Over the course of a day, we gather so much stuff: emotional content, things to-dos, stress, expectations, judgments, memories, sounds, sights, and tastes. We are in the constant flow of picking up, sensing, being aware, but when do we ever practice letting go of all that we grab onto or cleaning the cache? With the evolution of technology and the proliferation of information platforms, the onslaught only increases.
I have this image of powerful magnets attached to every part of my body and throughout the day all these things get sucked on and stuck there. Over time, it gets harder to move forward and even to see straight ahead because there’s so much obstructing the freedom to see and to move.
I wonder how this might look in your life. Perhaps you have a family and you have all the worry that fills your mind thinking about their health and safety, how the kids are doing at school, whether you’re spending enough time with them. Or maybe you're worried about finances and the mounting bills and the increasing cost of living.
For whatever reason, many of us confuse stressing and worry about a thing as the same as acting on it. I don’t mean to pathologize feelings of stress and worry. All feelings are our friends and act as important signals from our bodies that something needs attention. However, it is important to make a distinction between feelings occurring at the level of feelings versus feelings being the choice or action used to cope with a situation.
I want to share a personal experience of this. Yesterday in the midst of a busy day and busy-ness around me, I felt the need to step outside and to go for a walk to enjoy the sun and to rest. It was going to be a 12 hour work day and I knew that it would be good to do something restorative. There was a strong opposing voice that said “No! There’s too much to do!” I agreed but I went anyway.
As I walked I felt all the to-dos trailing behind me like a string of cans dangling behind me but instead of a celebration they were a haunting reminder of a future of endless work and exhaustion. I continued to walk noticing the people around me and finally landing on a park bench. In front of me, I could see parents with toddlers chasing after them joy spread across their faces. I saw a little boy running away from his mother. Perhaps this was a newly discovered ability as he sneakily looked back to see the great distance he created. I smiled.
I thought about the gift of children. They have no past really. Everything is new. They move throughout their day present to every moment with no thoughts beyond what is right in front of them. What an incredible gift these little Buddhas are for parents who teaching them to return to the present moment over and over again?
As I watched, I decided to practice letting go of my thoughts and anxieties about my to-dos later that day. I gave my eyes permission to see everything that was happening in front of me. I had a beautiful panoramic view of the park, the tennis court, the playground, the splash pad, the trees, houses in the distance, dogs chasing tennis balls, and squirrels in trees.
Letting go was not easy. The dis-ease, the resistance, to letting go was palpable, but the wise part of me knew that I could not function well, I could not be present with others, and serve them well if my mind was filled with all of my next things instead of the now thing.
In that moment, like something out of a Disney movie, a giant bright yellow monarch butterfly flitted by bouncing along my eyeline as if to say, “See!!!!” I smiled at myself not thinking about anything only feeling the momentary joy.
Later that day, I ran a boys social group. There were many incredible moments. One highlight occurred when one boy took the risk of sharing something deeply personal to the whole group and the children responded with kindness and attentiveness. Thinking back on it now I can appreciate that taking the time to let go of all that I was hanging onto made me available to see these boys in the group with the same joy of that butterfly. I became less concerned with what I needed to do to run a successful group and instead landed in the space of attentiveness effortlessly. Letting go allowed for the spaciousness to play, to be present to and to sit back and witness the joyful sharing between the boys and the support they offered one another.
I know you’re busy. I can almost hear you screaming it through the interwebs. I get it: life moves quickly and it’s hard to keep up with everything. I don’t know how we got to this point where spending 15 minutes outside seems like such an impossibility. There’s no way to add more time, but I’ve found letting go and cleaning out the cache to be a source of strength, joy, and energy.
The good news is the ingredients to this experience of calm amidst the storm are:
One cup of Nature;
Handful of Breathing;
Tons of Letting go.
The Cost: Free.
See if you can give yourself permission to take a break in the middle of your day in spite of all the chaos. Share your experience with others and in the comments below. I’d love to hear what butterflies you might encounter.