The Red Herring

The theme for this second weekend of yoga intensive studies was Letting Go. For four hours Friday night, I sat and thought about the elements of my life I wished to let go of. I was asked to think about my intentions for the weekend, and I remembered my intention for this year to find freedom in my life.

I came out to Arizona nearly six months ago with two intentions: to live in proximity to my partner and to focus all of my energy on songwriting.

While I came to the desert with the best of intentions, only one of my goals has been fulfilled. My heart is full of love for a dear man, but my soul and spirit are feeling neglected each day I do not bring music and song into the world.

I have been working on the business aspects of songwriting: what kind of songwriting products I might be able to bring to market, who might be interested in participating in a songwriting retreat, what kind of financial projections may be in store down the road. Sadly, in the present and recent past, there has been little actual writing of songs in my life.

Where has all of the time in each day gone if not to music?

It has gone to my own somewhat misguided efforts to create the allusion of control in my life.

It has gone to part-time work at a local bookstore, where I have found myself drawn in to the drama that began unfolding prior to my arrival and that will no doubt continue long after I am gone.

It has gone to errands and last-minute requests from the people I love.

It has gone to finding diversions and distractions that hold my attention.

It has gone to anything I can do to avoid the fear and risk involved in taking a complete plunge into the waters of being a full-time entrepreneur.

What if I cannonball and hit a rocky bottom?

What if I fail?

My partner revealed a plot twist that apparently happens in many mystery stories, that of the red herring.

What is the red herring?

The red herring, my partner told me, is the distraction from the truth. It is the person you think is the murderer in the story because it seems so obvious until the identity of the real assassin becomes clear.

I get it, I said.

These past several months, I had been wandering through a forest, moving beyond the light at the edge and ever deeper into the shadows until I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing in the forest to begin with.

My intentions had been so clear as I headed west, and somehow they had been muffled and muddied.

Sitting on my yoga mat, I did not feel free.

I wrote fears and burdens on a piece of paper. We took turns moving around the circle, each woman reading her fears out loud and burning the piece of paper. When it was my turn, I kept my eyes fixed on the paper and mumbled the words I had written in a quiet voice. I then lit the paper on fire and placed it in an old, white pot with the evidence of years of paper burning shown in the bubbling, grey coating that covered the interior. This pot had been the receptacle for many such ceremonies before my small piece of paper turned to ashes in its center.

I sat quietly and thought about what it meant to let go.

I have never been very good at letting go, even when I know it past time to do so. I grasp onto a person, place, or material possession for fear that if I let it go I might regret it at some unknown, distant future time.

Even in the safety of a community of beautiful, supportive women, I felt like I was on a precipice, looking out over the edge but bracing myself against the fall. I was on the verge of change but afraid to let go. I needed to grasp onto anything tangible, whether or not it no longer served and filled my spirit.

Unlike the women around me, I could not cry. My body was holding onto to something so tightly that it was all I could do to just to keep breathing in and out.

So I focused on my breath, for it was there that I could learn to let go. No matter how many deep inhalations I take, I will always need to exhale and breathe in once more.

No matter how tightly my body holds onto the illusion of control, my breath will set me free. And I must acquiesce, or I would not survive to see my intentions through.

And if my body can continue to breath in and out, I have hope that I can learn to let go.

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