Ishvarapranidhana: Surrender to the Divine
When I began to think about writing this essay, I read all the different definitions and descriptions of the yamas and niyamas I could find. Truthfully, all of them spoke to me in one way or another. I felt that I could think and write about each of them without too much trouble. So I decided to pick the one that was most challenging to me. In other words, the one that would give me the most trouble. I chose Ishvarapranidhana, which I found variously defined as “surrender to the divine,” “devotion to God” and “celebration of the spiritual” in the different books I read. This is a very big concept to understand, for me at least.
In attempting to understand what this means to me in my life I looked through the descriptions of Ishvarapranidhana in the same way I look over my kids’ math problems when I’m trying to help them with their homework. It’s all very difficult to penetrate so I’m looking for a lifeline, something that jumps out at me. All this talk about spirituality, the divine and (oh god) God is making me squirm. I have a lot of trouble with this. But all of the texts I read gave the same advice for approaching Ishvarapranidhana. Daily prayer or meditation is an opportunity to open yourself to the feeling that there is a greater intelligence at work in your life. And this is wonderful news to me because I am trying to develop a meditation practice.
It was a revelation to read that meditation could give you a connection to something larger than yourself. I started meditating in order to connect with my inner world and to understand myself. I was hoping that meditation would give me the ability to see beyond the surface of my thoughts and actions. And hopefully give me the ability to really listen to others, live in the moment and pause before I act. And meditation does that to certain extent. It is a mystery to me why it works, but it does. The days that I meditate seem slower and softer. I don’t know how else to describe it. I feel quieter and more patient. After studying Ishvarapranidhana a little for this essay, I can see where I need to try and dig deeper. It is difficult for me to accept that I am not the guiding force in my own life. Surrender is very hard for someone like me. I live by my schedules, all neatness and order in my world. If everything is in it’s place I am in control of my life.
The definition of Ishvarapranidhana that really resonated with me was in the book “Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit” by Donna Farhi. She says that setting aside time for meditation every day allows us to see past our own cluttered thoughts and realize the divine intelligence that is there in the form of intuition. Ishvarapranidhana asks us to recognize that there is a bigger picture than our daily drama and our resistance to change. It asks us “to go quietly, even when it’s not possible to see exactly where things are headed.” Sweet surrender, and easier said than done.