Letting Go
01 December 2006

In the yogic tradition, the practice of pratyahara teaches you to let go, through first facing up to your pain and entering into it. This requires determination, writes Andrea Cabrera Luna in London

In the yogic tradition, the practice of pratyahara teaches you to let go, through first facing up to your pain and entering into it. This requires determination.

We tend to defer things like this which have to do with our wellbeing, and it isn’t difficult to find distractions in a city like London. People on the underground manage to listen to their ipods, read the newspaper and even answer their mobiles, all at the same time.

Pratyahara sounds difficult but, according to the Swedish swami Yanakananda, it can be practised anywhere. He tells the story of a shopkeeper in the busiest part of town, who could close his eyes at any time and enter into a deep rest within himself.

Do we dare to go against the idea that we have to achieve and that doing a lot of things at the same time makes us better people?

I have met more squatters in London than I have in my whole life. That’s not surprising because the rents here are extremely high and not everyone can afford them.

Last October there was a protest in Copenhagen, Denmark, against the closure of the Youth House, which was given to the autonomous squatter movement in 1982. It became a place where musicians, artists and students could get together to play music, paint and talk. The protest ended in trouble with the police and many arrests.

Young people get depressed and frustrated when they can’t express themselves in a creative way. A young Colombian I met at New Generation, a group in London which offers free workshops for refugees, told me that she wanted to kill herself before she met them because she couldn’t find the space to dance, paint and act. That’s why we need places like the Youth House.

Goodies and hoodies
As a Mexican, I have been surprised to see how disrespectful young people in London can be towards their elders. I once saw two girls in the street randomly hitting people who walked by. I couldn’t believe what they were doing and I couldn’t believe that the people they attacked didn’t say anything back. It was as if they were trying to ignore the situation.

I remembered this incident when I went to see a performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear by the Maly Theatre of St Petersburg. Unusually, they presented Lear’s two older daughters, Goneril and Regan, in a sympathetic light. They are the ones who sweeten their father’s ear in order to get their share of his inheritance, while the youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to do so and is condemned to exile.

The director, Lev Dodin, points out that although young and old may not like each other, they depend on each other. Lear is an unpleasant old man, and reluctant to give up power, even after he has promised his daughters his kingdom.

The play challenges our tendency to divide the world into goodies and hoodies, rather than recognising the conflict within each person.

Yes or no?
In Mexico it is rude to say ‘no’. If someone invites you to lunch and you cannot come, you may say ‘yes’, because you don’t want to be rude. In the UK, on the other hand, if people can’t do something they just say no, as simple as that.

In Mexico we love surprises and when people drop by our house it’s a great joy—even if they’re expecting lunch. In the UK that would be seen as impertinent. And in Mexico, we kiss everyone when we arrive and when we leave: which makes it quite difficult to slip away quietly. When I first came to London I never knew who to kiss, and whether I needed to call people to ask if I could visit.

So it was a relief when I rang an Argentinian friend out of the blue, when I visited Barcelona this summer. I expected him to say we could meet in a few days’ time: instead he turned up five minutes later on his bike.

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