Oftentimes, in a yoga class, you’ll hear a teacher encourage his/her students to “surrender.” As a rule, what they are asking is to release physically into poses such as reclined twist, child’s pose, and savasana… poses where a body free of tension aids in deep relaxation and pratyahara, or introspection and possibly further into meditation. I have often limited myself to this expression of “surrender”, as in “do nothing”, missing a deeply important nuance that both informs and enhances what this truly can mean.
Those who know me would generally describe me as ambitious, busy, and always creating. I have this itch inside me to serve and to grow. When working on a project, I tend to agonize over it’s outcome and that can sometimes take the joy out of the work. This can lead to an overly “playful” monkey-mind, with constant chitter-chatter and subsequent poo-flinging, my ego taking the hit. It’s similar to when I find myself trying too hard in my yoga practice, sucking all of the fun out of something I do with the intention of bringing myself peace and happiness!
Historically, working with wild fervor and agonizing over the outcome has brought me to a place where I have no other choice but to crash. Maybe I get sick, or just really fatigued. I’ll get to the point where only sleep and Netflix binging sound like plausible activities. I “surrender.” And then that binary all-or-nothing attitude leads to self-loathing.
How in the world can this be balanced out? Luckily, my handy yoga toolbox has all the answers! (Thanks to years of meditation, contemplation, and enlightenment achieved by other people 🙂 )
According to the great Patanjali’s yoga sutras, Abhyasa, or practice, must be balanced with Vairagya, or non-attachment. So let’s say I’m trying to hold my handstand for the zillionth time. Ok, I’ve practiced my form, have built strength, mentally understand the mechanics… but I still might fall! What if I still try, but let go of the image of myself having to become a yoga inversion rockstar in my head? What I can choose to do is still practice steadily, but with an intention of tranquility and non-attachment to the outcome. And when I’ve had enough, I stop before my body forces me to. I surrender instead of suffer. Suddenly, this handstand journey is far, far more enjoyable!
Lately, in both my home and professional life, I’ve had to surrender by releasing my attachment to the idea that I’m a “free spirit”… or in other words, completely disorganized. Ambition and hard work mixed with disorganization, I’ve learned, is not the key to a serene mind. It’s a surefire way to the inevitable self-loathing crash. Without necessarily giving up the wild woman within, I’ve surrendered to structure, to discipline, to yoking. To setting clear goals and mapping out a way to achieve them. Along with teaching and managing my businesses, I’ve scheduled in things like “read”, “run”, or “self-care”. To a free spirit, this might sound highly irritating, but for me it’s actually been liberating. I know that if I do everything I can to make something grow, flourish, or come alive, and if it doesn’t, that it truly wasn’t what was in store.
Practice and discipline, combined with non-attachment, are allowing me the freedom of trust and surrender. Goodbye monkey-mind and hello sweet, sweet surrender to the flow!