Friday, December 26, 2014

A New Year's Ritual: Exhale to Let Go, Inhale to Receive

Many of us engage in some sort of annual secular ritual after the December religious holidays to mark the end of another year: one example is watching the ball drop in Times Square! Another one is kissing your lover when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve!

Rituals mark the passage of time in our lives, helping us create meaning from events which could otherwise get lost or forgotten in catalog of ongoing yearly occurrences: birthdays, children losing first teeth, all kinds of anniversaries...we perform a special action to celebrate these moments.

New Year's celebrations mark the close of another year come and gone. We look back, remembering the good times and blessings as well as the struggles and hardships. This is a jubilant time, and also a time to let go of what is now behind us.

There is a concept in Yoga philosophy about letting go and surrendering: Isvara pranidhana, from Yoga Sutra 1.23. Read up on this concept on your own and see how you think it could apply to your life (certainly Patanjali was not writing to us with our modern, Western New Year's parties in mind, but I think we can take his wisdom and apply it to our willingness to let go).

Surrender requires courage, faith and trust: to let go of our efforts, our desires, our memories, our wounds, our former glory or achievements--we must believe that something else is on its way or already here to be welcomed!

Time will not stop when 2014 is over (we hope!) 2015 will rush in to fill the space created as 2014
departs. We don't know what kind of year it will turn out to be, but we trust and allow it to arrive anyway. We must, if we want to go on living. Time always marches forward, with our without us. Our Yoga practice teaches us to surrender and ride this wave of forward movement with ease.

In Yoga we place great emphasis on the breath; indeed, the breath is at the foundation
of our practice. Our breath teaches us how to surrender: with each exhale, we
let go. As we go deeper into the practice of mindful exhalation, we can let go with greater skill and awareness. In certain pranayama (yogic breathing) exercises, we pause at the end of the exhale, on purpose. We learn to rest in that temporary space of stillness because we trust that our inhalation will be there, that it is there, at the door. We allow the inhalation to come in and we are filled once
more, with the breath of life. The inhalation nourishes and renews us, and we exhale again. In each and every breath cycle, we let go and renew. We surrender our breath so we can in turn receive what we need from it.

Our breath is our own natural ritual of letting go to receive.

As you find some time to practice during this final week of 2014, tune into your breath to help you let go. Set an intention for your practice to release and surrender events from 2014 and anything else that's weighing you down or filling up space in your mind. We surrender everything, the good and the bad, to make space for a New Year. Then, we open up to receive new blessings. Let's welcome 2015 with hope and confidence! Exhale...and smile!

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