13 Nov Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender
Luckily for us “control freaks”, Patanjali had us covered 2500 years ago in the Yoga Sutras with the concept of Isvara Pranidhana, which has since been defined as surrendering, devoting our actions to a higher power or collective consciousness, acceptance, teachability, relaxing expectations and adventurousness. At least I feel a bit better knowing that the issue of control is not a new thing, and it seems that us human beings have always needed the reminder to surrender and let go. Exploring this is as a philosophical and spiritual concept can help us to see it from a different perspective.
When we feel in control, it is actually an illusion and a very precarious balance. We do not allow space for things to come to us, for people around us to step up. We might do so hoping to manage people, situations and relationships so that they suit us, perhaps trying to protect ourselves from pain, disappointment and confrontation. Surrendering can seem like a sign of weakness or passivity and we often confuse strength with stubbornness and inflexibility. What can happen when we let go is that we are also painfully confronted with our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, our “shadow self”, as well as how much we actually need other people. Embracing the concept of interdependence as well as humility may help to let go as we realise that we cannot actually achieve anything “on our own”.
When we try and control, we actually block our spiritual connection and the influx of energy that supports us, often leading to us feeling burnout. When we surrender, we open a door, or energy channel, enabling us to receive intuition or guidance, creativity, and energetic support. Trying to constantly control things around us is exhausting and creates permanent inner tension and simultaneous feelings of superiority and inferiority which we often hide behind a mask of wellbeing.
Indian yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar states in his Light on Yoga, “Through surrender the aspirant’s ego is effaced, and…grace…pours down upon him like a torrential rain.”
It is important to understand where our need for control comes from and to heal that fear and hurt in order to be able to trust, to surrender and to access a higher level of guidance. Very few of us received unconditional love and support as children and therefore developed feelings of fear, hurt, disappointment, isolation, abandonment and separation. When we feel powerless, our reaction can be to try and control situations and people around us, in an attempt to get our “power” back.
On a lighter note, as a little fun game, here is a “magazine style” test for you!
- Do you get upset when your plans do not happen as you intended?
- Do you feel offended when a friend does not agree with you?
- Do you feel anxious when an activity or appointment is cancelled last minute?
- Do you tend to be unforgiving of your “mistakes” and other people’s “mistakes”?
- Do you feel impatient when things are not moving “fast enough”?
If you have answered yes to one or more of the above questions, then first of all, welcome to the club!
Now what can we do about it? Most importantly we can work on healing our past hurt and therefore strengthening our feelings of trust in ourselves and others. Regularly using mantras is also a simple but powerful technique which can help: silently repeating a word that resonates with you, such as “surrender”, “let go” or “trust”, combining it with deep breathing and closed eyes may help you feel calmer and clearer in moments of stress, anxiety, fear or when you feel lost or powerless.
Writing this blog I felt that this really was an important topic for a lot of us, I hope that you found it interesting and I look forward to hearing your feedback!