Ishvara Pranidhana or surrendering to a Supreme Being is the last of the Niyamas or ethical observances mentioned by Pantanjali in the Yoga Sutras, and for me it has always been the most difficult. I've understood it intellectually, but have been unable, or indeed, unwilling to embody it. The whole notion of surrendering to God is problematic in itself for me, or at least was. 'God' of course needn't be some bloke in the sky and can be called anything you like - the Universe, Source, the Divine - whatever. But more importantly, the Supreme Being Pantajali was referring to, is actually your Higher Self, your Atman, or true, unchanging Self. And it is this that we are asked to surrender to.
I had my first solo journey overseas for around 15 years last October and treated it a little like a sabbatical, spending my time immersed in yoga practice and study and swimming with the fish on the beautiful Amed coastline in East Bali. It was a magical time where I reconnected with myself and began to formulate dreams and visualised what my future will look like. I also spent time with many amazing people in the village of Lean and was taken in and treated like family. During the course of this time I was extremely fortunate and honoured to be asked to attend a 3 day ceremony for the blessing of the family temple. Those of you who have spent time in Bali will know that the island is imbued with a strong sense of spirituality. It's almost a tangible essence and permeates every aspect of Balinese life. These people live and breath it, and have a connectedness to spirit that is enviable and sadly missing in our Western lives. On the last evening of the ceremony I got to witness this first hand and was drawn in and invited to allow the spirits of Bali to enter my being. I submitted of course. Kinda hard not too when you're the only foreigner and the extended family is treating you as one of their own. I'm not really sure what happened that night, but from that time on, I finally felt - embodied - the surrendering to a higher power principle.
What this means for me now, is that every thing I do is offered to a greater power. Now remember, the greater or higher power that Patanjali refers to when he says surrender to a Supreme Being, is yourself and therefore all humanity, since we are all one. It has given all my actions a sense of sacredness. I no longer look at what I do as something just for me but for all. What it has also meant, is that I have finally let go of striving for outcomes; let go of worrying about what I can not change; let go of the past (well, I'm working on it at any rate). I surrender to the every changing flow of life and trust that what I need will be given. Any obstacles that I encounter along the journey are now seen as necessary for my growth. To be quite honest, internalising surrendering to a higher source has been one of the most liberating moments of my life.
Now that's not to say that I don't still have days where I struggle or that I am now wandering around in La La Land with my head in the clouds and letting the 'Will of Shiva' make my decisions for me, but it has meant that I have internally relaxed. When things go wrong (as they inevitably do in life), or I begin to find myself stressing over something, I remember that I am connected to a higher source, that everything I need can be found within myself and I tap into this higher energy. For me, this means either getting on my mat for the full yogic experience or maybe just sitting and practising pranayama and meditation. At other times, that meditation may be a long walk on a beautiful beach and a soak in the salty waters of the Indian Ocean. It has meant that I no longer feel alone with my worries, and has imbued my life with an extra dose of joyousness and connectivity. And for me, this is the heart of yoga - surrender, Ishvara Pranidhana, to a Higher Source - to yourself, to your inner Divinity, and having faith in the process of Self- Realisation. Namaste!