The practice of deep surrender (īśvara-praṇidhānāt) leads one to accomplish (siddhiḥ) the highest state of Yoga (samādhi).
PRACTICAL LIVING We are once more reminded by Patañjali that surrender is an essential practice in our yogic path. The trio of action (tapas), self-reflection (svādhyāya) and surrender (īśvara-praṇidhānāt) is revisited in these past three sūtras since we were last introduced to them in sūtra II.1. The three parts of the trio are all essential, leading us closer to our essence, to clarity, to deep understanding and peace.
How can we practice surrender, detachment, letting go? Below are some ideas. I encourage you to pick one thing that you feel ready to practice letting go of – not something that someone else wants you to detach from, but something that feels right for you to release. And stick to your practice for the rest of your summer, or winter, depending on what hemisphere you find yourself in.
- Is there an object or a person that you feel is no longer serving its purpose in your life? Just because we have been doing something for a long time, it doesn’t mean that it will be beneficial forever. I used to be sad thinking that some of my closest childhood friends were no longer part of my life. And then I realized that I changed, they changed and we made new friends. I’ve had to let go of these emotional threads that once made my life plentiful. On another note, some years ago, it felt ‘right’ to let go of animal meat and become vegetarian…until it didn’t feel right anymore.
- Are there belief systems that you are overly attached to? Whether they’re political, health-related, food-related, yoga-related or anything else, according to Yoga, whenever we attach to an idea so much that we cannot hear others, that’s the opposite of letting go – that’s grabbing onto a belief system so viciously that it closes us down and further removes us from our essence – which is open and compassionate.
- Are there emotions that you run away from? Perhaps anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness…or simply discomfort? Watching a toddler grow, a human being who is pretty transparent expressing her emotions, I see how adults usually teach young ones to not express (therefore not feel) emotions that don’t feel comfortable, and praise only the ones that are pleasant. It may seem obvious to do that, but it actually leads us to cling onto pleasure and avoid the other half of us, which is darker and less comfortable. Can we begin to surrender into a feeling of discomfort when it arises? As Kahlil Gibran says in ‘The Prophet’: “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears…The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
As we let go of objects, people, ideas, belief systems, we become lighter. The lighter we feel, the calmer, more peaceful and joyful we are – this is samādhi, Yoga’s goal, in our practical lives.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Whether that is the way we present Yoga nowadays or whether it is the way we choose to use Yoga or not, the ancient yogic texts clearly show us that Yoga is a spiritual path. That is, it is a deep search for inner peace, for clarity and for connecting with that part of us that is beyond our limited minds. The concept of īśvara-praṇidhānāt is the idea of dedicating our lives to that which is beyond the mind – our essence, our spirit, our innate goodness, or God, however you like relating to it. If those words don’t resonate with you, how can you dedicate your life for the good of others? Please don’t take this to an extreme, thinking that not taking care of yourself is the path. No. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to give to others! The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text, repeats over and over again the idea of offering any action, any accomplishment, any decision we make to our Higher Power, our soul, our true nature – or others.
In a discussion with Ram Dass, we talked about the idea of ‘Love’ versus ‘love’. The latter is ‘sticky’ and involves fulfilling our own needs. It is based on you doing and being the way I want you to and then, I’ll love you more. The former, ‘Love’ is open, detached, and giving. Profound surrender needs to happen to experience ‘Love’. Recently, mothering a toddler who is feisty and expressing her own needs CONTINUOUSLY, I had that realization. Deep surrender as a mother means being there for her, not using her to fulfill my own needs. Tears rolled down my cheeks with that insight. So currently, my deepest lesson and practice in surrendering is the relationship with my daughter. What’s yours? By the way, the ego does not like this practice!
The less we have to grab onto, the less we have to lose, and the less we have to lose, the freer we feel – that freedom is samādhi.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese 19th-20th century poet and artist has touched me profoundly this past decade with his wisdom, specifically in his book ‘The Prophet’. He was part of my wedding ceremony, reminding me to ‘Love’ my husband, to hold him but not grab him. Kahlil is part of my mothering phase, reminding me that I am simply a bow, letting this child fly like an arrow – “they are with you yet they belong not to you…you may give them your love but not your thoughts…you may house their bodies but not their souls”. Every time I eat, I try to remember to make eating “an act of worship”. I could recite every chapter of that book with something very meaningful, but I won’t. I am deeply thankful that I have his words to continuously remind me to keep letting go, from the grossest levels to the most subtle ones. The last words I’ll quote: “…for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.” Now that’s surrender!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will discuss the first sūtra where Patañjali addresses the body!