re·lin·quish (verb): Voluntarily cease to keep or claim; give up
My morning sadhana, a disciplined pre-dawn kundalini yoga practice, is over a year old now. I was getting somewhere. Learning to let go, calm myself down, breathe, process pain, let emotions flow, grieve losses, feel strength, find hope and hit refresh each morning. But there is an intensity in me that I bring to the practice. I work hard at yoga. I push through at yoga – just like life. Kundalini yoga strengthens the nervous system, helping us stay calm during stressful times. It turns out, that’s not my biggest challenge with yoga or with life. I know how to push through. I know how to keep it up. I know how to be strong. It’s the other side of that equation where I am learning. How to slow down. How to loosen the grip. How to sit. How to be. How to not think.
This weekend I had planned a yoga weekend retreat -- a reunion with other yoga students. But the Monday before the retreat, I felt weak. I woke up with a sore throat. I tried to push through it. I worked. I took extra vitamin C. Had tea, got plenty of rest and figured it would be left in the dust, like most of my obstacles.
I couldn’t play the usual card this time. Instead of force, I relinquished. Even the sound of that word embodies what it felt like. Re-link-quishhhh – say it soft and slow and you can feel time slowing down. Re-link-quisshhhhh - It feels like a mantra. Like a healing mantra. I cancelled my travel.
I didn’t give up my morning sadhana – I’m committed to it and it’s happening regardless of how I feel. I slowly moved towards my yoga mat. I was exhausted in every way – physically, emotionally and spiritually. And the result was a shift in the yoga experience. I moved in slow motion. My breathing was deeper than usual and I could hear my breath. I couldn’t rush. I couldn’t think anymore – I didn’t have the energy to figure out solutions to all my challenges. I conceded. I felt like I was wrestled to the ground and forced to be still. I visualized the cowboy who ropes a powerful steer, jumps off the horse and twists the intense energetic being to the ground and the powerful animal has no choice but to come to a restful state. My mind was wrestled to the ground by a force greater than myself and I gave up. I stopped fighting. It took great power to stop me. The power of exhaustion.
I didn’t realize that I push through emotions too. I thought I was feeling my feelings – I cry regularly – I have bad days. But in this state of relinquishing my power and endurance, my emotional state dropped down into deep sadness. A sadness took over my whole self and I let it happen. I opened up and let it in. I had no fight left in me. I took the day off, had cough drops, watched movies, slept and let my emotions sink to the ocean floor, where they rested and settled.
When I woke up the next morning, I recalled the sadness from the day before. I had coughed a lot during the night. The weakness and emotional state felt the same. I pondered – should I push through this or do I allow myself be sad and weak for another day? What is the balance? When does “allowing” turn into “wallowing”? I never pondered those two words together – allow and wallow – interesting. One letter shifts the vibration.
My routine continued – hair knotted, dog let out and in, cats fed, ginger tea -- to my mat in the darkness. I had no intention of pushing through it – I would experience slow motion predawn yoga again. But something interesting happened. I had no expectation of feeling better – no expectation that my strength or emotional state would rise up – fully accepting that I was sad and weak. I noticed my power filling back up, my peace replenishing; my calm – coming back into focus. And my acceptance of things being the way they are. That I lack nothing. That all is as it’s meant to be. Quiet and slow could be an alternate way of existing – with practice. The weakness of mind, body and spirit, helped crack open the window and let a little bit more energy in and out.
We don’t know what we don’t know about ourselves – my intensity is all I have ever known – so to get to know anything else – is a mystery. Spending time with the sad part wasn’t as scary as I thought. Sitting with sad and letting sad in, showed me that it’s not a permanent state. I was scared that if I let sad in, if I opened the window, she would whoosh in with such power that she would knock me down and never leave. It would be too much for me to handle. I have too many responsibilities to be knocked down for more than a day or two. But when I allowed sad in – she came in with intensity, but evened out. With a released grip and softened control – she floated around and then slipped away. She wasn’t that bad. Letting sadness in, opening up the window, relinquishing control, wasn’t giving up. I thought that allowing or conceding, was a sign of weakness, but now I see it as the opposite – it takes courage and trust (or a bad cold). With practice, it could be by choice -- strength - inverted. Sadness and pain will come and go along with all my other emotions that I’ve pushed through but by opening up the windows, and letting the breezes in, maybe I can learn to put my face to the breeze – to take it in, open my arms to it – not put my head down and march through it with a grimace.
My cold offered me a gift this week. It wrestled me to the ground. I conceded, panting under its force. It cracked the window and let the elements in. It let sadness in. She came. She stayed. She floated around. She left.
When I whisper relinquish – slowly – re-link-quissshhhh --the healing mantra travels around my body. I feel it in my heart and in my aura. Relinquish. Such a pretty sound. Such a beautiful feeling. Such a powerful action.