letting go

All posts tagged letting go

Altared Perceptions: February 2012- “Courage”

Published February 5, 2012 by Susan Woodward

“What makes a king out of a slave? What makes the flag on the mast post wave? What makes the Hottentots so hot? Who put the ape in apricot? What do they got that I ain’t got?”

“Courage” — and that is the theme of February.

This is something I have been struggling with for quite some time and now, as I approach the golden age of fifty in two weeks, is really a good time to find my reminder of that which I seek… my courage.   I know I have it, but reminding myself of that fact seems to fall short (see my earlier post “Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road” for more).

The “altar” this month reminds me of how courageous it is to let go of our comfort zone.  The branches of the tree from last month have now broken away from the trunk and are free to find their own way.   It reminds me of how difficult breaking away can be.  Who can imagine a branch flourishing without the trunk to sustain it?  Yet these branches fly free among the moon and stars of the Heavens.   Letting go of all that we have known and “branching out” on our own is a true act of courage.  I remember what it was like for me to leave everything behind and begin a new life in Rochester where I didn’t know a soul.   It scared the hell out of me.  Like the floating branches, I felt like I had no roots.  However, in detaching myself,  I discovered a whole new life I never could have imagined.  Has it been perfect?  No.  Was it the right thing to do?  A hearty yes!

Adorning the branches are the white flowers of last month along with both evergreens and new leaves.   For me, I am reminded of how the white flowers represented the winter snow on the January altar.  Winter is a season where all seems dead.   Growth has halted as the world is at rest.  But February (and Imbolc) brings the promise of new growth, which is symbolized by the green leaves and the evergreen branches.  This reiterates the courage in the detached branches, as it takes a brave soul to suffer the loss of the old ways to make way for the new.  Death of former patterns and things that no longer suit us has to be suffered through if we are to reach the new growth that awaits us.  Yet even though we may let go of parts that no longer suit us, there will always be that which remains to remind us of our beginnings.  The birds that soar with the branches once nestled in the tree left behind.   The birds had symbolized those we loved and nourished in January, and that love does not leave us, even as we leave and take flight.

I also noticed the blue color of the stars and the ring around the moon.  For me, this is a two-fold symbol.

First, leaving our comfort zone and all we know can be sad in many ways.  When fear rises, nostalgia has a tendency to kick in and make us long for the comfortable parts of the past, even if they don’t really suit us anymore.   That’s why some people fall back into old patterns when the new ones get difficult.   From my own experience, I fell (several times) back into an unfulfilling relationship because it was easier than being courageous enough to go on alone.  Nostalgia has a way of coloring the memory.

But blue is also a color of serenity and peace.  I can only find peace within myself by having the courage to detach and follow my bliss.

In this way, the blue of the stars and the ring around the moon represent this conflict.  Although it may be sad to leave and move onward, having the courage to follow our own path is what will ultimately bring peace.

The same conflicting symbolism holds true for the blue netting that floats above the branches.  It could be viewed as the safety net that may catch us if we fall once we’ve taken flight, or it just might be the net of the past that threatens to ensnare us if we lose our courage.

As a safety net, the blue could bring us the peace of knowing that we can often count on people from the past to be there to help, even as we branch out on our own.

On the flip side, it could represent things from the past that never quite leave our memories and could trap us if we let them.

As I ruminate about my own courage and think again on my earlier post, I know that I am still looking for that physical symbol as my reminder that I do have courage.   I need and want that reminder as I venture forth so that I will no longer fall into situations that threaten to trap me in old patterns.

Haunted Memories: Atonement with the Past

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Close your eyes and relax.  Now take three deep breaths: one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit.  Take one last very deep breath and hold it.  Just when you think you cannot hold the breath any longer, pull in just a bit more air.  Again, when you feel as if you cannot continue holding the breath, pull in just a little more.  When you finally do release your breath, do so very slowly in a long continuous exhale until you have released all that you were holding.  Breathe slowly and deeply as you continue to relax.  Relax all the muscles of your body: your legs, your arms, your shoulders, and your jaw.  Completely relax.

Imagine that you are sinking down into the furniture, and in turn sinking through the floor.  Allow yourself to continue sinking down and down, all the while feeling completely relaxed.   You continue to sink down until you find yourself awakening after a satisfying rest.  You feel refreshed and ready to move forward on your journey.  Looking up, you find your best friend has already risen and is preparing breakfast for you.  It is fortunate that he/she remembered to pack additional food from the house before leaving since the two of you ate your mentor’s gifts the previous evening.  Both of you sit and share a meal, comfortable in the silence between you.

After eating, it is time to begin the trek towards the west to get back on your path.  The sun warms your back as you begin, and the day promises to be a glorious one.  How do you feel as you move on with your friend at your side?  What does the countryside look like?  Take note of the types of plants, animals or birds that you see… they do hold meaning for you.  Keep a list in your notebook to refer to later.

What do you and your friend talk about on the journey?  What is his/her goal that he/she is working toward?  How can you help?  He/She has already helped you in getting across the chasm.  What can you do for him/her?

Finally you reach your path.  On the other side, you can take a look at where you’d come from earlier.  It seems like a long time ago since you’d been standing on the opposite side of the chasm, trying to figure out how to get across.  And now here you are.  How do you feel?

Taking out your map, you consult with it to make sure that you are going in the right direction.  Your friend also takes a map out of his/her pocket.  How wonderful that it seems that you will still be traveling in the same direction!  Smiling, the two of you face the journey and continue.  Describe the path that you are now on.  What can you see in the distance?  How much further is your destination?

After traveling all day, the sky becomes darker and you decide to camp for the night.  You have a rolled up blanket that you’d taken from the raft.  Spreading it on the ground, you make a place to rest near the small fire you and your companion have built.  What do you two talk about?

At some point in the conversation, you mention the gift you’d received from a mystery person back in your special room.  Take it out of your satchel and show it to him/her.  How does he/she react?  Does he/she know what the gift can be used for?  Listen to his/her suggestions.  Look again at the object and try to apply your companion’s ideas to it.

Your companion also begins to speak of his/her own goals and dreams.  Listen intently.  What do your goals have in common?  How do they differ?  Why do you suppose that this person just happened to be the one to arrive to help you in your time of need?

For some reason, as you listen to him/her describe what he/she plans to accomplish, you begin to doubt your own goal.  Compared to his/her goal, yours begins to seem inadequate.  Why?  What makes you feel that you have to compare yourself to others?  What feelings go through you as you continue to listen?

Your friend has become very tired and lies down to go to sleep.  You, however, are not yet sleepy enough and wish to sit up for a while.   Staring into the fire, the dancing of the flames becomes hypnotic, drawing you into a trancelike state.   Your friend’s aspirations play in your head, making you feel insecure.  What has caused you to doubt yourself?  What events in your past have led you to feel insecure in comparison to others?  Watching the fire, you begin to see shapes taking form.  At first you think you are seeing things, but after a few moments, you note that a scene is being played out for you from your memory.  Keep staring into the fire.  What do you see?  It is something from your past…something that happened long ago that now causes you to feel insecure about other people’s successes.   What is happening?  Relive the scene as if it were happening for the very first time.  How do you feel?  Who is involved?  What is taking place?  Pinpoint the event that has led to the insecurity that you feel today.

Now that you have recognized the event, open your journal and write down everything that happened exactly as you remember it.  Do not leave out any details.   Write your feelings as well as your memories.    Write and write until you get it all out.  Once you have captured it all on paper, tear the pages from your journal.  With all the emotion you can muster, crumple the paper in your fist and hold onto it as tightly as you can.  You are about to destroy that memory, and with it, the insecurity you feel.  Wad the paper even tighter in your fist, pouring all the insecure feelings into it.  Tighten the muscles of your hand, your arm, and the upper portion of your body.  Continue tightening all your muscles until your entire body is filled with tension.  Let the tension flow through you and into the wadded paper in your hand.  Pull the muscles tighter until they are quivering.  When you cannot stand the tension any longer, let go.  Completely relax every muscle in your body, including the hand that is holding the crumpled paper.  Allow the paper fall into the fire and watch it burn.  Stare at the flames and see the painful memory go up in smoke.  Let it go.  It cannot bother you any longer.  How do you feel?

Your companion stirs in his/her sleep, but does not awaken.  Look at him/her.  How do you feel now?

Sleepiness begins to come over you as you continue to sit by the fire.  There is a sense of peace that permeates your body after having let go of your insecure feelings.  Relax and allow the peaceful feeling to wash over you.   Lying down on your blanket, yawn and look up at the sky.  What constellation is overhead at this moment?  Why might this be significant for you?

Stretch once more before curling into a comfortable position.  Take a deep breath and feel yourself drifting away into the darkness.  Soon you begin to feel yourself rising from your bed in the outdoors.  As you rise, you become more and more aware of your surroundings, and soon you are able to sense the furniture beneath you.  This is the room from which you began this journey not so very long ago.  As you become more and more aware of the room around you, you think about the memory you released and how good it feels to no longer carry that burden.  The peaceful feelings you experience from letting go will stay with you as you awaken from your rest.

Taking three deep breaths, one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit, you open your eyes to find yourself in a familiar place.

%d bloggers like this: