The Jewel of Surrender/Ishvara Pranidhana

This past week I lost a dear friend/client to cancer. It had me questioning the purpose of life. What is life? This mystery, this unknown? 

And then I began to think about surrender. How does one surrender to the unknown? The mystery? In my own words, to surrender to the unknown and unknowable can help us move forward and remember that spark that will be “translated through us into action”, as Martha Graham wrote in last weeks blog.  And may those actions we make, create, like ripples in the waters of life, nourishment for all now and for future generations.

In yoga philosophy, the niyama, or observance, of ishvara pranidhana, is translated as ‘The Jewel of surrender’.  In her book on the yamas and niyamas entitled “The yamas & niyamas; exploring yoga’s ethical practice”, Deborah Adele writes, “Ishvara pranadana, the jewel of surrender, presupposes that there is a divine force at work in our lives. Whether we call it God, Grace, Providence, or life, this force is greater than we are and cares deeply about us. Surrender invites us to be active participants in our life, totally present and fluid with each moment, while appreciating the magnitude and mystery of what we are participating in. Ultimately this guideline invites us to surrender our egos, open our hearts and accept the higher purpose of our being.”

In the physical practices this week, and in correlation with this intention, I focused around the heart center, shoulders, as well as a bit of hips, and the second chakra of water and emotions.  Since the passing of my friend, difficult emotions have come up, hence my questioning of the purpose of life.  We embodied all of these ideas and entities by way of the varuna mudra.

Varuna was an elder deity who watched over all things. He was a guardian. He was lord of water and personification of the sky. His mudra is made by connecting your thumb and pinky fingertips to meet in each hand respectively, while the other three fingers are left extended and soft. Place this mudra in your lap now, feel free to create it in your own hands and notice what you notice. Varuna mudra supports us to process difficult emotions with greater ability. It helps us enjoy life more fully even when we are aware of suffering. This mudra balances the water element within us and has a hydrating effect. It is a cooling mudra. It inspires us to go with the flow and find peace in how things are. I’m sure you can see why I chose it in alignment with the intention this week of surrender.

I love how the jewel of surrender invites us to be an active participant in life. Throughout leading classes this week I felt channeled through me the realization that: when we actively leave our heart open to things as they are, to witness life as it unfolds, that is the act of participation!  We are simultaneously surrendering to what is, as we witness it. And, I came to feel and realized that in doing this, we can be simultaneously leaving ourselves open to seeing where life is directing us, where life is moving us. We can therefore, through the jewel of surrender, quite possibly see our purpose in life, or even the purpose of life itself. When we surrender to that divine entity greater than ourselves, which is simultaneously who we are, we can better wade through the waters of life when those waters are choppy and thrashing.  And when those waters are pristine, still and peaceful, then we can enjoy them even more.

Deborah Adele again, “As we grow ourselves into the fullness of what this jewel has to teach us, we begin to understand the magnanimity of what guides, protects, nourishes, and cares for us. We begin to understand that there is something much greater which is “doing” us, and we begin to give all of our actions, as well as the fruits of our actions, into the arms of the divine. surrender is knowing ourselves to be a part of this divine oneness and then giving ourselves over to this greater whole. We find in the process that we do not lose ourselves, but instead become part of the greatness itself.”

It personally took me many years to come to fully understand that surrender does not equate to letting go and giving up. Surrender does not mean stopping life and not taking action. Rather, surrender means stepping into life, and stepping into our own light, and being courageous in those steps.  Being willing to take those steps no matter what the outcome, to live life fully, and to just surrender to where it lands us is what ishvara pranidhana is about. This brings me circling back again to the idea that when we surrender to life’s flow, that we may also simultaneously be available to see where life is taking us, what it is presenting us, and where we might serve others in the best way possible. That creative flow reminds me of spanda, two weeks ago. And perhaps how spanda is kind of like the holy Spirit, moving us towards the light, towards the love, always.

I closed my classes with this haiku that came out of Deborah Adele’s book, but which was written by Catherine Larsen:
“Jump into your life
With your whole heart, trusting that
You will fly to God!”

Some other of my past blogs that I thought of in relation to surrender:

Breathe and believe.