Yoga practice helps me to let go of things that restrict me. Thoughts drift in and out of my mind freely. We speak of forgiving ourselves for mistakes or flaws that we are working on. Sometimes we explore our afflictions, together as a group without necessarily sharing specifics. We lift off into Warrior III and discover that by letting go of one position we gain new perspective. The physical sensations remind me to stay in the moment and focus on my body. Some of the forms such as Pigeon, involve a slight discomfort. This enables courage and self-confidence while strengthening self-compassion. The discomfort is adjustable. It helps me build resilience in my everyday life.
Today we are children of freedom.
This is the bread of our affliction
Let all those who are hungry come celebrate with us
As far as I can remember into my childhood, these words initiate the new spring season for my family. We tell the story of how our ancestors became free of servitude and gained their identity. We say that each generation must feel this transition. This has not changed for centuries. We eat unleavened bread as a symbol of this transition. The unleavened bread is a symbol of loss of time, experienced during servitude. Fermentation is associated with negative emotions. The flatbread is thus transformed into a positive; celebrating our freedom. Think about it…we don’t ferment happiness!
Beyond the traditional story, I have come to think of the story of servitude as all that holds us back. Perhaps we are trapped by our material ambitions, forgetting there is always someone with less than what we have. Our smart phones demand to be checked! Were they not invented to serve us? Sometimes, as a parent, I find myself so stressed about losing ‘control’ that I forget love and support are the essential ingredients needed to influence my children. The list goes on endlessly.
One of the most difficult afflictions to let go of is the mindset of victimhood when a set of circumstances or a person has altered our journey or done us wrong. I became aware of this recently reading a book titled Advice not Given by Mark Epstein. A past trauma cannot always be erased. Rather than forcefully trying to delete a previous affliction, we could try to relate to it differently. This recalled two personal events after which I had to find a way to let go.
The first occurred in my early teen years when my father died. I felt shame at school, always hoping to keep it a secret. Over the next decade I had dreams that he went off on a secret mission in the cold war and was returning. The dreams eventually formed an image in which he was out of place. The scar faded. Today I speak freely of my father to my children. I try to inspire them with his love for all things art and architecture. We have some of his paintings on our walls. I have come to appreciate the personal and physical attributes he passed on to me. Most of all, I am grateful for the time I had with him.
The second event occurred more recently. I left my first professional job in Los Angeles in 2002. I knew it had been a bad situation for me, but I was stuck in the mindset of ‘quitters never win and winners never quit’. I had an essential role within the team, and I was uniquely good at it. I was unable to let go because I had not yet defined the toxic environment. Was this essential? Not really, but for me it was. I felt like I had not done my best to make it work. Over the next couple of years, at every national meeting, my colleagues were all advising me that I belonged there. Then in 2006 I went back to Los Angeles; to my old position. It was new management with the promise that all would be different. Of course, nothing had really changed, except me. Very quickly I resumed leadership of my former crew, but it was not the role I wanted. I realized that I had grown beyond the setting I was in. I started to understand that previously, my superiors had never been concerned with my development. I now had a different perspective which unmasked all the imperfections that I had not seen in the past. I had never imagined this could be possible. After about six months I began to look for a new position. I became depressed. The traveling, explaining my difficulty at every interview, and my feeling of failure all weighed me down. During an airport layover, I purchased a self-help book. I saved it for my office shelf. Thankfully, about a year later I relocated to Dover and resumed my journey. I picked the book off my office shelf a few months ago. In it, I found the note pictured above …….