Holding on loosely through a cancer journey

Rumi famously said “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go”. It is really true. And in the early 80’s (my formative childhood years), the rock band 38 special similarly said “Just hold on loosely, but don’t let go”. I still love that song, and can sing all of the lyrics! My cancer journey has really been a time to feel this message. For most of my life, I was just a person who could buckle down and muscle my way through any challenge. I could handle a lot, and maybe almost prided myself on my toughness. But wham! Cancer happens. And cancer isn’t something where you can just bite your lip, lower your head, and mow it over with your willpower and stubborness. A cancer journey unfolds on its own time, teaching us patience and the ability to release our need to control things with our will, or to force them to happen on our desired timeline. Many things are simply out of our control, and to try to hold on to that control is just inflicting unnecessary suffering on ourselves. And a cancer journey also often hits with such intensity (both physically and emotionally) that we cannot just muscle through, even if we wanted to. We learn to loosen our grip, to surrender, to let go, or let be what will. Along the way, we learn to identify when we can fight back a little and show our strength, and when we must again surrender and quietly accept the situation…. and in that dance, in that exquisite balance between holding on and letting go, we find freedom and grace.

So too, in yoga, we have to learn to balance holding on and letting go. Very commonly we get in our own way by gripping too intensely, or trying too hard in a pose. You might notice that in a backbending pose you feel a ton of tightening in the muscles of your back, and if you can learn to relax those muscles and soften into the pose, you’ll find more depth as well as more comfort in the pose. This is common in many postures, some more than others depending on your particular body type and what come easier to you. So next time you are practicing asana, really tune in to your level of effort and try to feel when you are fighting against yourself. Soften into the pose, while still maintaining a steady gentle strength. Find that perfect balance between effort and ease, and you’ll discover amazing depth. This is where the magic happens. And this magic can then accompany you off of your mat and into life’s challenges, be they cancer, or job stress, or interpersonal relationship stress, or whatever.

As 38 Special taught me at an early age, just hold on loosely, but don’t let go. If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna loose control. (I hope you are singing it in your head now too!).

Namaste friends and Happy Saturday!

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