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Fri, May 18 2012

Composting for Your Life

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It’s Spring 2012, and we just had a super full moon: The moon was closer to the earth than it’s been all year. Here in Vancouver, it’s just starting to get warm, though the cherry blossom trees have been undressing for weeks. Spring has always felt like a transitional season for me, but this year is special.

Traditionally, the full moon is a good time to consider what you want to let go of: what are your dead leaves, cherry blossoms, ripe fruits ready to fall? According to several different worldviews 2012 is a year of transformation [more on this here and here]. Yin feminine energy is making its entrance into our lives, and we are leaving behind the ego and power-oriented Yang energy of the past (like, the entire past history of human life). The power of feminine energy is also a good thing to remember in this month of Mother’s Day.

Moving forward requires, almost always, that we leave something behind. Letting go can be hard.

I’ve been reading a book called Writing Down the Bones by writer and Zen meditation practitioner Natalie Goldberg. When I read her work, I sometimes forget whether she is talking about writing, yoga, or life itself. For her, letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. Quite the opposite: sometimes it means remembering, ruminating, even obsessing about the past through your writing. She counsels that you write everything down, complain, worry, repeat yourself, and give your “terrible selves” a voice so you can get to know them better and move beyond them. She writes:

Our senses by themselves are dumb. They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this ‘composting.’ Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts into the solid ground of black soil.

Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. Letting go means allowing the emotions from whatever you’re going through to arise and be expressed so that you can be free of them. As we try to move forward in our lives, I think we tend to hold on in one of two ways: We grip onto our memories and how we thought the world was supposed to be at the expense of the way the world is; or we push the thought or memory away and numb ourselves to it, trying not to feel any feelings about it at all. These are both gripping strategies. They are both ways of holding on.

When we really let go, we can be honest about the past. We can allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel and move it through our bodies. We can punch pillows until we are out of breath, we can play heavy metal while practicing yoga, we can turn off the phone and close the blinds and cry, we can have honest conversations, we can grieve something lost with another human, we can sit still and think and feel and think and feel. Letting go isn’t about going numb, and it’s not about staying silent.

I used to think being a yogi meant being really at peace: never feeling anger or frustration, never having any conflicts, and easing away from all the pain and suffering in my life. Going with the flow, free of attachments, and totally un-fazeable. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. I have learned I can be highly faze-able. Feeling bad is a part of life, and sometimes it needs to happen. It’s feeling bad about feeling bad that really causes stress.

So I compost: I write, I practice yoga, I talk with the people I love. I remember. I feel hurt and sadness and grief and anger. I sift through the sludge and the garbage of my life until it becomes thick earth. I plant seeds and hope they sprout. Sometimes they do.

During a time of transition (which, let’s be honest, is always), it’s good to love and honor the things you’ve been through and the emotions your body might still need to compost. Turn it over,

JC Peters's picture

Join yoga teacher JC Peters on a thoughtful, personal, hopeful exploration into the real life of yoga—how the philosophies and experiences of the practice can help us laugh at ourselves, deal with our deepest shadows, and move through life with grace, gratitude, and wonder.