“Sometimes you have to let go to see if there was anything worth holding on to.” Anonymous
In the last post, we discussed what it means to break free from our modern lives of slavery. A friend sent me a long response asking me to consider the difference between freedom from and freedom to. So I have. What I found is that it fits nicely with this week’s theme on the Is Yoga Legal facebook page, where the Monday Intention was, “thinking outside the box.”
The notion that we must break free “from” something insinuates that where we are is not where we should be. While it is important to recognize the parts of our lives that are causing us more harm than we might like, we can also see these “problems” as teachers. They can provide us with the baseline to see where we might go.
We often hold onto our ideas of ourselves so hard that we forget why we started in the first place. We think of ourselves as lawyers, as yogis, as mothers, as fathers, as Americans, as Jews, etc. We let these labels define us instead of defining our labels. And we stay there. We believe what these labels expect us to believe, and we live our lives accordingly. For lawyers, this often means doing legal work long past the moment when it no longer works for us. As yogis, this means getting upset when we do not live up to the yogic ideals we believe we should.
But we have the ability to have freedom, freedom to think outside the box created by these labels. As Lao Tzu said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Choices we make along the way as to who we are need not define us the rest of our lives. We can think outside the box and be creative about who we are. But it requires letting go of our preconceived notions.
The quote at the start of this post questions whether our preconceived notions are worth it. How do we know until we try something new?
Yoga provides a great means to explore new ideas and new ways of seeing ourselves. Through yoga, we begin to understand our bodies and minds in new ways. We start to understand how the smallest adjustment in a posture can lead to a completely different experience. We learn to listen to the breath and notice when we are holding onto tension. Finally, as the same friend pointed out, savasana (corpse pose) remains a great asana for moving through these different ideas of freedom. It is in savasana that we have that moment to let go of the past, breathe into our present, and open our minds to what and who we “might be” in the future.
This path is not always, and perhaps never, straight and easy. I went to law school to help children, and along the way I did asylum law, worked at a law firm, and clerked for two judges. Now I am getting an LLM. Interestingly, I am more convinced now than ever that I want to work with children. But I had to let go of those ideas to ensure that they truly were worth holding on to, and yoga gave me the courage to do that. It gave me the courage to turn inward.
Most importantly, yoga gave me the courage to step outside of the box. The lawyer world would have put me at a law firm. And there was a lot of pressure to go, including the pressure of student loans. I read other law blogs where people lament their lives to no end but say, “I have to pay off the loans, so I am living my life at a job I hate.” That is the box. But yoga gives us the courage to have freedom to . . . step out of that box and be the person that we “might be.”
Who might you be? Are you ready to be free to find out?
© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved