by Jill Sockman
At the end of Patanjali’s list of niyamas (personal observances) is ishvara pranidhana. I tend to believe it was placed at the end for a reason — a culmination of sorts, and some great commentators on the Yoga Sutras argue if one can master this niyama, there is no need for anything else. No surprise then, that perhaps it’s the hardest to do.
As with everything else in Sanskrit — and yoga for that matter — there are many definitions and interpretations of ishvara pranidhana. To wrap them up, boil them down, titrate to the essence, I offer you this: to dedicate our efforts to present moment awareness without attachment; to be in a continual state of offering our actions to something bigger than ourselves; to ever surrender our small, individual will to that which is greater — whatever your personal interpretation of “greater” might be.
In short: listen, surrender, let go. Offer yourself, all you have and all you are, repeatedly, into the divine process that is your life, ever attuned to the voice of wisdom within as a guide for surrendering the limited self into the greater oneness. Whatever you think it is, it isn’t. Whatever you believe you know for sure, you’re wrong. Whatever you’re holding onto most tightly, you’ll be asked to relinquish. Stop trying so hard and just be.
Why is that so hard? Because we are so attached. We are attached to everything from how we look to what we achieve, to how how we look and what we achieve are perceived by others. We are attached to our desires, what we want, what we believe we deserve, and what that should look like. We are ever trying to control, to fix, to manage, to micromanage. We are, even as yogis and despite our best efforts, strongly attached to these bodies, these thoughts, these emotions and the outcomes of our actions. And while we keep practicing, keep returning to the mat to loosen our grip, the grasping, reaching, controlling, striving and wanting returns, as the ego and its identification with form is always fighting for its place as driver in our lives. Sometimes the window cracks open, and we are able to let go. Other times, life will give us a nudge.
I’m in one of those places right now. The truth is, I’ve been in this place for a number of years but my attachment to how things should be, what I should be able to do and my overdeveloped sense that the universe might just fall to pieces if I don’t show up, has drowned out the voice of wisdom that’s been saying, “Hey! Take five!” for a really, really, really long time. And so for a long list of reasons, it’s time for me to take a break. I’ll be teaching classes, privates and trainings as usual up until Christmas, and after that (with a long, extended, uncomfortable silence), I will be taking three months off. Listen. Surrender. Let go.
I hope to see you before then, but if not, may your holidays be easeful, restful, full of grace and love. May you let go, even a little, in the places where you most often find yourself fixed, controlling or narrow in your focus. And may we all find that beyond our striving to do, there is the perfection of just being. And in fully being, we serve the One.
Vata season again – keep calm and swaddle
by Jill Sockman
Oh, friends. It’s vata season again. How can I tell? Certainly not by the weather, most days. Although despite our oddly warm weather, Mother Nature still seems to know it’s time to shed the old, as the leaves are slowly turning, falling.
It’s not by another page of the calendar flipping over, or even the coming holidays. I know, with 100% certainty it is fall because I can’t sleep. I can’t keep a routine for more than two days running. Regularly, it will be 3:00 pm and I’ll pause and wonder…Have I eaten today? I can barely hold a thought in my head long enough to get it out of my mouth, and more times per day than I care to admit I run up the stairs to get something, only to wander from room to room wondering what I’m looking for. There are approximately 872 tasks on my to-do list, 870 of which I’ve started and 0 of which I have completed.
Yes, friends, ’tis the season for vata derangement: too much movement, too much lightness, too much air.
I haven’t looked back into the archives, but I am pretty sure I write about this every year. And at least 80% of the reason I write about it is because I am actually incapable of writing about anything else. As it is, I’ve started no fewer than four other messages, unable to get my thoughts out clearly, much less complete any of them into something remotely cohesive or readable. So after much ado and random email checking, social media scrolling, wandering around the house, and opening and closing the refrigerator, I’ve decided to keep it simple and write about what is real to me in the moment. Why didn’t I just start here? See above.
If any of this has sounded familiar to you, read on, and implement as you can. If not, scroll down now with deep gratitude for your grounded, steady presence on this earth, and have some patience for those of us who are very nearly spinning off the planet.
- Go to bed early. Every night. At the same time. Do so without a device in your hand, preferably after a cup of tea or a bath, or both.
- Eat regularly. And that doesn’t mean eating popcorn, chips or candy at frequent intervals throughout the day. We’re talking cooked food, plenty of which came out of the earth, eaten sitting down, slowly, while also breathing. Tall order, I know.
- Restorative Yoga. Maybe with extra blankets, or even sandbags.
- Yoga Nidra. Swaddle yourself first. And again with the sandbags.
- Stay warm. (back to the swaddling)
- Oil massage. And that’s daily self-massage as well as massage received from a professional.
- Do one thing at a time, see it through to completion, and then have a rest before moving on to the next task. Breathe.
- Exercise should be slow and gentle. Avoid the urge to try to “get the yayas out” by hitting it hard in your activity of choice. Adding a lot of movement to something that is already in motion feeds the spinning off the planet problem. (Note to self: 90 minutes on the bike, particularly after not training for six weeks is a BAD idea, not a good one. Do Not Repeat.)
Consistency is the name of the game when you are feeling scattered, overwhelmed, spacey, racy or flighty. And every opportunity you can apply it will be helpful– from your waking and sleeping hours to your workdays and meal times.
Most of all, be kind to yourself. This too shall pass.