The first time that I talked to my master yoga teacher, Swami Rama, in 1981, I saw him sitting alone in a side room before he was going to speak to a group of people. I asked him how I could know what God’s will for me was. He said, “Surrender to God (Ishwara pranidhana).” I was so flabbergasted by the brevity of his response that the only thing I could get out of my mouth was “Thank you!” and I quietly returned to the line of people waiting to enter the auditorium.
I really didn’t know what “surrendering to God” (ishwara pranidhana) meant until much later in my yogic journey. It meant “Be patient and listen.”
Well, many years have passed and I am still learning patience. I am also constantly learning to “listen” as well, rather than hearing partially what people are saying or what ids happening around me. Patience isn’t waiting for what I want to have happen present itself. It’s not preparing my response to a question from one of my students. Patience doesn’t mean figuring out everything that is happening in my life so that I can make sense of things.
No, I’ve learned, patience is listening and watching carefully without judgement, without expectation. Patience is surrendering to the present moment. Patience is listening not just with our ears, but with our eyes, with our nose, with all our senses, with even our subtle intuition. Patience means being totally present to all that is happening around us and all that is happening within us. Patience is what the cultural meditative world calls “mindfulness.”
That is so hard to do, especially for me as a decision-making male. I want to do and accomplish. I want to fix things, teach valuable information to anyone who will listen. After all, I have spent a lot of time learning many helpful facts about health and healing, about yoga psychology and philosophy, about holistic living and about justice and peace through my yogic and theological studies.
Mentally, I have lived a very impatient life. Therefore, just sitting and listening to what events are unfolding in my life, to what my loved ones are saying, to what is happening in the local, state, national and international political, economic and religious worlds is very challenging for me. I have learned also that it is challenging for many others as well. There are many who are not listening but just closing their ears and minds to the inner and outer stirrings of life. I see people running into the fire of constant noise, or numbing themselves to the inner voice of God by splashing themselves into the world of senses and drugs.
Yoga has given me a path to surrendering. It has taught me patience and listening through the asanas (postures) and meditation practices. In that 20-30 minutes of stillness, the divine promptings are clarified. In my learning to focus and listen to the sound of my mantra all the other extraneous thoughts, feelings, images get washed away. I patiently let go of the confusion and worry and fear (not an easy task) and begin to see clearly God’s life and love for me.
I begin to breathe into God! I begin to surrender to the Divine Mother within me! Through my practice (abhyasa) and my letting go (vairagya) of all but my point of focus (mantra), I find the peace I need to surrender to God’s will.
May you also find the time to patiently listen to your internal, eternal Beloved, especially during this coming sacred religious time in the Christian calendar – Lent.
Lent, if you are Christian, will be a great opportunity to learn to surrender to Brahman (God).