"Sarah Waiting for the Tide," © Laura Bell. Courtesy of 20x200.com.
“Sarah Waiting for the Tide,” © Laura Bell. Courtesy of 20×200.com.

Walking along the Rhine River during my lunch break from teaching yoga in Basel, Switzerland, I felt mellow and full of gratitude to have such a wonderful job opportunity. Then my phone started to vibrate. Instantly my mood shifted, and a powerful sense of urgency took hold of me. It was like a Rube Goldberg chain reaction—I was balancing a cappuccino in one hand, fighting an uncooperative purse zipper with the other, trying to keep my glasses on my nose, and worrying that someone was calling from my mother’s nursing home.

As my phone rang a thought flashed through my mind: “Since everybody who knows me knows I am in Europe and there is a five-hour time difference, this must be important and I’d better answer!” My life was built on the idea that taking care of my mom and my students and my business and my friends and my dog must come before my own needs, including the needs for space, peacefulness, and quiet appreciation of life.

I realized I was working myself into a dither by letting my phone be the boss of me. And why? Out of sheer habit. My need to answer the phone was part of an automatic-pilot way of thinking that told me it was wrong and selfish to put myself first.

After the incident in Basel I got to a place where I felt stuck. I had been badly hurt by a dear friend who told me that since I hadn’t been there for her when she needed me, she was turning her back on our friendship. It was the last straw for me. How could she abandon me when my life was so hard already? I was stuck in a puddle of anger, pain, and betrayal. I told myself that I wanted to forgive and forget, and I knew that my resentment was hurting me, but I couldn’t seem to let go of it.

Then I went to hear Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, give a talk. During the talk, Jetsunma paused and said in a soft voice, “Let go. Let go. Let go.” It was then that I knew I was ready to let go.

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