I recently attended a workshop on the history of yoga and the evolution of Tantric thought, led by Sanskrit scholar Christopher Hareesh Wallis (http://mattamayura.org/). As I listened to stories about The Buddha, and anecdotes from enlightened beings, as we chanted mantras with Hareesh whose radiance amplified perceptibly while he sang, I found myself desperately seeking that inner voice that would silence my skeptical leanings. Part of me accepts that, as Hareesh pointed out, the limited self that we are conditioned to believe in is simply that: conditioning. In fact, many of our deepest experiences, centuries of yogic revelations and even scientific research into the energy of the universe all teach us that our essential nature is immutable and infinite. We could alleviate a boatload of suffering by choosing to simply lay down the binds that we ourselves have tied. The "trick," it seems, is to surrender.
So why is that so difficult for us? For me? What does "surrender" really mean? Do I surrender something or surrender TO something, and if so, how? In our society, surrender is equated with weakness or abdication. It means we lose the battle. We give up our power. What consequences does surrender have on desire and action? If I surrender, do I stop trying to assert my will or my ego?
Wanting to explore this idea, I started with my base materials: my body on my mat. I sought to notice those obstacles that prevented me from deep exploration or impeded the meditative flow of my asana practice. I looked for ways to both participate and surrender. I sought to surrender any preconceived notions of what I could or couldn't do. I tried to cultivate strength but surrender tension. I put forth my best effort but surrendered judgment and expectation. Cognizant of but not led by my recent injury, I tried to safeguard myself against pain but surrendered to discomfort. I attended to each postural alignment but surrendered to the process.
Off the mat, I've continued pondering the heavy loads we tote around and cling to: clothes we've outgrown in hopes we may one day be able to squeeze back into them; books we'll never read once or again; friends we've outgrown; expectations someone else forced on us; bad habits; anger, tension, pain, envy and dozens of other emotions that corrode our self-esteem, dilute the present moment and keep our dreams beyond our reach. Our possessions, expectations, egos and thoughts are familiar and comforting and it's not easy to surrender them. Furthermore, to divest ourselves of them isn't a passive gesture of faith but an act that calls for determination and discipline.
Surrender may require bravery. Surrender demands that we look at ourselves with unflinching honesty. Surrender stops us from fighting what we cannot change. Surrender invites us to fully experience both our joy and our pain. Surrender doesn't mean that we just lie back and float down the karmic river without a paddle hoping for the best. (Or, for that matter, abandon ship!) Surrender asks us to be brave enough to recognize the attitudes, habits and subtle beliefs that act as stones in our pockets, and to give up on the impossible struggle of paddling against the tide.
This month, bravely listen to that voice inside that says: "Surrender."