Today I teach my first official yoga class after 5 months studying in India and preparing for the next chapter in New York. A friend of mine from the Sivananda ATTC, Tammy Jifri, had posted a quote from the Tao Te Ching the other day that really spoke to me:
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.”
Letting go is a big concept for modern yogis, mind-body students and those fearless explorers of consciousness alike. But really it’s something every person has to deal with on a daily basis…
Letting go of the fact that you missed your bus, because sulking over it just ain’t gonna get you anywhere. Letting go of your son when he goes off to college for the first year – you know holding on tighter only suffocates a relationship.
So today after asana class, when we sit down for some tea and a sangha session, we’ll explore this idea of letting go. Borrowing from the Tao Te Ching quote, how can we let go of “what I am?” Since this “what” is really only a surface-level name, Vendanta would turn our focus to the core of our existence: Bliss-Knowledge-Existence absolute.
In truth, we are not simply “male,” “human,” “scientist,” “good-looking.” If we hold on with clenched fists to these definitions, what horrendous disappointment we may feel when we grow old and can no longer find comfort in gross terminology? Lawd knows “good-looking” don’t last forever!
And then there’s letting go of “what I have.” Since what we have are really only forms, it should be relatively easy, right? We could take it literally and give what we have away, to Goodwill, to friends, to the homeless. Or, we can simply remember that nothing in this world truly belongs to us.
I may say she is my sister, but I have no real control over her, I did not create her, and her future is certainly not in my hands. I may say, “Well, surely I own my body, then if nothing else.” But what happens when an uninvited tumor moves in and starts taking over the joint? Unless it can be removed, the two of us will have to learn how to live in peace together somehow and the body becomes “ours,” in a way – something a good friend of mine is dealing with right now.
Something I think would do us all a lot of good is letting go of expectations. In yogic philosophy (and many other schools of thought) attachments and ignorance are said to be the main causes of our suffering. Expectation is a kind of attachment to a hypothetical outcome. And when things don’t go as we imagined they would, we get grumpy, don’t we? It happens to the best of us!
But how do we actually do it?
Let go, that is. It’s not tangible. You can’t just leave certain thoughts at the bus stop and pretend you never saw it. “Oh that, nope, not mine. That was here when I got here!”
It’s in our minds, our big mysterious noggins, the source of so much joy and suffering. For me, if I feel disappointment, sadness or anger, I have to pause for a few moments in silence and determine what it is I’m holding on to. It could be an old relationship that’s seen a recent change, it could be a belief that the line for coffee “shouldn’t” take longer than 5 minutes – so silly but so true!
Whatever it is, big or small, there’s always an underlying cause, and we have the power to let that cause go.
So seek it out, and set it the winds! For some, a visualization might work best, like imagining the negative thought dissipates with every exhale.
For others, a creative a mantra could speak to a solution, “I’m letting go of —-.” Or for the more intellectually contemplative, sit quietly and meditate on eliminating name and form – this is called abheda bodhya vakya in Vedantic philosophy – until you identify with the absolute essence of existence (sounds easy, right? ;o))
And when you’ve done all that, and you’ve successfully let go of something negative and niggly within, why not reward yourself with some good old fashioned homebaked cookies?! Haha, I had to ‘let go’ of my somewhat sattvic diet in the ashram when I landed in London and made these scrumptious little morsels with my good friend (and awesome makeup blogger/artist), Chippy :o)
From Chippy’s food blog, Blue Sky and Bunting:
(I have renamed the recipe: Chippy Cookies!)
Makes 20-30 cookies
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
170g butter, slightly softened
215g light brown sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
300g chocolate chips (or just under 2 large bags of Minstrels)
Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. You will need a couple of lined baking sheets – I prefer the reusable Teflon ones – two mixing bowls and a cooling rack.
1. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and set aside.
2. Stir together the soft butter, sugar and Vanilla extract then add the egg and the yolk. Beat well to ensure the egg is evenly distributed.
3. If you are using Minstrels then wrap them in a clean teatowel and bash with a rolling pin – you don’t want it to be too fine though. You could also pulse carefully in a Magimix.
4. Stir in the dry ingredients and then fold in the chocolate chips. It may be easier to do this by hand…
5. Form the dough into a rough sausage shape, cover in clingfilm and chill until firm – at least 30 minutes.
6. When the dough is ready, make hockey puck shapes and press onto the prepared baking tray.
7. Bake for approximately 10 minutes in the pre-heated oven until the edges begin to look golden.
8. Cool on the sheet for a minute then remove to a cooling rack.