So the moon has had a huge impact on me this week, has it you? I wasn't so aware of it until now, that maybe there was some correlation and I realise that it spun me out a little. When I spin out, my wellbeing lessons and as I have observed this more and more, I have begun to ask myself how this is sustainable and realise that it simply isn't. So I ask myself another question, "How can I feel better and have more vitality and clarity, in times that are hard?"
I then I decided to make a choice, which can feel radical to me, but to make choices that support me and let this be an exploration for living life in a way that is engaged and nourishing, in each and every moment.
I often feel that I can look directly to the help of my community to illustrate the expanse of life and by watching the individuals navigate life within it and observe the choices that they make, I learn and find the teachings I need in my own life.
But on and off my mat, during times like these, in my Yoga practice I return wholeheartedly back to the foundational disciplines and ethical teachings. The Yamas and The Niyamas are foundational to all yogic thought! As you will know, yoga is a sophisticated system that extends far beyond doing physical exercise. It is a way of living!
Yoga brings you more awareness of not only your body, but your thoughts! The teachings bring understanding in a methodical way, to your experiences, whilst pointing the way to the next experience.
What I know and continue to use the teachings for is to facilitate taking ownership of my life and direct it to the fulfilment that I seek. This is the invitation in Yoga to all students of the practice. They are able to help to tell you where you are in time and how to move and look to the next place. They provide us with guidelines, ethical disciplines, precepts or restraints and observances.
These sit in the first two limbs of the 8-fold path. The Yamas may be translated as 'restraints' and the Niyamas as 'observances'. These don't limit us from living life, or fill us with concepts that are hard to apply and relate to, but they rather begin to open life up in flowing ways that are practical.
In this blog, we explore the final observance or Niyama. The tenth jewel of wisdom. The niyamas are an invitation to the radical exploration of possibility. To feel good, to feel joyful, to make conscious choices, to make s*** happen.
We plant five seeds and are invited to watch them bear fruit. The 5 Niyamas are... :
Purity, Contentment, Self-discipline, Self-Study and Surrender.
We cleanse our bodies, our speech, our thought
We fall in love with our own life
We consciously choose discipline and growth
Get to Know the self
Pay attention to what life is asking us.
Life knows what to do better than we do. We just need to observe and apply the qualities needed to let life be and live! So why not deepen your commitment to your learning and to yourself....
Ishvara Pranidhana... Surrender
I am so grateful for the community that I have that is my teacher... the qualities that they possess that translates across to me. This community remind me to apply the Yoga teachings in each and every moment of every day as I move through its waters and in addition to that, here we are offered through the teaching the jewel of surrender.
It reminds us that there is a divine force at play in our lives. We could call it what we like... it is greater than we are and it cares deeply about us. It is working for the benefit of us even if, within the moment, it doesn't feel that way.
Surrender invites us to be active participants in our lives. Totally present and fluid in every moment, while appreciating the magnitude and mystery of what we are participating in.
I, ALONGSIDE ME, INVITE YOU TO SURRENDER YOUR EGO, OPEN YOUR HEART AND ACCEPT THE HIGHER PURPOSE OF OUR BEING.
I don't know about you, but I can speak for myself when I notice and observe the fluctuations of my mind that occur in my week. One minute, mostly when life is sweet, I'm flowing blissfully trusting and open to all that it has to offer. Within a second, this can alter. The self doubt can creep in, the questioning can arise about taking action, for 'what' and 'if'... It isn't a comfortable change to occur. But in these moments, we do still have a choice, not for what is occurring, but in how we respond to it. The action of surrender to me has often felt and been associated with giving in, giving up and having to let go of maybe something that I wish to keep a tight grip on. It's so tough, as ultimately we have been conditioned from our experiences by the associations that we make to everything in our lives. Giving up has never for me felt like an option, even when times have been so tough, I've kept going, at times even if that meant to the detriment to my own health. But here is where the lesson arises and the choice occurs.
If we take some time to actually question our beliefs, our views and our associations we can ask ourselves, is there space in those for new perspectives, for non attachment, for freedom???
The answer to that is quite simply, yes there is, always. Why stay stuck in one viewpoint and live your life then being in restraint of these thoughts and associations and why not be open and find acceptance??? We can often talk in abstract ways in spiritual worlds and teachings, so I will try my best now to be more specific.
In Yoga, we call the observances that we make the Niyamas. When we use the Yamas and the Niyamas we learn to greet each moment worthy of what it asks of us in life.
The final Niyama is Ishvara Pranidhana... Surrender.
"being in the flow. being in the zone."
The rhythm of surrender is described by writer Deborah Adele, as being when "Your actions, your thoughts, and the activity you were engaged in, lined up and became one entity of harmony and perfection."
This performance above felt like that to me when I watched it.
BUT... Are you getting in your own way? The yogis tell us that we can live like this all the time, unless we are getting in our own way.
"Life wants to surprise, delight and grow us in ways far beyond our imagination."
We could say that there is an opportunity that is hiding in each and every event, good or bad.
In the muddy water we are falling. Who wants to be in the muddy water? Well sometimes your don't want to be there, but you are in it. How do you respond?
Expectation is another thing that gets in the way. If we are able to see that there is purpose in everything, often its hidden or lost in muddy waters, yet if we trust it is there, life will always surpass our own expectations.
We must release.
Release the rigidity.
"When we release the rigidity and our need to control, when we joyfully engage life as it comes to us, and when we place our egos in devotion to that which is greater, we can begin to taste the bounty of this jewel".
When we lie in Savasana, we surrender (corpse pose). It signifies the death of the activity that we have just engaged in. It is releasing tension in the body and letting go of effort, trusting that the breath will breathe us and the body will renew itself.
It teaches us the meaning of actually letting go of all the ways that we fight, physically and mentally, with life.
When we learn to stop fighting life, we can begin to act skilfully.
When we try and control we become rigid and tight and we narrow our perspective.
Can you take off the layers of conditioning, armour, beliefs that you wear, each and everyday, and become lighter and find comfort in that???
In yoga, we can do this by monitoring the inner sensations of contraction and expansion. When we contract, we are pulling in, there is a restrictive quality. When we expand, it does the reverse. We observe an opening, space and a wonder quality.
When we are contracting, we are often fighting life or living in fear, in my case living with self doubt. Yet when we expand, we are living in a flow of surrender! For me, this goes hand and hand with the seasons as to when I find this naturally occurring. In autumn and winter, by body goes in to contraction and so does my mind. I don't feel comfortable in a state of contraction, I don't enjoy the feeling of being restricted and yet I see the benefit of being in that state to intensify and allow the expansive quality to be so much greater afterwards.
With this moon, it affects the water element. If we think of the rushing element of the tides, the rapids... we can take these as a metaphor and understand that we can use these to our advantage to navigate through them safely. This is where the skill comes in to play... if you were on a boat manoeuvring your way through water rapids and the power was in the current, the skill is in your ability to not fall out or capsize. The beauty arises in the ability to ride with what the moment brings and enjoy whatever happens, even if we fall. The more we ride, the more skill we develop. If we were to try and dictate to the tides, the current, the rapids that they move in a way that we want, can you imagine the response you would get? It wouldn't work. We know that, so why even try?! The same applies to life, if we try to dictate how it flows, just watch the restrictions and the tightness that occurs, this isn't skill, this is control and that isn't skilful when the power is spontaneous and beyond your control. So our attitude is important to stay open!
We need courage, we need action. We must stay present to the reality of the moment. Surrender is not passive. Engage in the moment. Persevere. Have passion. Be creative.
We could say that surrender requires of us, to give ourselves a higher purpose, to meet the challenges we face skilfully.
Accept and pay attention TO NEEDS. When life needs us, it will ask something of us, we need to pay attention and have the courage to respond.
We ask ourselves to be vulnerable and undefended, we work in partnership with life, not singularly, sometimes we are led and sometimes we take the lead - just like dancing with someone.
"DO WHAT IS YOURS TO DO; DONT DO WHAT IS NOT YOURS TO DO." - Swami Rama.
"As we are able to let go of what we can't change, we are able to let go of what we can change, we are able to grow more and more into our unique gift and contribution to life itself. There is something that is ours to do, and whether it is large or small, it is our contribution to the whole of humanity. As we discern where our path lies and then surrender to that awareness we will begin to taste freedom and joy in a way we never dreamed possible." - Yamas and Niyamas.
Be soft and Be Strong, Be devoted.
Ishvara Pranidhana is the surrender of the ego to a higher purpose.
"Thy kingdom come, thy kingdom go"
As the ego surrenders, the heart expands. As the ego stops working so hard to get in its own way, life begins to take on an ease and rhythm. As the ego stops fighting to be number one, life begins to nourish and feed us in amazing ways. We become part of the greatness itself as Surrender teaches us to give up the fruits of our actions, and give our actions to the divine.
So in class this week, we explore through mediation, pranayama, and asana, SURRENDER... and the words of Swami Chetananda:
Ultimately there is nothing I can tell you
about surrender except
Having nothing and wanting nothing;
Not keeping score,
Not trying to be richer,
Not being afraid of losing;
Not being particularly interested
in our own personalities;
Choosing to be happy,
no matter what happens to us.
These are some of the clues.
The rest we learn with practice and grace.
Time has come as we all go down.
'Practice and Grace'
See you in Class!
Please donate to my crowdfunder, if you can: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/lucysyogaid
Much love on this exploration of surrender. I'll be doing it with you.