“The most exquisite paradox: as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” ~Ram Dass
The first time I felt this paradox was in the middle of savasana after a challenging yoga class. I always say that yoga is a metaphor for life, and this is exactly why.
Savasana is the final resting pose in which you lay flat on your back, close your eyes, and do nothing. A super yummy savasana is just so due after your work throughout the class.
The more you are challenged throughout the yoga flow, the more likely you are to be pushed to a place of brokenness. You gave your all, and now you are spent. Dizzy and exhausted, you settle into savasana and release your entire body into the earth.
Lying on the cold, hard ground never felt so good. You lie in silence, let your thoughts and breath go, and completely release. You feel deliciously blissful. And you might actually be feeling emotions for the first time all day, or maybe even all week.
A slight smile spreads across your face as the sweat beads drip from your forehead. Or tears quietly stream from your eyes as you feel absolute joy and gratefulness. By the end of that savasana, you feel incredible. You feel like yourself again. You know you are whole.
And it’s a good thing they have you do savasana at end of class, because you need the build up of tension during your yoga flow in order to allow yourself to really let go and just be.
Could you imagine doing savasana at the beginning of class? Mind buzzing from a long, stressful day, thoughts racing. It’s possible, but much harder to do.
This was how I came to understand the paradox of letting go in order to become whole. And trust me, it took many years of therapy, meditation, reading, seeking, and savasana to get there.
We often cling to our desires and fight for them because we think we’ll be happy if we get what we want. But when we let go and accept what is, what shows up for us are often the things we need.
These things tend to be the ones that really count, creating true happiness and meaning in our lives.
But let’s face it, letting go on some issues is easier said than done. When it comes to deeper issues and matters of the heart, letting go can feel downright impossible. And on some issues, letting go may never happen. Some burdens may be too important not to bear. That is okay.
However, even on the more difficult issues you may be facing, there still may be places in which you can soften your grip.
I have had a strained relationship with my father since birth. From about four years old, I knew that he did not love me.
All throughout my childhood, my father was both physically and emotionally abusive. My mother was loving, but also put in a position of trying to appease her husband, while at the same time protecting my siblings and me. This inevitably led to a lot of confusion and chaos in the household.
Things finally came to a head when I was about ten. I was severely depressed, expressing passive thoughts of suicide, and displaying classic behaviors and symptoms of trauma.
After a couple years of therapy and attempting to repair things in the home, my mother decided to divorce my father.
Due to the history with my father, the court granted my siblings and me the opportunity to decide for ourselves whether or not we would like to visit him. Perfect timing too; my twelfth birthday was right around the corner as the divorce was being finalized.
So, it was at the age of twelve when I decided to no longer participate in weekly visitation with my father. I would still see him occasionally for family events and holidays, but I kept my distance and he kept his.
In my mid-twenties, I had little to no contact with my father, only seeing him about once a year for the holidays. However, I confronted him via email, defending my younger sister on an issue she was dealing with.
She was only sixteen at the time, and was devastated when my father packed up all her belongings from his home and dropped them off on my mother’s doorstep without any warning. Apparently, she was no longer welcome in his home, and their relationship, too, was ending.
In my father’s correspondence to me, he verbally confirmed what I had know all along, and stated outright that he did not love me and did not need me in his life.
I was devastated and inconsolable. Although I had known and felt this since I was a small child, I had not actually heard these words before. Something about those words broke me wide open.
I spun out of control and began a turbulent phase in my life in which I became severely depressed and anxious.
I immediately began doing work in therapy, finally addressing the years of trauma that I had experienced, coming to terms with my broken relationship with my father. It was here that I began the long process of healing.
Ten years later, I am significantly stronger. However, trauma is stored in our bodies, in our tissues, and in our brain chemistry, reminding me at times that it’s still there, but a mere shadow of what it used to be. Like an onion, the layers of trauma must be pulled back one at time.
Looking back on my recovery process, the most challenging part for me had to do with my clinging to questions of what happened.
I couldn’t understand why this had happened to me. I couldn’t let go of the fact that I was unloved by my father. I needed to have answers. I had been wrestling with these questions my entire life, and was bruised and broken time and time again, with no end in sight. This deep need and clinging only lead to more pain and hurt.
Through therapy and yoga, I have come to let go of this ideal. I now know that I may never have the answers to my questions. I likely will never fully understand why this happened, why I had to experience this, or why my father behaved in this way.
Now, instead of wrestling, I stand beside my questions, I cradle them in my arms, I offer them support, and I show them kindness. The questions, the injustice, the memories of hurt can be there, and I lovingly accept them into my life.
More than this, I know that I am loved, that I am deserving, that I am kind, that I am a survivor, and I am whole. I always have been.
In order to find acceptance and wholeness in my life, I had to release my death grip on my ideal relationship with my father.
Whatever ideal outcome you’re clinging to, could you be open to the possibility of releasing it so that you can breathe, yield, and expand into something that is bigger? Could you give yourself time and create space so that you can become concise and clear about your being?
If you can do these things, you will get what you need.
Not unlike that challenging yoga flow I spoke of earlier, the real work comes when your body, mind, and spirit has been fully broken, your heart has been ripped wide open, and there is nothing left to do.
And, no this is not easy. It will be hard.
Letting go will make you question your identity, leaving you wondering if you give this one thing up, who will you be? What will you stand for? Will all your stress, worry, pain, hurt, sadness, be in vain? If you let go, who will believe your story? What will others think of you? What else will you have to let go of? What will you do next?”
And here is where the paradox begins!
“What will I do next?” is a tough question that can be scary to even consider. But it is here that change happens, and you do have a choice. Wholeness is knocking at your door, and you know what they say, “When one door closes, another door opens.”
All that is required is to let go of the past and step boldly and bravely into your true self, your beautiful, loving, compassionate, deserving self. It is from this place of being that you may know wholeness.