The influences impacting each generation affect whether the dynamics of ‘letting go’ or those of ‘holding on’ are more highly valued. All spiritual traditions emphasise the need to let go of the impulses of the ego and surrender to a state of being that is less self-centred, more spacious. They also offer guidance into what we need to hold onto, because this process of surrender can be so challenging. And also because some kinds of ‘holding on’ contain the vital energies we need for deepening our awareness and waking up. This is difficult for the mind, because the nature of thought is usually to grasp or to push things away. In the language of psychology, referencing now the writing of practitioner John Wellwood (Journey of The Heart), what prevents us from finding a healthy relationship with the dynamics of letting go and holding on are our fears, deep-rooted in childhood. These will be either of abandonment or of engulfment, and patterned by our earliest experiences of invasive caring or lack of support from our parents.
When we practice meditation or yoga, we are bringing these tendencies to consciousness. In meditation anchoring the mind, holding or harnessing or containing thought in a single focus, shows up the stream of thoughts so we have the choice to let them go, enter into our own experience of life flowing in us and see what is of value in the mind. In yoga we are discovering this in the body. In fact all thought begins with a physical impulse. Bringing the body to yoga offers an opportunity to see where we are contracted or where we collapse, both causes of pain and injury. It offers a space to understand where in our contracting we can let go, and in our collapsing where we need to hold on.
Vanda Scaravelli had the insight of how yoga can help us find a balance between holding on and letting go – by slowly and gently releasing and aligning, to re-train the body enable it to trust these three resources: ground/gravity, breath and wave. The jolts of life leave can block our access to these resources; we can stop trusting and the work that applies yoga to trauma reveals that our systems have had to hold on until they can find the resources to let go.
Through our practice and relationships, we can explore how we can find that resource and start to allow our bodies to discern through the inter-relating of our inner experience and outer responses. In yoga we find that this is paradoxically through a constantly moving process of releasing and realigning. When we move away from the temptation to stretch, fix or push the body into shapes, we find ourselves inside a yoga that balances opposites: flexibility with strength, relaxation with vitality and a groundedness that is complimented by lightness and flow.