Lessons From India: Control and Letting Go

The other day a fellow student on the course here said I was assertive, I agreed. But later another student said I was a control freak. Shit! I know I like things done a certain way (my way) but I never considered myself a control freak…

Yoga and Control

control

Yoga teaches us to have control of our breath and control over our thoughts. It also teaches us to control our lifestyle in various ways- what we should and shouldn’t eat, when to practice asanas, etc. It’s all fairly regimented since after all, yoga is a way of life.

It’s also taught me that we don’t have control over anything. I can’t make it sunny or rainy, I can’t change the time that the sun rises or force a lemon tree to produce apples. That’s fine, I don’t want control over those things. But I do have the inner need to control my life. The direction of my life. Where I’m going to go, what I’m going to do. Even the day-to-day runnings of my life- I like to know when something is happening and be in control of it. It can’t just be me, right? But I’ve realised I even try to control how other people live their lives, how other people think, what other people are doing. And this must stop now.

Here Comes Another 20-Something Who Thinks She Has It All Worked Out

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It’s been so frustrating not having control over what’s going on. I’m so quick to judge other people- like, “oh it would have made more sense if they’d have done this..” or “why is he doing it like that? He should do it like this”, etc etc. I even judge people’s reactions to situations with thoughts like “why were they talking through the lecture, it was so interesting”, “Some didn’t even try the cleansing practices”, “why did so and so complain about the food? It tastes fine” bla bla bla.

The psychoanalyst in me notes I had very little control when I was growing up. I’m one of six siblings so I never had things my way. Now I’ve left, I’ve learnt I can do things exactly the way I like. In hindsight, I was way too controlling when P and I moved in together in Naples. Then this summer I was the leader of several Summer Camps– I had to be assertive, I had to be controlling- I was responsible for hundreds of children! But now I’m remembering the way I’d talk to the other tutors- how my way was always the right way.

control
I’m relieved that my friend told me about this side of me because I truly was so unaware of it. At least I had no idea just how direct I come across. Reflecting now, I see when I can’t control something I get stressed. When I don’t know what is going to happen or what could happen, I get anxious. This has huge impacts on my health and well-being; I’ll get irritable, suffer with headaches, nausea, faintness, diarrhea, I’ll smoke more too.

So how am I going to let go of this urge to control everything around me?

1) Fake Feelings

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Being in control makes me feel happier and relaxed, but I think these are fake feelings. Since no-one can ever really be in control anyway, it means I feel calmer due to a false sense of having control. If I can accept this, that I can accept it’s possible to feel happy and calm despite having no control. The first step towards letting go of control.

2) Cultivating Patience

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When other people make mistakes or I find myself in a situation I can’t control, I get really hot-headed. I’ll call people idiots and try to take charge of the situation. Why does “if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself” always apply to me? Maybe I’ve been living alone for too long. All of my adult life so far has been lived abroad, where I’m completely dependent upon myself. If I’ve wanted something done at ALL, I’ve had to do it since there’s no one else around to do it for me. I need to cultivate the patience to better handle myself around others. I also need to remember that all of us make mistakes, myself first and foremost.

3) Meditation: Letting Go of Anger (in all it’s forms)

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The anger that builds from needing control is a real waste of vital energy. “If the energy you waste in anger is saved for 15 days, every day one can work non-stop for 7 and a half hours” –Shriram Sharma Acharya. That’s a lot of energy I’m wasting! The trouble is I don’t want to simply bottle it up.

Meditation is a really good way of releasing anger and cultivating a calmer reaction to situations or people I might not necessary agree with. Norbu, my meditation teacher here, says that if we practice on a regular basis it can eventually become part of our nature.

4) Cultivate love and respect for all beings.

old guys

This is a difficult one, but if I respect everyone around me, I won’t disrespect them by constantly stating I’m right. I know yoga teaches us to accept every part of ourselves, but this isn’t my Self- this is my egoistic false sense of self-importance.


When I find fault with other people, I realise now I’m simply expressing my jealousy.

For example I’ve heard myself make judgements such as “A friend I know was given £10,000 for her birthday… oh my god, parents should never give that much money, you have to work hard to learn, she’ll never learn anything...”. Why aren’t I happy for my friend? Why do I judge her parents for their decision and her for receiving it? Because nobody ever gave me that kind of money. Because my parents aren’t still together like hers. I’ve had a different life.

Does that give me a right then to decide what’s right for everyone? No. A right to judge others? No. A right to bitch and release my toxic thoughts on others? Absolutely no.

 

5) Life Has No Control?

India
The go-with-the-flow girl is inside me somewhere. I flew to Maldives within 4 days of applying. Kenya, Sicily, and India just sort of happened spontaneously. Next year I should be travelling to The USA and perhaps even Israel. Although it all seems very flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, I guess I like to think I’m in control at every moment.

Even though I don’t know where I’m working or living this time next year, I’m in control of the fact that I don’t know– if that makes any sense?


I need to focus on the happier, easy-going side of me
. She understands that life is a series of random events happening one after the other. I might be the catalyst, in the decisions I make and the directions I choose, but perhaps I was always destined for this path- regardless of any external circumstances I.e:

I have no control.

Everything can’t be the way I want it to be– I’m far too young and inexperienced to even know what the right or wrong way is. Lesson? = Let others choose for themselves. Understand I can’t control other’s actions or thoughts. Wanting to will lead to disappointment and stress.

The next time I feel like controlling a situation, I’m going to take some steps back and think – does this even matter? Is it worth getting stressed over?

Then I’ll remember that nothing in this life is worth your health and that I’m simply a guest in this body, in this world. The only thing that really matters is being the best version of myself.

 

Do you find control really difficult to let go of? Any advice for a control freak? (I even tell P off when he cuts vegetables a different way to me.)

 

Namaste,

Sarah

Hi! I'm Sarah. I dropped out of university tired with the mundane life I was living in England. Now I'm an aspiring ex-pat of the world, having already lived and worked in Vietnam, Italy and Maldives. I'm using this blog to document my experiences and hopefully inspire others!

2 Comments

  1. Hey Sarah!

    I have to say I chuckled at how you wrote “Life has no control?” It’s hard to realize we don’t have control over everything! Aaaah.
    BY the way, I have NO idea where I’ll be next time this year, so I can completely relate to the feeling. Your experience in India sounds AMAZING and so enlightening. Would you say your realizations stem more from the practice of yoga specifically, or the complete immersion to a new culture?

    1. Hello! Thank you haha- good to hear! Why should we always know where and what we are doing in the future? Let’s have some spontaneity!
      I would say its a mixture of the experiences I’ve had in various countries. At first I noticed I would use phrases like “island time”, “Kenyan time”, “Italian time” etc, only to realise it’s everyone else who have it right and me as a Brit who has it all wrong! Yoga has definitely helped me with personal growth though, being far from home I needed a way to “come home” and be me- yoga and meditation is a fantastic retreat inwards.

What do you think? Let me know!

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