When I first started practicing yoga, I was extremely resistant to certain postures. I was convinced that I was not flexible enough, strong enough or secure enough to even attempt them. I did not want to push myself further for fear of physical injury or public embarrassment. What if I hurt myself? Even worse, what if I fell over, crashed to the ground, rolled to the side and knocked down the unsuspecting man or woman next to me? So, when a certain yoga teacher came over to adjust me, I would start to sweat profusely and quietly say, “No thank you,” like I was turning away cake or a ride from a stranger.

After a few of these encounters, this particular teacher said to me in the kindest voice you can imagine, “You can go further.”

Yeah? No, I don’t think so.

Or so I thought. The funny thing about yoga is that it not only stretches your body, it also stretches your mind and awakens your awareness.  So the more I practiced, the further I went. I found myself pushing a little harder, bending a little more, using straps less and  trusting myself and being open to where the experience could take me.

The experience ultimately took me on the journey to become a yoga teacher.

I needed this reminder recently as I attempted to “Go Further” with clearing the superfluous that still clings to parts of my family’s life. We have been simplifying and downsizing on and off for a while now. We released things when we moved from Florida to South Carolina. We released things when we arrived here. I released things when I changed jobs, But we have never honestly looked at our belongings and asked the important questions:

“Do we need this?”

“Is it beautiful?”

“Does it bring value?”

We recently developed these questions to help us define what we should keep and what we should release. Yet, there still seemed to be closets filled with miscellaneous items, drawers filled to the top, stacks of books and cds, piles of blankets, oh, the list does go on.

We would tackle closets and we would seem to release things. We would end up with bags and boxes for trash and donation. Yet, it still seemed that every time we opened a closet, crap would fall out on top of us and we could never find the item we went searching for in the first place.

Clearly, we were kidding ourselves. We were just moving the stuff around. We were saving it for (fill in the blank). We were just organizing it.

I have realized, that for me personally, organizing is a fancy word that starts with an “O” that means, “kidding yourself.”

We had to go further.

Much like Chaturanga, I resisted it. I was not ready to stretch that much. What if, what if, what if…..

I would open the linen closet and look at the stacks of sheets and blankets and think, “What if we have a bunch of company and there is a snow storm?” I might need this stuff.

I would open my clothing closet and dodge the pants and sweaters that would fall from the top shelf. I would rationalize, “I am lucky to have this many choices, I might need it.”

I think the turning point for me was when I counted the spare pillow cases and realized I had 52.

Fifty-two pillow cases? Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

Releasing “stuff” in order to live a sane and manageable life is not an easy process, at first. There are sweaty palms, pacing, words of frustration and FEAR. We are afraid of what we are doing. We have been conditioned, marketed and trained to buy and collect material possessions.

Stuff = happiness.

Right?

Ahem, no, wrong.

The moment we start to let go of things, we feel like a salmon swimming in the wrong direction. It doesn’t help that everyone along the path has to make a point of telling us that we are swimming the wrong way.

But the power lies in the simple act of asking a question, “What makes you think that I am the one going the wrong way?”

Having an original thought usually scares the bedazzle out of people.

The first time I went through the closet in my office, I thought I had done a great job. There were bags of things for donation and bags of trash. The second time I went through the same closet, there was even more.  I went through it a third time over the weekend and took out three shelves so I would not be tempted to put anything else in it.

Now I can find my cameras, my journals, photo albums, my portfolio, important documents and painting supplies, all without being injured by flying objects. It is such a wonderful feeling to open the door.

The same goes for the linen closet. The 52 pillow cases have been donated to a non-profit agency along with sheets and extra blankets. Winter is coming and there are people who will need to be warm. Real people,  not the imagined company in my head.

My clothing closet is down to 33 pieces of clothing. Yes, my friends, you read that correctly. I will be happy to share this liberating process in a future post.

For the most part, who really gets up in the morning and says, “Yes! I want to get out of my comfort zone!” It’s more like, “Where is the coffee?”

But imagine if you went further. Just a little bit. Imagine if you trusted yourself enough to know that you could. Imagine the possibilities.

We all have things we dream of doing and long to accomplish. Sometimes the simplest path to achieving these things is stretching ourselves outside of our comfort zones, swimming up the river in a different way or just asking a challenging question. Sometimes it is taking our bodies into Chaturanga kicking in screaming.

And sometimes it is as simple as realizing that 52 pillow cases is not a path to happiness.

How can you go further? Can you imagine the possibilities?

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