Surrender to Love – Isvara Pranidhana

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.

(Dalai Lama)

The last of the ten Yamas and Niyamas is Isvara Pranidhana.  This is the culmination of a series of steps leading us to that deep sense of peace, tranquillity and overall happiness that is yoga.

Isvara Pranidhana may be translated as the surrender of the ego to the divine.  While the concept of “divine” might mean different things to different people, the essence is the same regardless of the interpretation.  The “divine” may mean God, the universal oneness, or simply “love”.  Replace “divine” with whatever is your concept of the ultimate source of life – I will be using the word “love” in this blog.

Surrendering our ego to love means taking a deep look at ourselves – our thoughts and actions, and removing any self-centred motivation.  All that we think, say and do comes from a place deep in the heart that is inspired by love for all life.

This may sound simple enough, but is it realistic?  Can we love that neighbour who likes to party when we need to sleep?  What about that person who rudely pushes in front of people who have been waiting in line?  Isvara Pranidhana may be the hardest of all the Yamas and Niyamas to put into action.  This is why we start at the beginning, Ahimsa, and work our way through the Yamas and Niyamas to get to Isvara Pranidhana.

Our starting point, Ahimsa, teaches us to be kind to all.  Regardless of whether someone else is being mean or acting rudely, we respond with kindness.  This in itself can have amazing therapeutic benefits for both the person giving kindness and the receiver.

As we work through the other Yamas and Niyamas, we become more in touch with our true selves (think of Satya, Saucha and Svadhyaya); learning to let go of what doesn’t serve us (Aparigraha) helps us rise above problems caused by the ego (I explore this concept further in a forthcoming blog); and our journey takes us to a place of deep happiness (think of Santosha) where we fall in love with life.  Here we are ready for Isvara Pranidhana.

The world is more beautiful when all our thoughts and actions come from a loving heart.

Dancing in the Rain

Australia has voted to retain its conservative government. For some this is good news, for others, bad. Regardless of where you stand, there will always be winners and losers in every election. Indeed, we experience the ups and downs of winning and losing throughout our lives in many different ways: the job that we “won” or the promotion that we failed to “win”; relationships where we have “won” or “lost” the love of a partner; football or other sporting teams we support that have winning or losing streaks.  Whether we like it or not, competition with its winners and losers is an integral part of life.

How we respond to the challenges of life’s ups and downs defines us as a person.  Every true champion has faced adversity and risen above it.  The key is having the right attitude.  We all know people who have a “glass half full” outlook and others who see the “glass half empty”.  Actively looking for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives is a start. Equally important is the ability to keep your eye on the big picture – the end game – and not get dragged down when you experience a setback.

Yoga helps us deal with life’s challenges through its body-mind-soul connection. It begins by preparing the body, as a healthy body is needed for a healthy mind.  Next comes the calming of the mind and, with it, finding a deeper connection with the soul.  When we find this connection, we learn to see the beauty that is life – the beauty that lies deep within each soul.  Yoga teaches us to be present – to live in and appreciate every moment.  When we can keep our eye on the big picture – how amazing and beautiful life is – and apply this to every moment, then we truly know how to dance in the rain.