This was originally published at The Elephant Journal
I am cleaning out my basement. I clutch my box of Hefty Ultra-flex Garbage Bags, inhale the musty aroma and repeat the mantra – it’s good to let go.
I unearth achievements from old newspapers and unopened gifts that I kept out of guilt. I exhume the exalted size four jeans, with a hole in one knee. I stumble over my college textbooks; their bindings as pristine as the day I purchased them.
I come across a 1995 instruction manual for the telephone system, where I was an office temp in between acting jobs. This reminds me, my agent hasn’t called in seven years. They dropped me the day I told them I was pregnant.
One of the things that surprised me about motherhood was the unanticipated disappearance of my old self. I attribute it to many things; weight gain, lack of sleep and time to myself, giving up a career that I loved, but I felt deeply that I wanted to be home with my child and that required letting go of things that I identified with.
I sift through an old photo album and admire myself in costumes or at parties with other youthful, enthusiastic performers and I wonder what happened to “that girl”. It is as if she was absorbed into the fabric of who I am now. And somewhere, in the process of that melding, I released much of her sarcasm, selfishness, and anger. Though sometimes I miss that feisty, sharp tongued, do almost anything on a dare, girl.
Yoga teachers often talk about cleaning out our inner closets. The practice helps us to uncover physical and emotional baggage and release what does not serve us.
We sometimes hold onto what we know because change is frightening and challenging, and staying with the familiar, even if it makes us ill, and unhappy, feels better than venturing into the unknown.
Springtime is filled with cultural and religious traditions that symbolize rebirth. Lent, Maha Shivaratri, Passover, and Songkran all pay reverence to a time of renewal; as we attempt to purify the mind, heart, and home, remove negativity, and celebrate.
Feng Shui is a practice that urges us to live in harmony with our environment. Feng means wind. It represents the unseen in our lives. Shui means water and symbolizes the manifest. It teaches, what we amass reveals something about our inner health; old letters and photographs prove that we are loved and befriended. Heaps of things that might “come in handy” signal a lack faith in the future.
Too many things hanging from hooks or door jams indicate depression, an excess of spiky plants or sharp corners make visitors feel unwelcome and create anxiety, cracked or dirty window panes can affect the way you view life, restrict insights, and even create eye problems.
Equally important is where we accumulate our clutter. If our basement is brimming, we may cling to the past and the subconscious mind weighs us down. An overcrowded attic often restricts high aspirations. Jam-packed junk rooms might represent the experiences we haul, and constrains choices for our future.
The home reflects the spirit. The list of things that need repair, and the objects we cling to for security or status—leave us feeling stuck and drain us of Prana.
I empty out another box and hear the familiar jingle of my old dog’s collar. I read the tag, hold it close to my heart then put it in the keep pile along side my son’s red handprints shaped like a heart, and my fathers copper bracelet that he wore to ward off arthritis pain in his hand.
The next plastic vault reveals documents that may tie my family to Sicilian royalty. I scrutinize the details in an old family crest and make a note to join Ancestry.com. My grubby baseball hat seems a feeble proxy for my tiara.
I am not so enlightened that I can let go of all my memorabilia but choices strengthen my connection to the things I decide to keep. Somewhere between the cobwebs and the keep box I realize that if everything is “important” then nothing is.
The day I entered my first yoga class I was under the impression that I had something to acquire; a fit body, a spiritual path, like-minded friends. But I have not attained, I have let go; releasing beliefs that do not serve me, forgiving myself and others for mistakes, and relinquishing control over life’s moments, allowing them to flow through me, as they are, not as I insist they should be. (I guess I am still a little feisty.)
Yoga creates space in the mind and body, which allows us to receive, process and offer energy– unencumbered by fear. Inside this sacred space we can develop the faith that we will be provided for and cherished without the aid of material things.
Releasing the past with reverence and intention creates room for the new and cultivates faith in the future.
Practice letting go; you may not discover a jewel-encrusted crown, but you might find that you are a princess on garbage day.