Spring is naturally a time for renewal, so it is a wonderful time to purge our lives of what no longer serves us. However, for many of us, letting go of objects, habits, or toxic relationships feels overwhelming, even if we desperately crave the space that doing so would create. Especially around things we have held onto longterm against our better judgment, it is important to realize that often the apprehension about letting go is much more formidable than actually letting go. Years ago, I found this out through personal experience:
My boyfriend and I didn’t mean to collect a ream of empty Hot Tamales® boxes, but we did. We used to share a box while watching a movie—it was our thing. Still glued to the television screen, when the container was empty we would absentmindedly flatten it and slip it into a nearby bin of old VHS tapes to be recycled later. At some point the stack got big enough that it felt wrong to throw it out; the boxes were mementos of time we’d spent together. When that boyfriend became an ex-boyfriend it was on amicable enough terms that I didn’t burn everything that reminded me of him, and I simply never got around to disposing of that pile of flame-emblazoned boxes. Part of me felt like there should be some ceremony in disposing of something that had taken years to collect.
A year later, I took my first yoga teacher training, and my teacher spoke passionately about letting go. She explained a significant barrier that too many people face: instead of simply taking their emotional, mental, or spiritual trash to the curb and leaving it there, people hesitate. They decide to take another look inside the bag, to reanalyze it, to sort through it. Inevitably, they end up crouched over a pile of strewn trash that they have to clean up all over again; eventually.
My teacher challenged us to bring something to class the next day that it was time to let go of. To this day, my fellow trainees still say they remember me as that girl who came in with a stack of Hot Tamales® boxes. Interestingly, when I gathered the boxes together the stack was much smaller than I remembered; it was taking up more space in my head than it did in physical space. When I handed my teacher the handful of empty boxes, there was no ceremony. She accepted them and abruptly took them away. I don’t know what she did with them, I never saw them again.
Later in the day she asked me how I felt, and surprisingly, I didn’t feel any different than I had the previous day. I’d been holding onto those boxes for so long that I expected a sense of emotional release, or sadness, or, well, something. But, I’d already done the mental, emotional, and spiritual work to let go of that relationship. I’d attributed a significance to boxes they simply didn’t have; they didn’t contain my memories, feelings, or thoughts. The trash I had been holding onto was just trash. I didn’t lose anything of value, and now I have more space and one less item on my to-do list.
Intuitively, we know what in our lives is just trash that’s taking up space: It’s the stuff we hold onto just in case we come up with a use for it later in life; it’s the mementos we never look at; it’s the ingrained habits that no longer serve us. It’s just trash, nothing more. Today, I challenge you to let go of one of the old pieces of trash taking up space in your life, abruptly and without ceremony. Take it to the curb and do not look back.
Written by Barbie Levasseur , Bay Area writer, yoga teacher, and mom.