The part of purging that I’ve never heard anyone talk about is the re-experiencing that happens in the final letting go. I myself have never really gone through the grief associated with letting go until recently because grieving has always seemed terrifying to me. I got quite skilled at skipping through the mourning period and just moving on. Through the practice of yoga, I am becoming braver and more willing to feel each emotion fully. I am learning that the self-compassion I’ve developed through my yoga practice is the key to allowing the grief to move through me so that I can truly move on.
I’m moving house at the end of this week and preparing for that move has crystallised this realisation. Given that I’m headed to a smaller place, I’ve been combing through my possessions, culling rather extensively. I’m not a hoarder by any stretch at all. When I moved to New Zealand (for the second time) six years ago, I only brought suitcases with me. Enduring two overseas moves has taught me that most “stuff” is more trouble than it’s worth to me.
Theoretically this downsizing shouldn’t be laborious. The problem is that I feel I’ve only kept things that are meaningful or useful. It is therefore emotional and exhausting, trying to decide what goes and what stays. A lot has happened in the last six years of my life, much of which I’ve not completely processed. A shortlist includes:
- I left the corporate world.
- I started practicing and teaching yoga.
- I co-opened a yoga studio that quickly morphed into a full-blown wellness centre (you may be familiar with it).
- My mother died.
- My father became non-verbal, was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia and was placed in a home.
- As his only child, I became the power of attorney over my father’s affairs and have had to make tough decisions, including the one to sell our family summer home.
- My two goddaughters have grown up. Without me.
- My oldest friend had two children. We always knew one of us would.
- I left my marriage – a relationship that spanned fourteen amazing, formative years.
- I started a new relationship. And ended it. And started it again. And ended it. And started it again. And ended it. And started it again. (you get the idea…)
The artefacts I have been combing through and evaluating span those six years and all of the associated memories. Everything I see, touch and sometimes even smell brings back a feeling, an emotion, a remembrance. Some of them are pleasant, some of them are not. I can see all my precious fears, former beliefs and fervent dreams welling up in a random procession precipitated by this exercise.
I am attempting to stay soft throughout the process, to allow myself to fully experience the grief so that it can move through me and I can move on. In deciding what to keep and what to let go of while staying fully present to the whole experience, I am developing more compassion for myself.
The practice of yoga also invites us into a process of letting go. Each time we come to our mats to move our bodies we move muscles, bones, fluids and energy. In so doing, we gain access to the memories we’ve stored in our tissues. Sometimes we’ve stored those memories in a way that holds us back from fully being able to experience the joy of being embodied. We feel constricted or tight or in pain. A great way to release it is to shift the subtle energy of the body that we gain access to through the various practices of yoga.
I believe that yoga and the experience of this subtle, gradual shifting of energy in my body over time have helped me to develop the capacity to face the grieving process more fully than I ever have in my life. There have been moments during yoga practices where I’ve felt confronted, frightened and confused. By staying present to my breath and aware of the sensations in my body, I was able to successfully navigate those moments.
Now, as I am faced with flashes of overwhelm while sifting through my memories, it is possible for me to draw on the experience of navigating challenges in the safety of my mat. I have my wee meltdowns from time to time. I whine, I cry, I complain and when I feel the urge to run away, that is my cue to stop and breathe. And eventually I remember that all of this clearing out is creating the space for a new phase of life to emerge . It is a necessary part of the natural life cycle.