Isvara Pranidhana: The Yogic Art of Surrender


surrenderIsvara pranidhana is the yogic practice of surrendering to something higher. I can’t think of any other practice that reminds me how small I am and how important I am, all at once.

The art of surrendering acknowledges how little we have control over in this life. We can try to outsmart, outmaneuver, cajole, rush, turn up our volume, stomp our feet, hide, disappear, drug ourselves/drink ourselves, or remain inflexible, but life is going to keep happening to us regardless of our control strategies. The act of surrendering, or handing over what is outside of our control allows us the opportunity to swim with the current, rather than against it. We can keep present and learn to trust that life is moving us in the direction of purposeful learning. Each setback, each mistake, each failure is preparing us for something greater. Surrendering our will (our sense of what should be happening) and accepting our reality enables the real flow of life to pulsate within.

In this sense we grow to understand our own special place on this earth. We can see that we are essential to the beauty, depth, and grace that this world holds. What if life holds a little magic for each one of us? What if we experienced our healing as personal miracles, uniquely woven for our lives? What if the heartbreak ultimately leads us to the most blissed out places? That’s what makes life so valuable–experiencing the journey in all of it. It can almost blow your mind when you pause to see the way lessons unfold for your unique self.

I guiltily confess, I am stellar at surrendering when I am in a climactic state. I am more than willing to hope in something greater than myself, if it will help me get out of a pickle! While I think this is only human and a positive coping strategy, what feels better in my life is a daily practice of surrender.

In my world travels, I’ve observed chanting and ritualized dancing in the sacred Hindu gathering place of Varanasi. Throngs come together to bathe in the Ganges and  worship the hindu gods. It is all surrender and devotion. In Bali, I witnessed men and women construct beautiful prayer boxes out of downloadbanana leaves and flowers.  You could find these beautiful creations all along the streets. There was no attachment to the beauty and craftsmanship required, it was merely an act of consistent devotion to something higher. Their practice of karma yoga–service and charity sets that culture apart as one of the kindest and most loving in my experience.

How this translates in my life is seeking for ways to ritualize my surrender on a daily basis. Every morning when I wake up, I start the day by reading something uplifting. I meditate. I set an intention. I practice sitting in the quiet and pausing long enough to hear anything that I might need to hear. When I am in an anxious place, I remind myself, “You’ve done all you can, now give all this worry away.” I don’t have to keep what’s not serving me. I keep a daily gratitude journal so that I remember how blessed I am, regardless the circumstance.

Today I was introduced to a new practice of letting go. I stood up and was instructed to allow my body to shake, from head to toe. I inhaled and exhaled my breath aloud. This was a practice in “shaking it off.” If you’ve ever seen an animal survive trauma, you will observe that their bodies shake after the traumatic experience as a way to move past it. We can find ways to do this for ourselves when we need a bodily reminder to surrender.

I challenge you to cultivate isvara pranidhana in your own life and witness the experience that unfolds as you surrender…

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