This is a part of The Cultivate Project. A once a month project where I explore mindsets and practices we can cultivate and nurture to bring more care to ourselves and others.
For a short time the Release collection is available as an art print or notebooks or sketchbooks. But they are only available until April 12, 2022. After that I’ll move on to the next month’s cultivation project.
Breathe in, breathe out. Whew – let it go. How many times do you utilize this method when things are bothering you? Does it always work? Do you do something else?
Our breath is our very existence. It is what we come down to so it’s no wonder to me why experts suggest breathing exercises for when we are stressed, upset, or need just a moment to gather ourselves. It’s no wonder meditation often focuses on the slow work of breathing. Even in athletics breathing is important. I always found when I was coaching that athletes who were great at finding the rhythm of their breath to match their gait were more relaxed and could endure more. As I run, if I become stressed, it is my breath that first becomes hitched.
So without a doubt, the way we take in breath and more importantly, the way we release our breath is vital to our well being.
In much the same way, what we take in and more importantly what we let go of is also vital to our well being.
Paying attention to what we allow into our minds will often shine a light on how those things affect our mindset, our mood, and ultimately our well being. We can often control those things we let in – like not watching the news because it causes stress. But there are times we can’t control those things. It is in these times that I think it’s important to recognize how these things affect us and then even more so let them go or hold on to them.
I want to argue that there is a time to hold on to stressors or things that may cause grief because there may be a lesson there, we may need to sort why we feel these things, or it may be something we need to grieve for. But often, I also think we hold on to things that aren’t serving us. It is these things we need to release like letting out a big breath of air like a sigh that will allow all those things to leave our mind and body.
These are things that no one else can tell you to hold on to or release but it’s important for you to recognize when it’s ok to hold on to those and when you need to let them go. For example, are you harboring a hurt that instead deserves forgiveness? Releasing the hurt along with forgiveness will open up room in your mind and body for better things.
Are you harboring mindsets that might be holding you back? Releasing them will open your mind up to different possibilities. Are you holding on tight to a mood that is holding you back? Because yes, even just a mood can hold you back because often rather than fighting that mood, we reach for a blankie that we want to comfort us and often those blankies are not productive. Instead we can find a way to fight the mood, release it and move on with our purpose.
I want to stop and admit, sometimes letting go is scary. That release means we have to say goodbye to something and saying goodbye to something often leaves a hole. One that we may not know what will fill it. I’ll give you a big example in my life. When we made the decision that I should quit teaching, I was super scared. Scared because it was a loss of income (but on paper we were losing income because I was teaching) but more so because it was a loss of what I thought was my purpose, of something I loved. This was one point in my life I probably needed a therapist because it left a huge gaping hole.
But now in retrospect I see what I gained from letting go of teaching. That gaping hole was filled by time with my daughters I’d never trade for. It was filled with opportunity to reintroduce myself to art and other things. It was filled by a purpose that wasn’t determined by me but drives me more than teaching did. But the bigger lesson in hindsight is I had allowed it to not only become my identity but I had allowed it to take over my entire life. I worked all the time because I felt I owed it to my purpose to be there for those kids. And by all the time, I mean I woke at 5:30, worked until 6:30 and was often not home until 7 or 7:30 at night. Then I had cross country or track meets on Saturdays and if not then I had practice. Sundays I worked on trying to prepare my lessons for the week and grading homework. Summers were for professional development, cross country practices, camp, and getting ready for the next year. I put everything else to the side to work. And my lesson was sometimes when you always put something above other important things and above listening, especially listening to God, releasing that thing is like a reset. It is a breath out, that allows you to breathe in something different, something more balanced.
This year in Judaism (2021-2022) is the year of shmita, which means release – a sabbath year where no one works the land. It is a test of faith that in that release for that year, God will provide as they release. A breath out allows for a new breath in. To me it’s a beautiful process that I’ve come to know more.
As I release and let go often I am greeted with something new. A breath out leads to a new breath in. If I let go of something it leaves room for a new thing. A breath out leads to a new fresh breath in.
By breathing out and releasing my past as a teacher, as a non-art school student, as all the other things I’ve been, it allows me to breathe in and be an artist right now. Often holding on to our past is like holding on to our breath. We can’t live if we hold on to our breath. Much the same, we can’t live if we hold on to our past. Let it go and allow new breath to give us life.
Isaiah 43:18-19 – Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See I am doing something new!
Think of this as an encouragement from me to release your burdens, your past and anything not serving your well being. But also know this: your past, your burdens, whatever it is that you’re releasing is not worthless but can be used in the present or future as lessons. So breathe out what that is and breathe in something new.