On this chilly winter's night, may this note find you cozy in body and spirit. I returned home yesterday from a beautiful holiday with my family in the mountains--complete with snow on Christmas day! I feel incredibly fortunate to have parents and siblings who are willing and able to travel halfway across the globe to spend time with me and my family. Of the many highlights that stand out from our time together, it was the conversations that I had with my parents and brothers that I will remember and cherish. Like me, many of you, in fact, most of you, live away from your family of origin. And while we are so blessed by technology which enables us to communicate virtually face to face, I find it's not the same as a "real" conversation.
In one such conversation with my mom, she reminded me of Marianne Willamson--one of our great modern spiritual leaders--and this morning I came across this most poignant thought of hers, just right for orienting oneself toward the new year when we typically make resolutions that aim toward a vision of our (improved) self:
"Spiritual growth involves giving up stories of your past so the universe can write a new one."
Letting go of the stories that, for better or worse, shape our sense of self is, of course, easier said than done. Certainly, I don't have an absolute recipe for letting go. It's something that I come up against daily, especially when I'm with my family and find myself adopting old habits, treading outworn thought patterns, and recycling emotions. I know I'm not alone in this. Part of the magic of being with family and old friends is the history: the collective memory of shared experience, the ease of not having to explain yourself, the conversations that carry on for years and across generations. But these same gifts can turn into burdens when we hold on too tightly to the stories instead of relaxing our grip on the past that we may open to the present and thus co-create our future. Williamson's wisdom is an invitation to trust in theinfinitely creative capacity of the universe (or Grace, God, fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-spiritual-source...). Endeavoring to release that which no longer serves me and open to the uncertain potential that lies ahead, I imagine myself as a trapeze artist in that split second between releasing one bar in order to grasp the other. It's scary as hell, and also totally freeing.
While writing this, I actually googled "exercises for letting go of the past" and there were 2.7 million hits! With so many approaches, how can we choose one that will work for us? My best guess is that we start with an intention. What better time to set an intention than at the start of the new year? Whereas resolutions are actions, intention is an attitude. When we focus on the attitude, then our actions will naturally arise from that space. In other words: "Energy flows where intention goes." (James Redfield)
For those of you in Lugano this New Year's Day, I invite you to join me this Thursday, January 1 at Yoga Amrita from 14.00-17.00 for a practice 108 Sun Salutations that will get the energy flowing in the direction of your intention. The number 108 is an auspicious number in the yoga tradition; here's an article that outlines why. The practice is suitable for all levels and there will be plenty of space for reflection, rejuvenation, and rest. Please let me know if you're interested in attending; spots are limited! The cost is 30 francs.
Whether or not you are able to join the kula for this tradition, I encourage you set aside some time in the next days to set your intention for 2015. As with letting go, there are numerous ways to set intentions. Here are some different approaches; you might pick one that resonates with you.
1. Vision Board
2. Guided Meditation
My mom just gave me a little sign that reads "Do one thing every day that scares you." I'm not a big fan of that idea, for pretty obvious reasons. Most of you know that, until two years ago, I was teaching high school English and moonlighting as a yoga teacher. The part you may not know is that, for years I had been ignoring my heart's calling until one day, in the company of three beloved friends, I finally listened to the story that was waiting to be written through me. Trading job security for possibility, institutional support for self-determination, a pension plan for a piggy bank, I took the advice of one of my literary heroes, Joseph Campbell to "be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us." So far, this is one of the scariest things that I have done, and also one of the most rewarding. So, in the spirit of relinquishing past stories, embracing the present, opening to the future, it is with joy and jitters that I invite you to visit my website! Enjoy.