You might be surprised to hear that yoga, as we think of it, is a system of eight parts or limbs and the first two limbs are a set of restraints and observances known as the yamas and niyamas. They include concepts like nonviolence, truth, and discipline. One of these observances is the center point of my practice right now as I go through a year long training called the Acharya Intensive. This training revolves around three main inquiries, being on the path of love, being on the path of service, and being in relationship with the divine or, yes I will use the word, God. The observance that this relates to is called ishvara pranidhana or surrendering to God (feel free to substitute any other word or concept here like universe, higher power, or tree).
This is no easy concept for me to grasp or put into practice. I have a strong warrior energy, and surrender, well, not so much in my nature. The concept of God too, is one I have and continue to struggle with. I have questions and doubts, as I think most of us do, about the nature of the world, the suffering I see and experience, and how that allows room for faith in a bigger plan or divine order. However, I look at the facts of how I stumbled onto this path, and how step by step I have been carried along, and piece after piece things have come right on time. I have experienced miraculous things, have landed in the presence of amazing teachers and mentors and my spiritual evolution is taking it’s course with an intelligence that does not come from me.
So, since May, I have been exploring this concept in earnest and I have found that when I remember it, there is great peace and comfort. I can take all of the things I do everyday and surrender them. I can surrender my teaching, my parenting, my writing, every action, word, thought or breath. I can surrender success and failure alike, my best, my worst and all the shades of grey become offerings. In the surrendering everything becomes welcome, no part of me needs to be exiled or hidden. That is liberation, the ultimate goal of yoga. Yet I struggle and forget, I question and doubt even though I have experienced that peace and release. Such is the practice, and the angel of struggle helps us on our way.
Last week I was at Kripalu assisting Let Your Yoga Dance teacher training. One exercise we were doing, and which I participated in, due to the odd number in the group, was forming an affirmation to share with a partner. My affirmation was (and is) ” I surrender my teaching with trust and faith to God.” This led to an exercise of experiencing our inner critic and mine came up fierce because that is it’s nature. The day went on and I forgot my affirmation but my critic stayed present and I found myself suddenly in a crisis of confidence. I began to crumple under questions of “Am I good enough?”. My insecurity came up loud and told me to give up, that I don’t have talent or skills in teaching. It showed up and told me the usual string of lies that it does. The angel of struggle opened it’s wings.
The next day I taught yoga in the morning and struggled on. That afternoon I was partnered again and this time we were to choose a yama or niyama to discuss with our buddy on a walk outside. Of course I knew ishvara pranidhana had my name on it. On that walk, as I shared about this practice, all of that doubt and insecurity melted away and a state of peace and acceptance returned. I rode that wave of peace and practice the remainder of the stay.
I have returned home and everyday I ride the waves of getting lost in my story and reacting to life and then remembering my practice. I have even begun to trust the angel of struggle to bring me what I need to learn and grow. One thing I know for certain is that to surrender is sweet, and that if it is faith we seek, it can not exist without surrender.
For now, I have written this and it too is an offering. Whether anyone reads it, and whether they appreciate it or not, I surrender it now to God.