Shedding

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.   Lao Tzu

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

Lao Tzu

Autumn is certainly here (despite the recent warm temperatures!), her presence visible in the leaves that have started to escape the trees and land on the city’s pavements and lawns, decorating them with their rich red, gold and green hues.

I too am shedding. With a baby due at Christmas, I need to transform the room that was for several years my study into a second bedroom, and to generally create some extra space in our flat.

For over a decade, I worked on my architecture projects in my little home office. It had become jammed full of files, product catalogues, samples of materials, and other bits and pieces that had randomly accumulated there. As I moved through the busyness of daily life, I never paused to consider how much of this stuff I still actually needed. Until the day came when I had to clear out the room so the builders could start work. That Sunday, it was so satisfying to hear the resounding thud of stacks of obsolete catalogues hitting the recycling bin. And once the room was empty, its energy felt amazing – so fresh, light and calm.

It’s so easy to inadvertently cling to stuff we no longer need and that doesn’t support us. Be it possessions, relationships or habits. Often, we aren’t even aware we’re doing this as we’re just so used to them being part of the fabric of our lives. And it’s only when we dare to let go, that we start to sense the freedom that lies behind the release.

It’s when we let go that we make space for the new to enter our lives. Interestingly, in the immediate aftermath of a previous bout of flat-clearing (just before my husband moved in with me), I was offered a number of new yoga classes and an architecture project. Coincidence, you might say. Who knows, but I’ve heard similar stories too many times to put it down to just that.

Shedding is, I’ve learnt, a multi-layered and perhaps infinite process. When you think you’ve let go of everything you feel able to, you discover there’s still more you can do. For example, when I cleared out space for my husband to move in, I thought I’d got rid of as many of my books and clothes as I possibly could have. Yet a few years on, plenty of these remain on my shelves and in my wardrobe untouched and, if I’m honest, unneeded. Something in me will resist a little at the thought of getting rid of them. What if one day…? Yet I know, deep-down, that the boldness of letting them go will be of greater value than the clinging.

When it comes to letting go of unhelpful thoughts and emotional patterns, daily journaling is one the best techniques I’ve found. There’s a routine called Morning Pages, devised by Julia Cameron, author of a great book called The Artist’s Way. I’ll be talking a bit more about this at my Triyoga workshop on Saturday, but basically each morning, as soon as you wake up, you write three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand. It’s a space into which you can dump anything, and the act of writing provides, I find, a huge release, and also allows for a greater capacity to plug more deeply into our wise and knowing centre. It’s why for the past 18 months I’ve pretty much religiously stuck to it. And during some recent training with my meditation teacher, Sally Kempton, she told us about a back surgeon she knows who’d done an experiment whereby a group of his patients were asked to just journal about their challenging emotions instead of having surgery. Astoundingly, the group who journaled had the same levels of pain reduction as the group who had surgery!

How about you? What could you let go of right now? Can autumn inspire you to do so? Spring is often talked about the time for clearing, but autumn actually feels perfect to me as we are mirroring what’s already happening in nature, and in these shorter, cooler days it feels right to be spending more time indoors.