Think Simple Now — a moment of clarity

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The Art of Detachment & Surrender

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. ~Buddhist Proverb

I wasn’t in the best of spirits when I walked into my local yoga studio for class on that blustery Monday evening. A slew of perceived problems, large and small, were spinning through my mind. I felt frustrated, helpless, and most of all, lost.

I wanted direction and guidance; I longed for the smallest bit of certainty that the decisions I’d had to make earlier would be the right ones. And when I considered relaxing and surrendering, I was unable to do either.

I was trying to run away from myself and my troubled mind, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Ironically enough, I’d published a post earlier that day about the fact that we all struggle with runaway minds and hearts. I’d written about the ways in which we are tempted to disconnect — to rebel against the love that surrounds us always.

The post emphasized compassion, forgiveness and celebration — all the things I wasn’t offering myself as I began my yoga practice.

Struggling to Stay Present

My body seemed to reflect my mental state; I noticed how my hips and shoulders felt tighter than usual. Tension coiled in my muscles, and it hurt to stretch them out.

Ugh, this is hopeless. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just stay home tonight? I thought. Though I knew I needed the release of practice, something within me fought hard against it.

Typically, when I go to a yoga class, I can detach and leave my worries at the door. I immerse myself in the practice, surrendering the stressful thoughts as I breathe through each pose.

On this night, however, it was a moment-by-moment struggle to even so much as stay in the room.

My mind kept turning over the choices I’d had to make and what might happen if I’d  made the wrong ones. The fight to keep my attention on the present moment made every sun salutation feel like a battle. My balance was off, and my thoughts clamored for attention like fussy toddlers, each determined to make itself heard.

Finding Detachment

A tiny sliver of clarity emerged when, instead of trying to deny the difficulty, I found myself simply noticing it. I observed it with the detachment of a kindhearted stranger.

I said to myself, Wow, how interesting: I am really having trouble staying present in this practice tonight. I surrendered to the flow of what was really happening instead of fighting it.

True, it was a small shift — but it made all the difference. Admitting that this was not going to be my shining hour actually made it seem bearable. I started taking deeper breaths.

And by the time we’d arrived at our final relaxation, I was almost, well, relaxed. As we moved into sivasana, I enjoyed the sensation of rest, the feel of my body against my mat.

As is her custom, our teacher led us in a meditation, and then remained silent for several minutes. She always followed this by reading a quote from an inspirational figure — a yogi or a famous author.

A Message From Me

As she began reading the quote that night, I was startled; I recognized it immediately. Those are my words! I wrote that! The passage she chose came from the post I’d published on my website, A Wish Come Clear, earlier that day.

Our teacher read, “We all run away from home, away from each other. We all make choices that separate us from real relationship. Perhaps not in the obvious ways, but in the small things: We don’t tell the truth, answer the phone or show that we care. We’re afraid, so we hide our hearts.

But what if we let ourselves be found? What if we acknowledged that we have all been both the fearful runaway and the forgiving father? That we know what it is to bolt and stumble and lose our way, and that we also know what it is to be the one standing by, waiting and praying?

And what if we put aside our pride and celebrated whenever we do reunite?”

It was all I could do not to move. I managed to keep my breathing slow and rhythmic, but inside, I was jumping out of my skin. These were my own words, being spoken over me in a voice of love and compassion. These were my own words, wiser than I had realized, teaching me what I needed to know.

Surrender Into My Space

How did she know exactly what I needed to hear? I wondered. And moreover, how could my past self have written the perfect words to calm my present self? It was all a mystery and a beautiful one at that.

And suddenly, those decisions weighing on my mind didn’t seem as important as they had. All at once, it seemed as if not knowing their outcome wasn’t terrible after all. In fact, not knowing didn’t seem like a curse.

The decisions were out of my hands now, and — like relaxing into a yoga pose — I relaxed into the space that had been created. If I had made bad decisions, I would just have to forgive myself for my mistakes and move on.

As my teacher and I bowed to one another, we smiled. Our eyes met, and there was my reward — the final piece: celebration.

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About the author

Caroline McGraw is a would-be childhood paleontologist and recovering perfectionist turned storyteller, digging for treasure in people and uncovering sacred stories in ordinary days. Download her free ebooks if you're ready to stop striving for perfection and start getting real.

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2 thoughts on The Art of Detachment & Surrender

  1. Mark

    I’ve made so many bad decisions in life that I tend to second guess every decision that I have to make. It runs me ragged to be anxious over if I’m going to regret it and thus add it to the rest of my bad decision log. I really appreciate your blog entry, it comes at the most perfect time! Taking steps to detach from the outcome and relax and forgive myself for not being perfect. Thank you.

  2. Taylor

    This is beautiful and reflects my life so much! Whenever I’m faced with struggle in life I am so hard on myself. I never step back and see that I deserve forgiveness, that I have a right to struggle and feel badly. I want to fix everything at once. Beautiful story, thanks so much for sharing

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