In the end, only three things matter:
how much you loved, how gently you lived,
and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
Good God, it’s hard to let go.
For real, it’s an epidemic. I invite you to take a jaunt through your hamlet and investigate the neighborhood. Garages piled high with boxes of old magazines, garden tools, photos and rusty sports equipment. Sheesh, all that nostalgia crammed tight into every nook and cranny. Basements, attics, storage rentals and barns, we are literally drowning in our past—or as I like to think of it, our fear of letting go, aparigraha.
With echoes of other world religions, Yoga and Hinduism have laid down a set of ethical ground rules. Together, the yamas and niyamas create the moral imperatives for righteous living. I often think of them as the yogi’s version of the Ten Commandments. Yamas translates as restraints, and niyamas as observances (fun fact, svadhyaya, or self-study, is my favorite niyama).
Aparigrha is one of the five yamas, and is often defined as non-grasping, non-possessiveness—catch and release.
While I think of fishing as the ultimate Zen sport, I’ve always had a problem with catch and release. The fish gets hurt. A hook through the eye, or worse yet, the poor bugger has actually swallowed the thing. Mew. My Dad stopped taking me fishing when I was, oh, about six years old, because I insisted upon kissing each fish before it was freed.
However, sometimes catch and release is a beautiful thing to witness. The line tugs, and you crank the reel to find an iridescent pumpkinseed fish dangling from the hook. Sparkling in the sunshine and breathtaking, it wiggles to be free, gasping for breath. Little pumpkinseed fish, it’s your lucky day. The hook is carefully removed with surgeon-like precision. The panic in this wee being is palpable, as is the sense of relief as the fish is gently placed back in the lake.
Just like that fish, can you begin to release your past?
Start slowly, and go room by room in your house. Closet, kitchen, bathroom, laundry room. My theory is, if I walk past an item and silently growl in its direction, it has to go. Shintoism, the indigenous religion of Japan, believes that everything has a soul. Rock, hanger, crock-pot—perhaps these items begin to hold memories, pieces of us, like a mini-horcrux.
Philosophy aside, if that dress reminds you of a funeral, a job you didn’t get or a bad date, give it to charity. Who needs that energy clogging up your psychic space?
According to Ayurvedic theory, Kapha dosha is typically behind any hoarding tendencies. Kapha is a delightful blend of the elements Earth and Water. Gross and heavy, together Earth and Water make a thick, cool, goopy mud. Kapha sticks, clings and hangs in there, for better or worse.
Strolling down memory lane is fine, but constant reminiscing can indicate a Kapha imbalance. This imbalance can manifest in the following ways:
• Weight Gain.
• Woe is me depression—Eeyore style, “nobody loves me.”
• Excess Mucus.
• Foggy Brain.
• General feeling of heaviness or lethargy.
• Excessive sleep.
• Malaise—“I just don’t feel good.”
Do you notice a trend? Heavy, weighted-down symptoms that hold one back from life. A recent Cate Stillman podcast, revealed that studies have found a strong correlation between hoarding and weight gain. Kind of sounds too simple to be true, but it’s not that far-fetched. Think about it, in 1950 did we have acres of storage units? Our houses are getting bigger and bigger to accommodate all our stuff—and so are our waistlines.
Make a plan. After all, it’s now the year of the transformational Fire Monkey. Mischievous, cunning, magnetic and action-oriented, the Monkey is the perfect force to usher in a year of real change. Like an archer, set your target and steady your arrow.
Here’s what I suggest:
• Clear the clutter in your life. Bag up your 1980s duds and those college textbooks you never crack. Ditch the rollerblades and send them off to Goodwill.
• Delete old emails, texts and voicemails that no longer benefit you.
• Make a vision board. What do you really want? No, really. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.
• Letting go breaths, or the “Kripalu Dump”: deep breath in and audible exhale, get the shoulders involved. I like to do it obnoxiously loud; it’s more fun, especially in a public bathroom.
• Celebrate. Dance like nobody’s watching. Crank up your favorite tunes and shake what your mama gave you.
Attack this list with gusto, or simply pick one. Nonetheless, I invite you to take an honest look at your life.
Begin to trim the fat of old stories, insecurities and patterns. Surrender what is no longer serving you, and refill your well with all the bounty that is surely yet to come.
Lastly, enjoy the mystery, and let go; you have rope burn.