Know When to Fold ‘Em: The Practice of Letting Go


I'm struck by the wisdom of Kenny Rogers when he croons,  “You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em . . . ” (lyrics are actually by Don Schlitz).

He's pointing to the fact that you need to know when to let things go and when to keep them alive. Everything dies. And hallelujah. Like that first job I had when I was a teenager where I'd dress up like a chicken and go stand on the sidewalk and invite people over to eat at a fast food restaurant while fielding drive-by cat calls, single fingered gestures, and death threats. I'm glad that job died. And the restaurant too, for that matter.

I was happy the day that my fifth-grade romance with Kelly Campbell died. Something about our relationship was very sweet: I gave her the Twinkie from by lunch box. When I lost my interest in Twinkies, she lost her interest in me. So I'm happy that died. Breaking up with Kelly Campbell made way for my romance with Brooke Anderson to whom I even gave a locket on Valentines day with my picture in it. I was 11 at the time. It was very serious.

Yoga philosophy teaches us that everything is subject to death. We die too-several times. Regardless of what you believe in regarding reincarnation, try the idea that we die and are reborn several times during our lifetime. I'm certainly somebody different now than I was even five years ago. We all are. That old self who was a little flaky or maybe overly committed to work and underly-committed to also having a personal life might need to die in order to give birth to a more satisfying way of living. Old habits, relationships, the old self, can all die. Some things live their season then croak on their own and other things need to be euthanized. With the mindfulness we practice in yoga, perhaps we'll be savvy enough to know when to sustain things, when to let things die, and when to kill them off. What is asking to be born in your life and what is asking to die?

Shiva NatarajThe Yoga Nataraj is a statue that depicts Shiva, a Hindu deity, as a dancer with four arms. The dance refers to the constant cycle of birth and death, sustaining and evolution, that happens with all things. We set ourselves up for disappointment if we attach ourselves to any part of this cycle understanding that everything is changing. It's like trying to enjoy the scenic view while riding the “Scrambler,” that diabolic amusement park ride designed to spin you mercilessly in circles, eventually scrambling your brain, or making you puke, or both. The Nataraj suggests that everything is turning, changing as we speak. Just as things are dying, something else is being born.

We practice this death every time we rest at the end of class in savasana. In many ways, our yoga practice represents our life: we're born, we grow and learn, we slow down and eventually lie down and let the old self die. But then we get to start over. We do so with renewed life, keeping all the good stuff and letting the rest decompose. It's like a computer update-we get to use the most current version of our own personal operating system.

Practice rolling through this cycle this week. What in your life needs to die so something else can be born?


Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in Salt Lake City, Utah and when he's not teaching or conducting retreats, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, and his own blog at Scott also loves to trail run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son.

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