Knowing when to let go and when to hold on
Since I started meditative practices - karate many years ago, previously tai chi, and now qi gong, yoga and meditation - the focus has usually been on a combination of focus and letting going. Focusing on the movement or the breath while letting go of worries, regrets, thoughts, ideals, attachment to outcomes et cetera.
It's important to let go so we don't lose ourselves
Generally speaking, letting go is what we need to do to give ourselves the space we need to mentally and physically recover from our high-paced modern lives. To restore our own defenses, mental and immunological. To reduce the risk of us injuring ourselves and others psychologically, emotionally and even physically. Whether it be accidentally through exhaustion or an inability to take a hint or read between the lines, or on purpose through ill-intent, we can and do hurt ourselves and others.
That is why we undertake these meditative practices. We want to become more aware. We don't want to hurt anyone.
At the same time, I recently realised that in both the physical and mental sense, we also need to hang on. To maintain our balance. To avoid falling. To nurture, nourish and support who we are.
In a physical sense, I was on a cruise ship. I am a poor sailor. Actually, I am a poor passenger of any kind. I had tested the natural ginger travel sickness tablets on the roughest drivers amongst friends and family, and I thought I was all good for the cruise.
Each morning I would go out on the beautifully quiet adults only deck of the ship and do some yoga before breakfast. I would watch the sun come up and stretch to release the tension through my body from the unfamiliar bed.
On the last morning it was rainy and rough. But on the deck I could get undercover, there was a handrail, and I could focus on the horizon. Holding on, I could complete most of my practice. Then I moved to child's pose and turned inwards, and all I could sense was movement of the ship. I spent a lot of time sleeping that day due to the side effects of stronger sea sickness tablets kindly offered by others.
If I had stayed with the horizon, keeping my external focus, I would have been much better for much longer. I probably still would have gotten unwell when I had to return inside to warm up and eat, but the external focus helped me avoid losing my place int he world, my X,Y,Z co-ordinates in space.
Moving fromthe physical to the mental, I have at times found the same thing. In my previous workplace, I let go of my worries about doing a job I had done to much of and was starting to dislike. Just doing it because I have to pay the mortgage et cetera allowed me to keep going until that final straw landed on the camel's back.
Instead of letting go of the role, I let go of my conviction that I was in the wrong place and role for me. A conviction that I had held for at least 2 years. Instead of holding onto my focus of moving more fully into teaching yoga and meditation, I let go of it in favour of fulfilling a role expected by society. A role encouraged by those around me - "If you can hold on a bit longer...", "well, you have to do something...", "we have the best job, really..."
In letting go of what I knew to be right for me, I held onto fear of change, and the expectations and realities of others, allowing my physical and mental health to decline over those years. Telling people I needed more time off, but being swept along in the work that was put in front of me and my own delusion that a 'good worker' just keeps working. I lost myself in 4-dimensional time and space. I became a drone working within the world out there, but unknown, distant to my true self.
It's important to hold on so we don't lose ourselves
Once the camel's back had gone, I took the time and space that I needed for myself and my future in yoga and meditation. Some yoga and mediation work has come my way since then. I now enjoy my previous role at a new company due to a very limited schedule, just doing sick/holiday cover. It provides financial security without me having to turn down new yoga opportunities for 'work'.
I can do more of what I love, share it with those who need it, want it or love it, and be true to myself.
So, in summary, let go of those things that are imposed upon you by others. The expectations of society. The pressures of work and those around you. Hold on to those things you love. Those things that nurture you. That make you, you. Your passion - whether it be your job, your hobby, your family, your pets. The things that make you come alive. Let go of the worries and pressures that drag you away from 'you'.
At the same time, even the things you love can bring you tensions and stress. People get sick. Everyone moves at a different pace. Everyone has a different focus. All of this can bring stressors into our lives.
So, take at least 5 minutes morning and night to just sit and watch your breath move from your nostrils and belly and back again. Let any intruding thoughts go by, returning your attention to your breath whenever it drifts away. This will create the space and time you need to keep your physical and mental well-being while living life (rather than existing) with those you love, and interacting with the rest of the world.