12 May, 2013

Sometimes, what you let go of comes back

Today was Gentle Yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

Over the past year, I met and came to know a new friend. After spending a couple of stints in Seattle, she ended up back on the East Coast again. But this weekend, she was in town, and we were reunited in Elizabeth's class, front row, in a place that had become part of the connection we shared. With her, as with many of my friends who have moved away, there had been this sad feeling of loss, knowing that the convenience of a weekly dinner will no longer be an option. This has happened so many times, with so many people, I am starting to lose track. It is actually becoming viable for me to potentially move to a new city, and have a ready-to-go set of explanted friends to build a social life there. The obvious location would be San Francisco, where everyone seems to go when they leave Seattle.

Sure enough, though, we get to visit these people. And they visit us. And sometimes, they come back to stay for a while longer.

The yoga is part of the process of learning to let go of what we must. It's about coming to accept the impermanence of all things. The good things pass. The bad things pass. The easy poses don't last for long enough, and the hard poses are over before you know it. That is the way of all things.

Elizabeth spoke in class, at great length, today about the Dalai Lama, quoting him via someone who had heard the speech. I don't remember all of her words, but one thing she shared was that we need to think about the pace at which we move, and whether that is the right pace for us - for our lives. Not necessarily talking about how fast one moves through a Sun Salutation, though that could be an excellent metaphor. But, more importantly, the pace of our lives. How much do we try to fit into it? And is it the right pace? By and large, she said, we all need to slow down. I don't know. I feel like I am pretty slow. But where could I slow down even further?

I work so carefully to not take on more than I can, leaving so much on the table, both in my work, as well as my hobbies. I used to beat myself up for it constantly. Now I just look at it all and think, "Well, I guess that's just not going to happen right now." I won't tell you that I don't beat myself up over some things, like not doing more music than I am presently doing (which is nearly none). But I have been willfully and mindfully disengaging myself from that "get to the next level" mindset that is ingrained into us by our culture. Do more. Have more. Be more. I don't really buy it, because I have never seen it work. I get jealous, sometimes, of those who have more than I have. But then I look at what they have that I don't want, and realize that everything comes with a price. I remember hearing a teacher talk about how the more we could let go of, the more attachments we could forego, the better chance of us finding peace. And that, I think, is because there is a limit to how little you can want. And as we let go of more and more, approaching that limit, nearing the "basic needs only" point, there becomes less and less far to go. There's less and less struggle, perhaps (I am hypothesizing), because we are ever-increasing our capacity to deal with the few things we have and the fewer things we are still working on letting go of. In the other direction, the problem gets harder and harder. The more we become attached to, the more we become attached. To more and more and more. And that results in an ever-decreasing bandwidth for dealing with any of it. No solitude. No peace of mind. No time. No satisfaction.

Getting better at letting go creates an opportunity to be grateful for whatever we do receive, because we don't squander the moment worrying about how long we'll have it. We just know that it won't be forever.

But it is for right now.

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