it, the more it confirms the age old lesson of yoga and the depth of its wisdom: breathe in calming, breathe out letting go, smile.
Gregory Ormson lives in Hawaii where he writes on yoga and other bendable subjects, rides his Harley-Davidson, plays music and practices yoga. Twitter @GAOrmson – notesbygo.blogspot.com