The Yoga of Letting Go

A Peace Corps staff member told me last week, "Part of being in the Peace Corps is to feel entirely overcome by a complete loss of control." He couldn't have been more right, and I couldn't have been more blatantly slapped in the face with an internal struggle that had been brewing under the surface for some time now. Upon hearing his words I thought to myself, "Well if I didn't already know before that I'm a type A personality, then I certainly know for sure now." Admitting it is the first step, or so they say.

Not only do I yearn to control most, if not all, situations I become involved in, but if things don't go just as I had hoped or planned, I will have a tantrum. Not everyone may see it, but it absolutely happens. Those who been fortunate enough to see this side of my personality deserve my unending apologies and gratitude for their patience with me. Those who haven't should consider themselves infinitely more fortunate than the others.

So what do you get when you put a type A Los Angeles native with an Aries sun-ascendant combo in a rural community of a developing country? In a nutshell, a whole lot of crazy.

There have been countless instances here when I've felt surges of rage because of situations I've witnessed or been a part of, where I felt that things should have been different but I couldn't do anything to change the outcome. Injustices towards children, disappointments with relationships, and trying to navigate and understand social norms are just the beginning of the very long list that started pretty much as soon as I got here. Mix in the emotional turmoil of being away from my family, friends, and people I love and want to be with, and you've got me. Plus or minus the unmistakably good days in between.

So, what the guy from Peace Corps said to me last week has been on mental repeat since, and reflecting on it has really begun to do something interesting and powerful for me. It's given me license to let go. Let go of the need to control, let go of the feelings of anger, let go of what I can't change. It's a work in progress, but progress just may be what's happening...

This morning I woke up with a plan. After a short yoga practice, breakfast, and getting ready, I was outside my gate to wait for a van by 7am. Every other Saturday I teach a yoga class in town. It takes over an hour to get there from where I live, but I figured I'd have plenty of time to run some errands before class started at 10:30.

I was so wrong.

It wasn't until around 7:45 that I saw the first van. I raised my arm to let the driver know I wanted a ride, and with a flicker of his headlights and a wave of his hand he passed me by. That van was full. So were the next three. And the two after weren't taking passengers. Each time I saw a van I stood up with excitement that I might finally be catching a ride, and each time the driver flickered the headlights and waved his hand I felt my excitement disappear into thin air. I imagine I looked much like an orphaned puppy in the pound whose only hope was to be adopted by each person who walked past its kennel.

After hour one, my pre-class errand plan had been significantly reduced in ambition. As hour two approached, the plan was completely scrapped and all I wanted was to get to town in time to teach. I think most yoga instructors can relate to the feelings of anxiety that surround showing up late to your own class; feeling anxious and stressed is less than ideal when your job is to encourage a group of people to move through the practice with peace and calm.

So when I realized that this situation was out of my control, I had no choice but to practice what I'd hope to be teaching in a few short hours. If not for me, then for the sake of the unassuming blessed souls coming to practice yoga at the Alliance Francaise. Finally, just after 9 o'clock I caught a van which would get me into town to teach the class as scheduled, and man was I grateful.

After class I went to a beach birthday party for one of my students. The afternoon was filled with requisite kid party games, tons of food, swimming in the Caribbean Sea, and a picture perfect rainbow over the mountains to end the day. Sitting there peaceful and calm, I realized how much there is to be grateful for. All it took was feeling entirely overcome by a complete loss of control to see it.



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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.