This whole past year: our experience of the pandemic, has been a form of practice of surrender. However in using this as an example I fear we may set off on the wrong foot here; with so many of us resisting the changes that we have had to make within our lives, can I really open your mind and heart to the idea of surrender and the care, love and humility which comes from it.
I am not sure how comfortable we are with the word 'surrender' within our modern day society (if I may be so bold to speak in such a generalised way) it sadly has been my main experiences. It feels at odds with what we are taught, encouraged, even, to embody: "never give up", "stand your ground", "fight for what you believe in", "stick to your guns". I am not disagreeing with these ideas, but, when we become rigid and close-minded in a tunnel vision of how we think things 'should' be or from a place of ignorance, we create pain for ourselves and others.
There is a wonderful sutra in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras*:
2.1 Accepting pain as help for purification, study, and surrender to the Supreme Being constitue Yoga in practice.
ok so it is not an easy quote you can create an Instagram post around to be the 2 second inspiration for the day, but, let me break it down a little here and hopefully show you it's beauty.
By now, hopefully, it is known that physical yoga really is a tiny section of what yoga entails. All yoga practices fit within the above three stated practices:
-accepting pain as help for purification (Tapas)
-study, both introspective and aquiring knowledge (Svadhyaya)
-self-surrender (Ishwara Pranidhana)
these are called Kriya Yoga. For now let me leave the first two and concentrate on the third: surrender.
There is a softening and an understanding when it comes to surrendering. When we become aware of the knowledge that nothing is rightfully ours. Our physical energy and strength comes from the food we eat that is grown by others and is produce of this Earth; our thoughts and ideas are nurtured from those who have taught us, encouraged us, and the opportunities we have been exposed to in life. These are all gifts, and when we receive gifts usually our response is one of gratitude from where they have come from.
Surrender is the voluntary letting go of limited, personal desires for the sake of a greater and more fulfilling experience
and is this not what we have been doing this past year when we entered Lockdowns, putting aside our personal desires for a greater good in helping to protect each other. Surrendering to the belief that we all have a part to play in helping us through this unknown time and by letting go, putting faith in what is asked of us, we can find an ease within the situation, and encouragement in that we are all doing the best we know how to do.
This letting go is what shows up in meditation; when we try to quiet the mind, using force we create friction which shows up as pain. Instead when we show up with an open, receptive manner there is room for our thoughts to come and go, meditation is as much a process of letting go as of directing attention.
This is also true in love: when we force, when we try to impose our personal desires upon a relationship we are not open and receptive to the other person, whether lover, friend or family. When we can put these desires down and surrender into that something greater, here, being the relationship itself with the other, we can create a space where both feel loved and not conditioned to show up a certain way. [A wonderful little book centred around this idea of building relationship in this way, is Thich Naht Han's book True Love]
So how can we invite the idea of surrender into our daily lives, and practices? Gratitude is a lovely way to start, and a way that is really beginning to be wonderfully widespread in the forms of gratitude journals, or the simple exercise of writing down three things you were thankful for within the day. A way I love to bring surrender into my yoga or meditation practice is the simple act of turning my palms face up, whether that is whilst I am in childs pose, or an easy cross legged position. By turning the palms up there is an intention of openness, of receptiveness to what is, and as my meditation teacher says "it is the intention that does the work" so even if you find your mind wandering etc the initial intention still shows.
And this simple practice is not limited to the yoga mat. Perhps next time you find yourself sitting in an intermediate moment, perhaps on the train to work, try putting your phone away and instead sit palms up in your lap offering a thanks to your day, or leaning into to receptivity of what may come your way in the day ahead.
*all italic quotes are from "Inside the Yoga Sutras" by Rev. Jaganath Carrera. The Yoga Sutra's are teachings of Yoga put down by Sri Patanjali, they are guidelines which allows the student to become awakened to their True Identity and ultimately attain spiritual enlightenment in a way that in applicable to people of all faith and traditions. Which all sounds very regal but trust me they are a wonderful read for anyone who wishes to open the mind wide...