In yoga, we use breath to create space in areas of tightness, where we hold on to tension or stress. As the space opens up, the tension drains away. The open space provides a lovely place where breath can flow freely and the body around the space can relax and just be. The intent is not to instantly fill the space with something, but to let it be filled with only breath and lightness. You give up the stress and tension, a release, a letting go.
My sister sent me a different way to approach giving up something for Lent: each day, donate a bag of something in your home to charity. It doesn’t matter what size of bag, what matters is the act of letting go of something that you probably don’t use but are hanging on to. It has multiple benefits, on many levels. It clears your home of something you don’t need, it helps the recipient as it may be something they do need but don’t have, and it creates space to breathe, both physically and metaphorically.
In the same manner as yoga, do not rush to fill the space created by letting go of your bag of stuff. Instead, rearrange the remaining items to give them some breathing room, or horror of horrors, leave the space empty. As a person who always rushes to fill an empty space, this in itself is a major challenge and foreign to me. Empty space for the sake of empty space? Yikes.
Earlier this week, as part of our continuing decluttering, my husband ‘encouraged’ me to attempt the process in my office. I am a paper and stuff piler…and this room reflected that trait quite beautifully. By the end of the evening, in spite of my reluctance to ‘let go’, we had several clear plastic containers neatly labelled, an overflowing bag of ‘to go’ items and a desktop that gleamed under lights that suddenly seemed ten times brighter. Did I mention in an earlier blog that almost every closet in our home now contains labelled clear bins of goodies? My office is now like that – clean, organized, labelled and orderly. It feels calm and serene and peaceful and the act of entering the room and sitting down to write feels like a gift.
It practically invites me to sit down with a writing work-in-progress bin and create. Yes, every writing project nestles in its own bin, with research books, etc. all enclosed safely inside. Downstairs, in my craft room (which we call ‘the purple room’ because it’s – hello - PURPLE!), craft and sewing projects follow suit. It’s such a simple organizational idea and judging by the massive breadth of containers available in stores everywhere, one that others have embraced as well.
So what’s the challenge in all of this?
Letting go is really difficult, even when it’s something you know you don’t need or doesn’t serve you. Whether it’s physical things, or intangibles like emotions, the pain is real. There is familiarity and sometimes comfort even with pain, and sometimes the pain in letting go feels worse, like reopening old wounds. Being able to live in the present, to be mindful and here for yourself, means you need to deal with those difficult things, to say goodbye to the past, then let go, and find peace and joy in the present. Create the space to breathe freely, not merely to exist, but to flourish and grow.
It takes practice and patience and sometimes a supporting helping hand. And it also needs repeating, over and over again.
All you need to do is just start…whether it’s 5 minutes of meditation, a yoga class, clearing a desktop, or tidying a cupboard. Notice how easy it is to breathe afterwards? How good the open space in your body feels, how good the empty space in your cupboard looks?
That is the art of letting go.