Monday, October 26, 2009

Letting go

Letting go is the yoga paradox--the more you let go, the deeper you can get into a pose, the breath, and meditation. It is only through letting go that we can really attain our edge and grow. Part of letting go, which I have only recently come to understand, means utilizing the body and breath correctly. In a posture, this could mean relaxing the face muscles (sometimes I manage to pull this off) while engaging the core. The core engagement allows the hips to open. How does this relate to lawyering (to all you non-lawyers out there, lawyering is not a real world, but we lawyers use it anyway)?

Before I get to that let me share a personal story about my knee. Since I was in Marching Band in high school, I have been told to stand straight without locking my knees. After watching someone pass out from standing too long, I took that to heart. Fast forward 10 years, and I'm doing yoga, once again without locking my knees . . . or so I thought. I have been having a crazy pain in my hip, it pops when I do hip openers, and more recently I have noticed that my calf muscle is really, really tight. Last Thursday, in my Yoga Teacher Training class, we were doing hip openers. I actually really love these, but we were doing them correctly, or trying to. The first hip opener we did was one of the most common yoga postures, and one I had never before considered a hip opener--a forward bend. When done correctly, the hips should open. Great, but why was my knee/calf hurting? My knees were bent, so I wasn't locking my knees, right? Wrong! While physically my knees were in the correct plane, my left knee was energetically locking. The light bulb went off. I realized that I had been doing this for years, and I began to let go. It was hard, and by no means did I fully succeed that evening, but I have continued to work on it. Yes, in our culture, we have to work on letting go . . . ah, the irony. Anyway, in a class this evening, we were doing a lot of lunges and forward folds, and the entire time, I worked on energetically opening the lock in my left knee while correctly engaging other areas of my body (thighs and core), and it started to work. My foot went deeper into the ground, my hip started to open, and you guessed it, my forward folds got deeper . . . all because I had let go. Laying in corpse pose at the end of class, my leg began to tingle, and I got a little scared that instead of making it better, I had somehow hurt myself. But then I relaxed and remembered that this is just the feeling of energy finally moving through stuck places. It can feel wonderful and scary all at the same time. I realized how this all relates to lawyering (and so much else).

Letting go is a very scary thought to lawyers, and it should be--it could lead to a malpractice claim. We are ethically required to represent our clients "zealously." Zealous does not really embody release. Instead, lawyers get caught up, holding onto their clients' views as though they are the views of the lawyer. But there is, of course, a point where zealous becomes too zealous and itself becomes unethical. What if lawyers energetically let go? What does that even mean? In lawyering, the physical posture consists of court documents and court appearances, client phone calls, and interactions with the "other side" (that is a discussion for another day). Essentially, it is communication. But the art, the energy, of lawyering is deeper than that. The energy is where those communications are formed. Taking a step back, letting go of the blinders mind-set, could open the lawyer to new communication forms. Even law school teaches us that we need to know the other side's argument better than they know it. What that is really saying is that we need to be open to views that might harm our clients. Those views very well could lead to the aha! moment. That might be the moment where it all comes together.

And what about the client? What about outside the legal world? What happens when we step back and see the world from another perspective? We might have all the physical attributes we need, financial success, food on the table, a relationship, the "right" views on the world, etc. But are we able to go into them to our full potential? Just like in yoga, the only way to go deeper is to let go and engage correctly. Engaging correctly requires refocusing and sometimes even letting up long enough to realize what needs to be engaged. Instead of black and white, letting go allows us to see the gray areas, the nuances. It is only from this place that we can fully understand others.

Is this scary? You bet! Does it go against much of what we are taught in a world of sound bytes and Glenn Beck? You bet! Does that make it even more important? Well, I think you get the idea. Just in the time it has taken to write this, my calf has tensed again, though it was bursting with energy when I sat down. Yes, my calf tenses when I sit--our perceptions are that deeply ingrained in us. But now I am aware of it, now I am aware that it was not the manual transmission on my old car causing the hip pain, it was my own holding on.

In what ways are you willing to let go? If you feel so inclined, please share in the comments.
Blessings and love.


© Copyright 2009. Rebecca Stahl. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I will be spending today thinking of ways that I can let go as I attempt to co-exist as a mommy and everything else that I was pre-mommy (the two worlds that I'm working on merging as you work on merging "lawyering" and "yogi-ing" ...)

    My favorite part of this post was at the end of the first paragraph: "to all you non-lawyers out there, lawyering is not a real world, but we lawyers use it anyway" ... I know you meant real "word" not "world" but thought it was a funny typo!

    Sending you lots of love!

  2. Yeah - letting go is like forcing yourself to relax - often has the opposite effect of making you more uptight. I'm glad to hear you're working on it! Love the blog :)

  3. Actually, I think lawyerdom is a world. Just like any discipline with its own acronyms, syllogisms, and anachronisms, the court of legal opinion is a planet unto itself. I'm glad you're one of its cosmonauts! Love, Cousin Mikey.

  4. @ Megan: Hehe, I did not notice that, but it is a great comment. Freudian slips are wonderful, aren't they?

    @ Amy and Mike: Thanks

  5. Namaste, Rebecca. I have a feeling that your "blog fans" will benefit from each step you take along the yogic path. You will learn to stretch, and will gently encourage us to do the same. You will learn about letting go, and we will breathe easier too. Sign me up for the journey! Paula N.