The Delicate Balance of Holding On and Letting Go

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. – Rumi

And what a delicate balance it is; so fine is the line between the two. It can be so easy to fall too far to one side and in the moment, so difficult for us to see which is the one to take.

And of course it’s difficult.

It’s difficult because we know and feel what is at stake if we choose holding on when we really should be letting go, or letting go when we should’ve held on: what’s at stake is potential pain and suffering.

It’s difficult because the answer isn’t always obvious. It’s usually a whisper, a subtle inkling, a quiet knowing.

It’s difficult because the answer isn’t necessarily the one that is ‘easy’. It isn’t the one of staying where you are. The answer: do I let go or do I hold on, is usually one that is uncomfortable, one that will create change, one that will (although perhaps not immediately),  reduce our suffering.

This is on my mind today because it is Sunday. And I have a complicated relationship with Sunday. There is something about a Sunday afternoon or evening, once whatever activity I’ve been participating in dies down, that leaves me with this sense of melancholy. Some people experience this as the “Sunday Blues”. It washes over me like a wave the minute I stop, the minute it’s quiet, the minute I recognize that some moment is over. Sunday, it seems, marks the end of something for me, and endings always seem to stir this up.

As I feel this shift in energy, my urge is to reach out and hold on to some connection. I have the urge to talk to someone, make plans, be around people (even if I spent all day with people and could really use the quiet time). In this moment, do I abide? Or do I let go, and simply allow whatever feelings that may arise to just be?

Our life paths are filled with these choices, each one taking us down a different fork in the road.

Do we stay in a job that maybe isn’t our passion but is secure, or do we let it go and strive for something else?

Do we stay in a challenging relationship and try to work through our differences or do we decide that our differences are too great?

When is holding on like handcuffing yourself to a sinking ship and when is it like hoisting yourself up the edge of a cliff?

When is letting go like handing the other team the ball and walking off the court and when is it like being a leaf in Autumn, ready to fall from the tree?

Yoga has been a tool for me to grapple with these questions. On the mat, in every posture, I can ask myself: do I hold on or do I let go? Is today a day to push myself for that more intense option, or the day to let it go? The goal of a yoga posture is to cultivate a balance between steadiness and ease. If I’m out of whack in a posture, struggling to breathe  and tensing where I don’t need to be tensing, generally the answer is let go.

When we get off our mats, we can apply these same principles. The first step is to notice (which sounds simple, but isn’t necessarily easy). Turn your attention to your body, your thoughts, your behaviour and notice what they are telling you.

Ask yourself: Where am I at ease? Where (and how) can I create more ease?

Ask yourself: Where am I strong? Where do I feel unsteady? What can I do to be more steady?

Your balance of steadiness and ease will guide you towards the answer; their purpose in yoga after all is to guide you towards liberation from suffering.

The more you practice this, the more you will learn to trust yourself and the whispers that guide these decisions.

And remember that, even after you’ve made the decision, even if you believe in the decision, your mind will likely wonder if you did the right thing, if you made a mistake, if you should try to undo it. This is what minds do, especially if you’ve thrown a curve ball at them and shaken up their comfortable existence. Simply notice it and continue on your path.

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