The Art of Letting Go
Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Mike Watson Images
Whether it’s your inbox, your phone or your own mind, right now you are probably juggling more in your day than you are comfortable with. Messages of learning to relax, practicing mindfulness, and managing stress sometimes feel like added stressors, but with a shift in perspective, there is another way to approach your overloaded life.
One of the internal practices I have connected with over the years is qigong. My favorite yoga teachers integrates it into class, and I resonate with the internal flow of energy. I had been trying to connect with Kurt Miyajima, a local teacher, to take a qigong class for a few years, and finally the class he was offering fit into my schedule. It was a “back to basics” class, which felt perfect for me.
I walked into the first class and sat in a chair in a semi-circle with the rest of the students. We mostly sat for the next hour, exploring the spaces in our bodies, using our breath to direct the flow of energy, and as Kurt explained, practicing letting go. Letting go, he describes, is different than relaxing. Relaxing infers an active state, doing something. Letting go is really about not doing anything, and releasing the need for it.
The difference between relaxing and letting go felt profound in that moment. It was a relief to simply let things drop away. Kurt offered a metaphor his teacher had told him of the Chinese acrobat who spins plates on top of sticks. Running back and forth between the plates and sticks, he tries to keep the plates spinning so they don’t fall off the sticks. With this practice, he asks us, ‘see how many plates you can let drop’. This idea came with such a sense of peace. Imagining that I could simply let some of the plates drop, and indeed, in that moment, I could let them all drop, released something in me that was continuing to ‘run back and forth, keeping the plates spinning.’
Within that concept of letting go, letting go, and letting go some more, we were instructed to maintain integrity in key parts of our body, feeling the space in our waist, between our hip bones and our ribs, in the back out neck, along the back of our ankles. Bit by bit, he helped us create an internal structure, while maintaining and continuing this practice of letting go. It’s this dynamic that remained with me when I left the class.
As we walk through our lives, there is an art to nurturing the structure of ourselves, of maintaining our balance and our equilibrium, but doing so with a light touch. Can we find those key places that help us stay in our integrity without gripping to everything so intensely? I am learning to let go within that structure, to see and feel what plates can be dropped without losing all shape and form and substance. Indeed, there is effortlessness when the sense of lightness keeps the shape, rather than the sense of busyness. I vote for more broken plates.