Today I’d like to talk to you about a very special topic close to my heart. It’s an important topic in making progress in your Yoga practice.
Do you truly know what it means to “let go?”
As I’m writing this I’m looking out the window and I’m amazed at how nature sometimes acts as our teacher.
Right now a tree beside my house is showing me its LOVE for letting go. Letting go of that which has died… of that which no longer exists and no longer belongs to us.
I chose the noun “love” not by accident.
Try to observe the moment in which a leaf detaches from a branch: it does not do so with noise, hardness, or rigidity.
But naturally, without forcing. Silently it whirls in the air and then gently rests on the ground.
How wonderful would it be if we too could apply this in our lives?
But we don’t. We get angry, we raise our voices, we hold a tangle of emotions inside that weighs more than a boulder. We stomp our feet and cry, reclaiming our ancient wounds.
If you’re not familiar with what “letting go” means, then think about its opposite: holding back. You know that feeling well, I’m sure.
When we let the ego play the cards in our lives, we have no escape.
We hold back everything. Not only the good things (and so far, no problem right?) but also – and especially – the bad things!
We hold back the pain, the suffering, the betrayals, the offenses, the humiliations, the mistakes, the illusions… we hold back everything that DOES NOT exist.
Let me explain…
If you notice, when you’re in this mindset you think about everything except what is in the here and now.
Every time you find yourself holding back, you wish the situation were different from the present.
In doing so, you forget one ESSENTIAL thing…
What resists, persists. FOREVER.
The more you row against life, the harder you struggle to live. You are reduced to surviving, literally.
This happens in your practice as well…
How many times have you found yourself not accepting the limits of your body?
Striving harder than you should without getting results and instead… getting injuries.
…or you refuse to accept that a beginner who’s practicing next to you and who, in their first lesson, is much more flexible than you.
…or you refuse to accept your teacher has moved away and “abandoned” you, believing that you won’t be able to carry on in self-practice.
(Side note: all these things have happened to me.)
So here’s where the practice of letting go can come in and be a special balm to your life, as well as your practice.
Patanjali explains it well, within the Yoga Sutras:
“By total surrender to God, Samadhi is attained.” (Sutra 2.45)
Samadhi is a very deep concept in yogic philosophy. Put simply, it’s a deep state of meditation and oneness with some greater power.
We won’t go deeper into Samadhi right now… instead let’s focus on the first part: total surrender to God.
This doesn’t mean that we must believe in God, or be religious.
It means that we must first see that there is something greater than us, or rather, greater than our ego and mind.
(You can replace the term God with something you are more familiar with like Universe, Higher Self, The Divine, Nature… you pick.)
“Surrender to God” is translated in Sanskrit as Ishvara Pranidhana: surrendering (pranidhana) to a higher source (Ishvara).
Ishvara Pranidhana happens when you decide to let go of your ego and stop fighting.
You surrender… but this form of surrender is anything but negative.
Surrender here means letting things be because you know you have no control over them.
You discern what is in your control from what is not.
And the hard pill to swallow is…
You have very little control over what happens outside of you.
What everyone is certain about is that you definitely have control over your INNER environment. (Or in other words, the way that YOU react to things that happen in your life.)
In this sense the Art of Surrender helps you to be resilient… to discover your hidden inner potential, which you’ve always had but have ignored until now.
It requires tremendous strength and courage to let go. It’s not easy AT ALL.
Because it’s not easy to let go when someone has hurt you…
It’s not easy to let go when you’re frustrated with limited mobility or difficulty in some poses…
It’s not easy to let go when your expectations aren’t being met…
But letting go is what leads you to a life of Grace and Love.
You refuse to cling to suffering, instead focusing on what you have: the present, here and now.
Then you can flow, with confidence, like a fish carried by water’s current.
Because like this fish, you are right where you’re supposed to be…
…carried by your own life’s current.
So when you find yourself asking “Why is this happening TO me?”…
Change the question to “Why is this happening FOR me?”…
…because all of life’s experiences have a lesson to teach us. Opportunities and new beginnings are hidden only in the present.
If you let go and stay in it, then you are open to receiving the gifts of life.
You can start today… on your mat!
Practice the Art Surrender, Ishvara Pranidhana.
Before you start, set the intention of “letting go and surrender.”
When you find yourself fighting to stay in a pose…
Take a deep breath, accept it, let go and see what happens.