September 2011


“Letting go” is a phrase much used in the teaching and support of practices like yoga, meditation and mindfulness.  In the experience of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, there is also support for letting go, however, there is no teaching offered that will instruct you in how to do that.   The reason being that only you, the individual “you,” can tap into what it is that keeps you from letting go.  No one else can know, but how would it be to accept a practitioner’s invitation to explore?

In order to let go, there must be some understanding of your own unique process of holding on.  You must first develop awareness of where in your body you feel the sensation of holding.  Whether the holding applies to a thought, an emotion,  a memory or a story about yourself, it is stored in the cells of your body and held there.  It is easy to believe that this holding is the way you are supposed to be – the real you.  And if the story, emotion, thought or memory is significant – in other words, if it carries a lot of weight or energy for you – then the effort of holding on will also contain much weight or energy.  It will seem that there is no foreseeable way of letting go.

We don’t as a rule hold on to something of little import or value to us, however, that doesn’t mean that we always know what the attachment really is.  Sometimes the holding comes out of a desire that our life situations or relationships be different than they are.  At those times, the energy may be more about holding back than holding on.  And still, the intention of letting go begins with asking where in your body is the locus of this holding.

You might stop where you are right now and pay attention to what’s happening with your breath.  If you notice holding, it’s not likely to be the kind of  “holding your breath til you turn blue”  – we know what that looks like.  For sure it will be much more subtle than that.  It could be that you take in less than a full breath, or you grasp at the breath and pull it out of the air as opposed to receiving it in a gentler way.  Suppose your awareness simply tells you that your breath could perhaps be different than it is.

How would it be to check in with the rest of your physical body to notice where and how holding might be happening?  Remember that it can show up in many different ways –  as a tightness in a muscle, an ache that may be felt deep inside a part of you,  a felt sense of some part not functioning the way it should, a heaviness, a weariness in your body.  You see, holding can be present in so many ways.  The discovery can happen in the naming of it.   Bringing awareness to it can then be the next step in the process of understanding whether this holding serves you anymore and then appreciating that you have a choice.

I imagine the next question you might have is how you can be certain that what you notice is “holding.”  The answer is that sometimes, in fact, you don’t know you’re holding on until you have the experience of letting go…

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It begins with the body.  It’s the physical body that is the medium, providing fertile ground  for exploring.  And “exploration” is exactly what takes place by attending to the inner experience of what is happening – moment to moment – in the body as well as in emotions, thoughts  and in the connection to what feels greater than all these put together.

You might wonder how this happens.  Essentially, it is through an amazing process of noticing sensations, memories, feelings, words and phrases, colors and images that surface as the body is moved and supported in postures and patterns.  As this occurs, the Witness (the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy practitioner) allows the client to explore whatever is noticed, spoken or not.  While the focus of the client throughout the session is inward, the practitioner provides physical safety, active listening and an invitation to explore whatever shows up at the edge of awareness.

I want to say, “That’s all there is to it,” but one must appreciate that simplicity can only truly exist when there is a solid foundation beneath it.

At the core, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is a process, not a protocol or a treatment.  It is a relational process guided and supported by the practitioner in which the client interacts with himself, navigating his inner body experiences.  This way of being with a client is based on a two-fold path: one that incorporates the eight limbs of yoga, anatomy, body mechanics and verbal skills and a second that develops the skills of mindfulness, compassion, intention and appreciation for whatever happens.  The core combines both; the practitioner combines both.

Simply put, the process facilitates the client staying in the present experience of his body as he explores what’s happening now, in that moment.  It all happens for the client from the inside out – enabled by the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy practitioner.  And while the therapy session moves forward from beginning to end, the take-away is created by the client, never prescribed or taught by the practitioner.

A Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy practitioner is so much more than a teacher or a healer, emerging out of a process that is based on the fact that human beings have the capacity to heal themselves.  They require only fertile ground and a climate that promotes healing and change to occur.   What can happen then is truly amazing…

There has been some space since the last writing.  Weeks have gone by with life reflecting an unsettled, at times, refusing-to-be-named, inner experience.  It wasn’t until walking meditation this morning that the name surfaced and clarity ensued.  It’s the Weight of Loss.

How is it that changes in life that result in the loss of a person or place or familiar role, or an event that changes forever the idea we have of our world, can leave us carrying such a burden?  How is it that loss can be so heavy?  Isn’t there an oxymoron in there somewhere?  And even as the weight of loss shifts and becomes lighter over time, how is it that it can get so heavy again at the time of the anniversary of that life-changing event?

Perhaps, in part, because we unconsciously feed this loss and nurture it, thinking that we can go back to what was.  All the practices that support our awareness and acceptance of change, our experience in meditation, doing or being yoga, becoming mindful of the present moment again and again, don’t often shift the core of loss that we carry.  We walk around it, observe it, sometimes challenge it, rage at it, but almost never do we greet it with compassion and gratitude.

What would that even feel like?  Does it seem possible to be grateful for an experience of loss that we didn’t ask for or welcome?  Perhaps one needn’t appreciate what happened, but in order to take the next step, to move forward in life, there must be some letting go.  Otherwise, what happens is that weight accumulates, and with each loss, the burden becomes heavier.  Then, at some point, there is no going forward, and letting go is more and more difficult.

Consider that compassion and gratitude may be as light as loss is heavy.  Maybe instead of putting on the heavy overcoat of loss today, one could try (or even simply imagine) wearing a coat woven of compassion and gratitude.  It doesn’t have to be gratitude for the whole event or experience of loss.  It can be compassion around one small aspect of it.  A kinder, softer way of relating to that one piece.  It would be akin to having an intention of being kinder and softer towards oneself – toward the one who carries this burden.

That might be a beginning – a next step down the path of lessening the weight of loss…

This post is dedicated to all those who carry the weight of loss – especially from the events of 9-11-2001.