Each year Axis YTT students find new awareness through their experiments with the yamas and niyamas. This student found the ability to “come into my spirit” through both passive and active surrender to God. This is the account of practicing the niyama, Ishvara Pranidhana.
Tag Archive for: Ishvarapranidhana
Three weeks ago, sitting in class I was struggling with the decision of which yama/niyama group to choose. After listening to the mentors discuss their experiences I was moved and excited to begin my own journey. However, felt this was something I would carry with me much longer than three weeks, rendering the decision a difficult one. Nevertheless, as I listened to the last mentor discuss Ishvara Pranidhan I felt my heart gravitating toward this experiment group almost automatically. Just like that, I had chosen to surrender to God.
In the beginning, it was a little difficult to formulate my experiment. I started thinking of why Ishvara Pranidhan was an obvious choice and how I could apply it in my life appropriately. Currently my life is in a bit of a transitional state. Having recently moved to a new state I am searching for work in a difficult market and preparing to apply to an extremely competitive internship program. I find these situations frustrating because no matter how much I plan and prepare I have no control over the outcome. What’s more, I consider myself a super planner. I like to have a clear plan in life, which typically transcends into enjoying the security of controlled situations. I think planning can be good to a degree, when it helps you to stay organized. However, the downfall is I often find myself trying to over-plan or control a situation that I have essentially had no control over. Therefore, I waste valuable time wondering, worrying, and becoming wrapped up in situations that may or may not happen. Which overall, results in not being present or valuing the given moments of the here and now.
After reflecting on this realization, I decided that if I surrender things beyond my control to God, then I will have more peace and it will allow me to be present in my life.
I began journaling. This very cathartic experience allowed me to re-direct my thoughts in moments where my mind was spiraling out of control. Being a planner, I began to make daily lists of things that I wanted to focus on and that were tangible. The lists really helped me stay focused on the present task instead of letting my mind steam roll into the over-planning mode. When I found myself fixating on a situation that I had no control over I would literally tell myself “STOP” and offer the thought up to God. I found serenity in this practice because it felt like letting go and being free. I also began to develop a more consistent sahdna practice to help this process of letting go. These actions were all very helpful; however, Richard Freeman writes in The Mirror of Yoga that the surrender carries two connotations, one that is passive and one that is active. Most of what I was doing was passively surrendering to God by simply accepting things as they are and having trust in God. In order to fully immerse myself in the experiment I wanted to go a little deeper and work on an active surrender.
I decided to do this by offering service to Isvara through helping others. I began to research volunteer programs and places I could offer my service and dedicate my actions to the good of others. I soon found this active surrender transcending throughout my daily life and my interactions with friends, family, the environment, and numerous other situations. Suddenly the situations I was toiling over were not that important, I could focus my energy, and efforts in helping others instead of letting my false ego flare up.
To conclude-at times during the experiment I thought, “Did I pick the wrong group?” However, in the end I know I was right where I was meant to be and I feel so liberated within my joyful surrender. I know this will be an ongoing experiment and something I will need to work at but it is so worth it! Three weeks ago, I wrote in my journal a quote that says, “Surrendering control and apprehension to God allows me to come into my spirit”. I do not think I could sum up my experiment any better.
By embracing Ishvarapranidhana (surrender to God), this Axis Teacher Training student found peace that had been missing in daily life. Identifying a need for constant control and then practicing ways to relinquish that control was an excellent introduction to the application of the niyama Ishvarapranidhana.
As I sit down to write this paper on the day of my divorce it comes as no surprise to me why I ended up with Ishvarapranidhana as my experiment, though going into it I really wasn’t sure if this was what I needed to do. Ahimsa (non harming) fit well, so did Aparigraha (non grasping) and as I have come to see several of the Yama’s and Niyama’s kind of work hand in hand. But to put focus back onto Ishvaripranidhan, what was it that I really needed to surrender to God or “let go and let God” as I like to say. Well let’s just look at this last year.
List of things to surrender to God
– False ideal of family
– Anger towards my now x husband for not putting me and the kids above his need for alcohol
– Feeling that I wasn’t a good mother because I asked for a divorce
– Feeling like I had to control every aspect of my life and getting completely derailed when things didn’t work out as I had planned
– Walls that I have put up to protect myself from ever having to go through the pain that I went through over the last 10 years of marriage
– So to summarize, because this list could go on, it really all boiled down to CONTROL. I had to be in CONTROL so I wouldn’t repeat my mistakes. I wasn’t living in the past but I wasn’t letting go of it either, and I was for sure going to MAKE SURE my future didn’t repeat my past mistakes. This CONTROL has come to rule me and my relationships with my kids, friends, and new lover, and not in a good way.
Once I came to the realization that I had a lot to let go of, Ishvaripranidhan made much more sense to me. I decided that a way I could start working on my list was to start a daily Sadhana or meditation practice and log in a journal any jewels that came up, or feelings, or just a summary of that days meditation. That would help me to calm my mind for at least that part of the day and maybe if I could get it to stop racing on all these things + many more, I could find some release and peace.
So I set out all excited to start that night with my meditation. I bought a new journal just for this meditation, I set up a time right before bed that was my time to meditate and I was off. Here is the first few logs into my meditation journal:
PM Sadhana practice in shower (water always helps me to calm down) was able to relax for 5 min, had feelings of exhaustion, mind wandering and had lack of focus. Got a brief image of a light beam from the top of my head being covered by darkness, then it jumped to an image of a head tilted back screaming a beam of light into the sky.
What I took from day 1 was a need to find my voice and free it. I have been holding on for so long that it is screaming to be free. But How?
Very tired fell asleep while trying to breath.
Got busy with helping the kids with homework and forgot
Worked late, maybe night time isn’t a good time for me to do Sadhana
Argument with boyfriend consumed my every thought no relaxation today
Gong Bath yeah! was able to relax but saw same image of beam of light covered by darkness
So you kind of get the idea that daily meditation at night was not working for me. Oh what a coincidence I tried to control something and it didn’t work. Of course not. Why wouldn’t it work for me, because I needed to let go of trying to control everything. Don’t you just love the universe, it will keep smacking you in the face until you listen, trust me I have the rosy cheeks to prove it. The only thing I can control is the way I react or respond to things in my life that happen.
So I changed my method. Now I was just going to try and be more conscience of my reactions. Change my attitude and my response, change my reality. And wouldn’t you know I got an opportunity to do that the very next day.
Woke up late at 6:15 instead of 6:00. 15 min not that big of a deal right? Wrong. That 15 min is what makes or breaks my morning. (CONTROL)
Get up in a hurry, through my clothes on, pull my hair back, brush my teeth, startle the kids awake “come on guys I overslept we need to hurry, get up and dressed, we have to go.”
Go and get the dogs to take them out thinking that the kids will get up and dressed while I take the dogs out. Wrong! Two of the four did what I asked, one got up and got dressed but instead of getting his stuff for school decided that he needed to find a toy, and one didn’t get up. Blood is now boiling, Ill I needed was for once for them to listen and do what I had asked that’s it and we still could have left on time. AHHHH! The time is now 6:55 and we should have left 10 min ago, one boy is still looking for a toy and the other is trying to walk out the door without his shoes. Oh my God! really! I am going to be so late for work. So I start panicking. Finally get everyone into the car and we take off. It is now 7:00. I should be dropping them off right now. My son looks at me and says “Mom why are you so upset?” I start into a rant of why I just really needed them to listen, now because we were late I didn’t get to make my lunch, I didn’t get my coffee, they were going to have to have pop tarts at the school for breakfast, etc. And wouldn’t you know I’m in the middle of my rant and I turn down the street and there is construction! OF COURSE. My kids start bickering about it was the boys fault that we are late, my daughter starts yelling at the traffic, and there was my “ah ha” moment. Look and what my CONTROL or actual LACK OF SELF CONTROL had done. My bad attitude had now affected and caused my kids to be having a bad day. It just clicked. My issues with everything had nothing to do with anyone else but me. I was creating my reality, and I really didn’t like it. So I took control of the one thing that I could, MYSELF. I looked at all the kids and stopped the yelling and bickering. “Guys it’s not the boys fault that we are late, it’s not the traffic, it’s me. I woke up late. I am sorry that I was frustrated, but can we please work together when we do run late, because that would help.” They all said yes. The street opened up and we got to the school by 7:10. Now to get them signed in and leave. Shouldn’t take that long right? Being that we had already had a very emotional morning each of my kids decided they needed a long hug and several goodbye’s. I looked at the clock 7:15. Well I am going to be late anyway, I can at least give my children what they need to have a good day. I hugged each of them and told them again that I was sorry for my frustration this morning, I love them very much and hope that they have a great day! I am finally back in the car by 7:20. It normally takes me 15 to 20 min to get from the school to my work. “Just let it go Terralar, you are never late to work, one time is not going to kill you.” I took a deep breath and said “I’m done, it’s all yours, I don’t want the control, I know where I want to go but the path is up to you, I will let go and just follow now.” I leave the school and make it to work by 7:30. Not one red light, not one car cutting me off, not one bit of traffic. WOW! What an overwhelming experience of peace.
Over the next few days I had more opportunities to remind myself to just let go. With each I had to take a step back, breath, and just surrender. But I have already started to see the benefits of just letting go.
We don’t have to know everything, sometimes what shapes our future is the journey of the unknown. It is not to say that we shouldn’t have any idea of what we want or where we want to go and take steps toward that, but we should be able to go with the flow. Not everything will happen the way we want but there is always a reason. There is always something that we needed to learn or find understanding in. Whether we see it and understand it now or 30 yrs from now, just know that there is a reason and maybe find some peace in knowing that.
I didn’t know why I had to be married to an alcoholic, and was very angry for a long time because of it. But now I see that though that experience was not what I wanted, it was what I needed. I am very blessed to be on the other side stronger and more resilient then before and I am now grateful for the experience because of what it taught me. I surrendered my anger and control to God and have now attained a portion of peace I thought unattainable before.
I feel that my experiment was a great success. Though I did not attain a daily Sadhana practice that I had originally set out to achieve, I do meditate more than before. I also don’t get as stressed out when I can’t get in done. And I have achieved a great deal of peace in many aspects of my life by just breathing and surrendering to God. Let go and let God and ENJOY LIFE!
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