Do we dare, do we dare, do we dare surrender to God?
Oh boy – the G-word in yoga. Scary stuff indeed. How does God relate to yoga?
Let’s start by ditching the word God – although that’s what Ishvara refers to, we can call it Grand Ordering Design if we like.
It’s nothing more than the infinite intelligence throughout the Universe that keeps everything in place – the sun rising, the moon waxing and waning, the tides rising and falling, seeds germinating and seasons revolving.
That’s the Grand Ordering Design of the Universe. It’s that which underlies everything – including us. Because we are a part of life.
So that’s Ishvara, the first part of the final niyama, Ishvara Pranidhana.
Pranidhana is the bit that means surrender and it’s where I find myself now.
See, over the last few months, I’ve begun to see a pattern emerging.
First, I explored Tapas and burned through a tendency to over-work, noticing that I was creating misery for myself.
Then I dove into Svadhyaya and realised that I’ve long been an adept at self-study, and study in general. In doing this selfstudy, layers and layers of the Self are revealed as false and fall away.
I began to wonder what would happen when the final layers of false self had fallen away. Would it be the True Self revealed?
The Higher Self?
No … instead, I’ve come to a different place.
All that remains when our identities fall away is pure awareness. There is nothing else. We become, as Adyashanti calls it, Awareness Experienced, or Awareness experiencing itself.
And what is pure awareness but the Grand Ordering Design that underlies everything?
Ishvara Pranidhana, the fifth and final niyama, is Surrender to Awareness.
There’s no thoughts, no feelings, and no ideas or beliefs to get in the way of us as Awareness and life.
However, we don’t need to be fully enlightened to cultivate Ishvara Pranidhana in our life. All of us are pure Awareness, the only difference is how many thoughts, feelings, ideas and beliefs cloud that awareness.
Our practice of yoga is about clearing out all that cloudiness – it’s a breath of fresh air … it’s our breath.
Yes, by paying attention to our breath right throughout our day – like me right now sitting at the laptop, noticing my inhale and noticing my exhale – that attention on the breath cultivates our awareness.
That’s step one in Ishvara Pranidhana. Cultivate Awareness. Feel the pure, clarity of awareness within you.
The second step in Ishvara Pranidhana is learning how to surrender to that awareness. This is an aspect of life I’m familiar with and a way of life that I’m cultivating. In a concrete way, this surrender often means taking a moment to allow a moment to truly penetrate my being. I watch as thoughts or feelings might arise in reaction to the moment. I see those thoughts and feelings but I don’t allow them to generate an action. Instead, I pause, until the clarity of Awareness infuses my being and allow action to arise from that place.
It’s a practice.
It takes time.
And I’m still learning to live this way.
In this way of living, I’ve discovered that no decision every needs to be made. We know what to do, moment by moment, as life unfolds. We can feel the flow inside and awareness guides us at every moment.
It’s a difficult way to life as it requires awareness, the ability to let go of personal wants, likes, dislikes and the courage to face into fear.
All of which we cultivate with the other niyamas. Yes, Ishvara Pranidhana is the fifth niyama for good reason – the ground has been thoroughly laid for it to naturally arise through the other four niyamas. We purify ourselves, we cultivate contentment, we burn through obstructions and we learn the art of study and self-study.
Now, after all that action, we can learn to surrender to what is in this moment.
Take a moment. Bring awareness to it. Notice your breath. Notice your thoughts. Notice your feelings. Now someone asks you a question that demands a response. Stay in the noticing – of your thoughts, feelings, breath and awareness. In the noticing, a repsonse will arise from the ground of your being. From pure awareness. That repsonse may challenge your own wants, comfort zone or likes. But it has a quality about it that makes it clear this is the way. A lightness about it if you will. A truth.
I am the way, the truth and the light.
This is the way, the truth and the light.
This is Ishvara Pranidhana. Taking everything you’ve practising so far and letting it guide you moment to moment. Trusting that even when you can’t make intellectual sense of what your deeper sense of awareness is guiding you to act on, all will be revealed in time. There is peace in this. When I reflect on the agitation and angst I felt just a few months ago as I explored Tapas, and compare that to my state of being now, I marvel at the difference.
In simply letting go of my need to control, of my ideas and beliefs about the way life is and the way life should be, I’ve opened up into how it is.
In that there is freedom.
In that there is liberation.
In that, I am.