Montana is a beautiful state full of mountains, rivers, lakes, and wildlife. My days in Glacier National Park were incredibly soul quenching and invigorating. I clocked about 30 miles over the two and half days I was in the park, and witnessed some of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen. To sit alone in the mountains and let my eyes feast on such beauty broke my heart wide open. No cell service. No wifi. Just me, earth, sky, and space…and a few other park visitors.
There is a stillness that comes from being alone in nature. Being without the “connectivity” we are so inundated with in our every day lives. It was a full on cleanse. As my time continued my thoughts and quality of mind shifted. Layer by layer, the busy thoughts that live on the surface of consciousness began to dissipate and a state of calm and contentment (santosha) began to permeate my entire being. What happens when the busy thoughts cease to exist? What happens when we’re no longer connected to devices and machines, and the frequencies they emit? What happens when the pause begins to last?
When we truly have the inner space to soften and let go of all that tightly binds us, we experience surrender.
What does it mean to surrender? Letting go of that which separates us from the deepest parts of ourselves and the world around us, is a kind of surrender. Surrender is a shedding of individuality and ego (ahamkara). Surrender is blind trust. Blind faith. Surrender is receptivity and openness.
As I hiked along a ridge line awe struck and swimming in the paradox of feeling so full and so empty, I realized in that moment, I was practicing and experiencing Ishwarapranidhana the fifth and final Niyama.
Niyama, the second limb of yoga, indicates the essential governing principals or established observances required for spiritutal growth. According to BKS Iyengar in his commentary of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras,
“Observance of niyama develops friendliness, compassion, and indifference, and is further aid in cleansing the body, mind, and intelligence.”
For many of us, the meaning of Ishwarapranidhana is incredibly hard to decipher and integrate. Translated by Guruji (BKS Iyengar), Iswarapranidhana is, “The surrender of oneself to God.” It is important to note, that in this context, Patanjali (author of the yoga sutras) is not referencing God as living outside of us or as being separate from us, but instead to what exists inside of us when all that we are has been stripped away leaving only the light of the soul and consciousness. I think of Ishwarapranidhana as the radical openness I experienced on that ridge line. An extreme receptivity to all things, and a leaning into connectivity and oneness. In these epic grandiose natural environments, where the artistry of the earth is so commanding and vast, I find Ishwara. I find a love and connectivity that is above the functioning of the mind and happens in the depths of my being. Where might you find your Ishwarapdanidhana? Where is your surrendering?
There are reminders everywhere of our connection to something bigger and greater than the nitty gritty details of our lives if we are open to them. It is so easy to be led away from these moments and become absorbed in the stress of our lives. The to-do lists and the weightiness we feel from being alive in today’s world are all examples of things that dull the senses and the remembrance of connectivity, compassion, love, and true presence.
Sometimes we are lucky, as I was, to escape to a beautiful place which may help initiate the experience the coming home to the Self, but what if we cannot take ourselves geographically away from our lives? Even here at home, there is still room for this remembrance. So how can we create an environment in our every day lives that is more conducive to touching this quiet space for remembrance?
We must disconnect to connect.
My suggestions are to find time to shut off your phone, step away from your computer, tv, even radio. Be away from noise, and frequency. At the heart of Niyama is discipline. Can you bring a little bit of discipline to your life in order to nurture your Self?
The practice of yoga in all its forms is always here for us to use to access the Self. We need only pause. Absorb the mind in the inhalation and exhalation. Pacify the busy-ness of the mind in the pauses between the breaths. Bring our attention inward, and experience the deeper intelligent wisdom of consciousness, and heart, and soul.
We as humans are not the end all be all of this world. We are not separate from it or from each other. There is so much more inside of us than the mind has to offer. The same intelligent wisdom streaming through all life, through the trees, flowers, and rivers, the intelligent wisdom that is the vibration OM, also streams through you. We are all connected to it. We just need to plug in.
(Part 2 : reflections from the 6-day intensive with Senior Iyengar Teacher Marla Apt at Feathered Pipe Ranch coming soon)