What is Left When We Let Go?

The only constant is change. Change is inevitable. When one door closes, another opens. I’m sure you’ve heard many more quotes about change. What I know for sure is that with change comes the practice of, and the need for, letting go (like Elsa). Let’s explore the yogic perspective on letting go, while I share a little story with you.

In yoga we have ten ethical guidelines called the Yamas and Niyamas. They all have very practical applications, and as adults we have an opportunity to lead by example with the children in our lives. One of those Yamas is Aparigraha, often translated as non-possessiveness, non-attachment, non-greed, non-grasping, non-coveting. More simply, it is the ability to let go. How can we remain part of this commercial society, inundated with things to buy, roles to play, relationship expectations to hold onto, and practice aparigraha? I recently learned this lesson.

    Over the past three years, my little family has undergone much change. My son started Kindergarten, became a brother, moved from his childhood home, and changed schools. We also became a single-parent, one-income household. We are well-acquainted with change. We had to leave many physical things behind as well as emotional attachments to family dynamics. I began a journey of being unattached to a partner. I then worked through my personal attachment to the expectations of what our family life “should” look like. I “broke the frame” and decided not to build a new one, else it becomes an attachment of its own. Moving forward through this tremendous amount of change has been a practice of letting go, which involves a hefty dose of trust.

We practice yoga (almost) daily in my house, and I credit our resiliency largely to this along with our faith. In that practice, we do some partner and AcroYoga together. This has taught my children to find trust in me as their support, and also the ability to let go of their own gripping and holding in order to move from one shape to the next. There have been days I couldn’t see ahead to know how I would buy groceries, pay for childcare, keep the lights on, or buy clothing for my kids. I had to embrace the nourishment available in each moment rather than hoard it, and trust there would be nourishment in the next moment. In other words, surrender to the support that surrounds me. Just like in yoga postures, Krishna Das says we have to practice using our “letting go” muscles as much as we use our “holding on” muscles. There is always a release or a surrender that allows opening to occur, in my experience.

When we moved to our new (larger) home, it was bare bones living for about six months. I slowly unpacked things and observed how we lived in our space to determine what we truly needed. To do this, I had to pay attention. What I learned is how little we really need. My children learned that too as we lived without most of our belongings for a while. We learned to let go, and the gift we received was presence. We rarely felt a lack. In fact, I always felt like I had more room to live, more time to love, and more freedom to play.

Learning to pack lightly is freeing — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Deborah Adele writes in her book The Yamas & Niyamas, “A bird cannot hold its perch and fly. Neither can we grasp anything and be free.” In letting go and embracing change we can find freedom. But like the bird on its perch, we cannot experience freedom until we let go of the branch and trust.

Change is inevitable. I have learned to view it as a positive part of my journey to fulfilling my purpose in this world. I choose to teach my children to embrace change by teaching them to trust the process like they trust their breath, appreciate each moment for what it teaches, and to remember their own strength in times of transition.

Swami Jnaneshvara says this, and I agree, “Love is what is left when you’ve let go of all the things you love.”


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