I fell down the stairs a few years ago.  It really hurt, and I got a nasty bruise on my back, but I didn’t really think about it much.  I do that, move right along once the initial pain subsides.  I’ve got things to do, places to go, people to see!  The trouble is, my back never really healed properly, even though it felt okay.  It got itself in a bit of a jumble that’s caused other problems, more irritating and insidious.  I’ve tried visiting a chiropractor and acupuncturist to get rid of it, but nothing seemed to work.  I’ve recently been working with a massage therapist, and she said, rather casually, that problems like these, ones that should heal but don’t are often the result of not being able to let go of something painful.  This idea gave me pause.  Is it true?  Is there something I’ve been unwilling to loosen from my grasp?

I talked to my former student, now friend, Daniel last night.  He’s coming for a short visit and wanted to be sure we saw each other, which we will.  It’s nice to be thought of like that, wanted.  I like it.  Anyway, during our conversation, we talked about life and what we’re doing, and whether the work we do means anything or is going anywhere, despite the hours, days, weeks, and months we’ve been at it.  In particular, I was thinking about my blog and the fact that my last post was the 500th (Zowie!).  I’ve come to this space five hundred times, put myself out there as honestly and earnestly as I can, yet what is it doing, really?  Where is it going?  What is it about? What kind of blog is it?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I only do what feels right at the time.

I was at the library the other day, in a section I don’t normally browse, and found a sweet little book called Start Where You Are, by Pema Chodron.  It’s about meditation and how to practice and cope with whatever life brings, mostly by letting go.  I brought it home (along with a giant stack from the sections I do normally browse – libraries are awesome), and I’ve really been enjoying it.  She writes in a very accessible style, with many personal anecdotes.  I find myself laughing a lot and agreeing with her words, especially these: Give away what you don’t want.  Give away what you most want.  Nothing is concrete. There are no definitive answers.  There’s only this moment and this breath.

Then, yesterday, I popped in a bonus Shiva Rea DVD, again, like the book, something I wouldn’t normally browse, and watched an interview with Shiva about the practice of yoga.  At the beginning she said, “With yoga, you start where you are.”  Well, the light bulbs went off friends.  I thought about how true it is, especially in reference to Pema Chodron’s book.  Nothing is concrete.  Each moment is new.  With each yoga practice, I start where I am.  Sometimes, I am strong and steady, moving with grace and ease through the postures.  Other times, like yesterday, I fall on my ass doing what is normally pretty simple.

Then I got to the big picture thoughts that have been weighing heavily on my mind.  I’ve written five hundred blog posts and am nearly forty years old.  This is a big deal, isn’t it?  Something significant, concrete, should be happening, right?  Fireworks?   I should know what I’m doing, where I’m going, what I’m going to be.  I should be making money.  It’s about time.

Then, finally, it’s back to my massage therapist’s words and the book.  Letting go.  Everything is a passing memory.  I’ve had these ideas and expectations my whole life.  I’ve been holding on to the notion that I should know what I’m doing, be successful, that my back shouldn’t hurt, that I should like everyone.  It’s all very concrete and solid, like the knots in my back.  But what if I looked at life differently?  What if I allowed a space for softness, for not knowing, not grasping.  What if I let go of all the stories?  What if I start where I am right now, again and again, no destination, no need to be anything different than what I am.  What will happen then?

I guess I will see.

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  1. Carolyn’s avatar

    It is good to reach inside and search for the answers. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Great stuff to think about!

  2. janet’s avatar

    I’m turning 40 this year and I thought I’d have a house and husband and kids by now. It is hard to let go of our expectations of how life should be. It sounds like your back is well on the road to recovery though. Hope it feels better soon:)

  3. Lori’s avatar

    Lovely comments on this post and I especially like your mom’s Glenn Close quote.

    It is always a struggle for me to Content with where I am just this very moment rather than where I should be.

    Great stuff to think about!

  4. Beth’s avatar

    I think these similar thoughts all the time…and then: is it human nature? A result of American society? Some other unidentified (to me) factor? Does it matter to know?
    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. May you continue to embrace–and enjoy–letting go, even if you can’t do it all the time. :)

  5. Mom’s avatar

    Oh, how many times have I had this conversation with myself… have I noticed the earth turning and I am standing still, has my breath caught as I thought of what I may have, could have, should have accomplished?? And, here I am, approaching 62, with still no definitive answers, holding onto the belief that I have a purpose, my life is grand and fulfilling and I am worth this space in time!! Pema is so right!! We have to let it go, to be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. It is not clear and defined, but I believe it will come and we will see it, embrace it and hold it fast, for like everything else, it will be all we know.
    It is good to reach inside and search for the answers. To come face to face with ourself, to judge, to forgive, to move on, for this is how we grow!
    Glenn Close’s character said it well in “The Natural”
    “I believe we have two lives…
    The life we learn with,
    And the life we live after that.”
    Learn well. Live Happy.
    I Love You.

  6. Bruce’s avatar

    Colleen, I feel for you. We are hosting a couple & their 1 year old boy at our place who have fallen on hard times. He’s been fascinated with gardens, so we decided to give him the opportunity to plant & coddle over one. As it works out, he’s too busy wallowing in self-pity to manage the garden, and his wife was wondering what we would do with it when they moved out. (They are planning to move in August) My philosophy, and reply was this: We’re flexible and adaptable. No problem, no problem at all. We’ll be happy to take care of it.
    It’s becoming clear to me that they are in their 30’s, yet they are stiff and scrutinizing and closed minded, because they are trying to achieve that which they really don’t know what they want and yet trying to live reality in a fantasy world. We are open, flexible, kind, considerate and non-judgmental in contrast… down to earth, free and relatively happy – and we are in our 50’s. It’s been quite the contrast, and we will be very pleased when they are gone. We will have the satisfaction of providing charity as locally as possible – giving them an opportunity to pay down bills and get a fresh start, and at the same time, the satisfaction of having our home for just the two of us.
    Life IS interesting, minute by minute, day by day.
    Take care, give that lovely groom of yours a hug!

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