You probably hear yoga teachers say “simply surrender” all the time. What does that really mean? We know intellectually that the teachings of yoga aren’t suggesting that we just throw in the towel and give live a big fat “Whatever!” Finding the place between giving up the struggle of life and becoming a checked out coach potato can be incredibly challenging.
I recently experienced an “aha” moment around this. I often find myself guiding my students to “give up the fight” as we reach the silent stillness and emotionally raw hip openers in our classes. I observe some students relaxing and softening their bodies while keeping awareness alive. I see others collapsing like lumps, fighting and looking around, or even staring blankly at the wall. The fight we give up is the fight of efforting and struggling to earn worthiness, to impress people and achieve in order to feel good about ourselves. We don’t give up the fight for our soul. In many ways yoga practice is the fight of our lives, the fight to come away and stay there, to stand courageously vulnerable and allow the waves of grief, disappointment, betrayal, anger and frustration to wash over us. Sometimes as we open our eyes and commit more fully to living from our truth the waves get bigger. Our spirit rises up in triumph over the noise and reactive-ness of our ego.
I was reminded of a teaching from the Bible. Jesus said “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” Like many sacred teachings there are many layers to these wise words. One way to take in this guidance is to imagine the ego-mind as the sword. If we live according to the ever shifting reactions and defenses of our ego, if we believe in the often judgmental and hard-edged words that it speaks to us, it will eventually kill our spirit, snuff out our light and relegate us to the world of the walking dead, the place where dis-ease sets in.
So as yogis we drop our ego-minded swords in favor of listening to that still, small voice inside that always abides in love, that always guides us from a place of trustworthy truth. We surrender the weapons of the cruel voice in our heads, drop our protective armor and rise up as victors of spirit. The truth is, we don’t need to strive for anything. We already have the greatest prize of all: the gift of life itself.
As I was pondering all of this and thinking about writing this blog I was driving in my car and looked up at the bumper on a truck in front of me as we stopped at a light. To my amazement I read a sticker on the back that said:
“Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” Now, this isn’t the most eloquent or tasteful way of illustrating the concept of surrendering powerfully, but it sure makes the point. And, as always, I am pleasantly surprised at the humor with which the Universe delivers its messages. I let out a good laugh, smiled and relaxed my shoulders. I thanked the powers that be for this new nugget of insight into the old adage “Make Love Not War.”
So next time I see you on your mat, take your practice seriously and yourself lightly. Know that you are in the fight of your life, and be willing to drop your sword as you go into battle.