Monday, October 28, 2013

Sweet Surrender- A message for all my peoples in the struggle

YOGA VIDA - 666 Broadway @ Bond Street: Mon @ 2pm, Fri @ 2pm & 7:30pm

DREAM DOWNTOWN - 355 West 16th Street: Sun @ 11am (w/ meditation!)

In case you haven't heard, New York City is a tough place to live. They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere because the amount of work we have to do to just to keep up here would leave many non-cityfolk panting on the sidelines. And we take pride in that! We revel in it! We wear our struggle like a badge of honor as we go out onto the urban battlefield we call home day after day. We are collectively and individually determined to "make it" here - obstacles and opponents be damned!

Working hard is admirable. It's finishing the 10th mile of your long run even though that race you signed up for is still months away. It's not cutting corners at work, even when no one will notice. Struggle however, is different than hard work. Struggle is when you attach yourself so strongly to an end result that you can't see any alternative. Struggle is when your ego tricks you into believing that you can actually control the workings of other people and the world. Struggle is working out 2 hours a day because you believe that if you get skinny enough you'll find a husband. Struggle is when your life is driven by obsessing, sleeplessness, anxiety, and panic . "I've just GOT to get this promotion and I won't let anything or anyone stand in my way." "If I play it just cool enough- and get us a reservation at that restaurant, she'll finally go out with me." Struggle puts you at odds with the universe and puts you in such a state that even if you get that thing you're struggling after, you'll be miserable anyway.

The Yoga Sutras list five niyamas or "observances" that will help lead the yogi to liberation from the struggle-cycle. One of these is "Ishvara pranidhana" -surrender to one's "personal God" or more generally, a higher power. In Western culture, "surrender" has a negative connotation. It means to give up, wave the white flag, throw in the towel, admit defeat. Surrendering in the yogic sense is not something that losers do, rather it's a prerequisite for experiencing contentment. 

Surrender doesn't mean you don't work hard. It means you JUST work hard and leave it at that. You do your job as well as you can and leave at the end of the day feeling satisfied. Not anxiously wondering if your boss noticed or if you're going to get a raise because of it. You are dedicated in your effort, but unattached to the outcome. Maybe instead of agonizing, you just send her that text message and go about your day. She will or she won't text back but you accept that you have no power over the situation. No amount of obsessing, over-analyzing or struggle on your part is going to change the outcome. You surrender to the higher power - whatever that may be for you: God, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, the "universal consciousness", mother nature, or just the law of probability that says even if you give yourself an ulcer wishing that coin will land with heads facing up, you still only have a 50/50 shot. 

On our yoga mats we fold forward, bowing our heads in reverence to the universe. We show our humility. We acknowledge that no matter our title, social status, or work ethic, the universe has a heck of a lot more power than we do. When we bend backwards we expose our heart in a demonstration of true vulnerability and receptivity. We are open to whatever might come our way, even if it's not what we thought we wanted or expected to appear. We breath through difficult postures with the same equanimity that we do while standing in tadasana. We don't allow our ego to convince us it is in control. We consciously release the struggle, stress, and strain that comes along with attachment to "winning", "making it," and "success". With humility and openness we surrender our efforts. Rather than a sign of weakness, the ability to surrender is the ultimate sign of strength. It takes much more character to surrender than it does to cleave ourselves strongly to a desired result. 

This week in class we will be humble warriors, bowing down to show our egos who is NOT boss. We will be flexible- emotionally and physically- bending backwards to open up our hearts to the possibilities that are beyond what we could have imagined for ourselves. We will take one hour out of our day to stop fighting against the tide and just let the waves wash over us. 

Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace.
-Bhagavad Gita

Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.