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.