What does the word “surrender” conjure up for you? What bubbles up for you emotionally and energetically when you hear a term like “letting go”? Does it make the hairs on your neck stand at attention? Or do you feel a wave of peace, trust, maybe even calm surround you? Observe that. Sink into it. Now I’m going to ask you to think about that. No…really…stop. and. think. How do you resonate and relate to this complex idea of surrender? Do you have it in you to “go with the flow”?
The way that this word vibrates within you may have everything to do with your cultural and geographical upbringing. I grew up in the United States where “surrender” is most often synonymous with defeat, collapse, retreat and sometimes even failure. The deeper I sink into my life tucked within the jungle arms of my adopted Costa Rica, the more headway I gain in evolving my relationship to surrender. Here it is simply called pura vida. As I wander down my yogic path I’ve started to re-evaluate my prior life’s worth of programming. And I’ve come to a conclusion: surrendering is NOT losing, nor deficiency, not the easy way out and it is DEFINITELY not the lazy route; it is not the proverbial shipwreck and certainly not this sort of destructive implosion it can be portrayed as. Surrendering is not failure. In fact, quite to the contrary, surrendering is a fine and distinguished art form; to surrender is to flow freely within the waves of life.
I’ve recently spent 10 days on a mountaintop in the southwestern most corner of Costa Rica. The Pavones Yoga Center sits majestically perched among papaya trees and white faced monkeys and offers a course entitled “The Art of Flow”. My days in Pavones were spent exploring the definition of “flow” and the realization that “flow” in fact has many different definitions; all of which are true. One common thread that seamed us into collective agreement was the concept that being in the flow brings a sense of all-connectedness. Flow is that time and space where everything comes together as it should and translates effortlessly to all of those around us, it is what moves us from the big “I” to the little “i”. Flow is a trust of the innate perfection of it all. To flow is to surrender. To surrender is to flow. This study has me taking a more introspective approach to my own ability to ride life’s rapids and sink into surrender.
This is challenging for everyone. Our work as yogis asks us to develop a deeper understanding of surrender. This work leads us toward it through practice and discipline, we develop and nurture it, ebb and flow in and out of it all. The being who surrenders has developed an arms-and-heart-wide-open level of trust and understanding that I can only strive to reach one day. That is to say; a trust and confidence that all is in Universal order, all is flowing as it should and that the ultimate end result will be absolutely perfect as it comes. And here is the real kicker: “perfect” comes in all forms and sizes, it is a shape-shifter of Divine proportion. Perfect does not always come in the shape that we have requested, tied up in a pretty pink box, but yet arrives in the form that is needed within an ultimate and uncontrollable scheme of things. Nonetheless, perfection cannot be diminished. The message may take years for us to decipher, but the perfection of it all is ever-present.
In yoga this concept of surrender and trust is called Ishvara pranidhana or “surrendering to a higher source”. It is listed as one of the five niyamas in Pantanjali’s Sutras; the niyamas being the five observances. Shiva Rea states that “Ishvara pranidhana shifts our perspective from the obsession with “I”…that causes so much of the mind’s distraction and creates a sense of separation from our Source…[it] focuses not on ego but on the sacred ground of being, it reunites us with our true Self.” (Yoga Journal, The Practice of Surrender) Those who know how to surrender, tap into a deeper level of listening than most are able to access; listening to the guidance and clarity that floods in from around them, and as well from the ever-present internal Source.
I challenge myself and all of those on this green earth to start observing your relationships to the concepts of Flow and Surrender. Allow grace to unfold within your life; give it permission to permeate and take hold. Trust in something greater than “I”, diminish your fears through an unchangeably open heart and then take the plunge. This is not failure. This is the first small step toward acceptance, flexibility, clarity and compassion; a step in the direction toward Something Greater. I know which path I find more appealing, how about you?