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Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender to the Divine


This week has been a challenging one for me, and once again I am being thrust into the lesson of surrender and trust. Trust has always been a really hard concept for me as I am quite literal. If one thing has always gone a certain way, why would I expect anything different next time? Trust is so easily tested when we are confronted with conflict. How do we trust when the rug has been pulled out from under us? How do we trust when there is so much suffering happening around us? What or who are we trusting in? I’m not going to pretend that I have the answer. But what I will do is continue to turn up my hands and say, I don’t know. Is there a reason for the pain and challenges we face, a greater plan? I don’t know. What I do know is that each time I am faced with a challenge it brings with it a teaching that awakens me. As we say in the chant – we thank the teachers that bring us toward the light and away from the ignorances of darkness. Not away from darkness, but away from the ignorances there – the misunderstandings we have when we forget that the darkness IS the path to light. So even if we can’t recognize the teaching yet, perhaps can we trust that there is one?


Can trust be as simple as letting the breath release on an exhale? Just as breathing out comes from a place of release and letting go, can trust come from a place of just relaxing and not doing? We are a culture that likes efforting. We are taught that with hard work we can achieve anything. And if you are anything like me there is no lack of trying. But are we forgetting about the other side of the paradox? Can we transform trust from an action we think we need to do into a kind of undoing? Those things we learn in the sweet moments when we fall to the ground… we can be so earnest in our efforts that the rug literally does need to be pulled out from under us in order to get us to fall to the earth, bow and surrender.

The last of the yogic niyamas – practices on how to interact with our inner world – as taught in Patanjali’s yoga sutras is ishvara pranidhana, which means surrender to the divine. I think it is last one because it is the hardest – there is the least to do. But let us remember that we are not always meant to know why things happen the way that they do, and that is why we have trust. I believe it is our path as humans to stumble and to make mistakes so that we can learn. And that can be really hard because sometimes we hurt ourselves and sometimes we hurt others. But surrender and trust are what catch us. When we choose to surrender, I believe trust follows. Then the next breath comes in. 

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Portland, ME