The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An 18-week mini-course
WEEK ELEVEN: ISHVARA PRANIDHANA
Surrender to the Divine.
– SUTRA II.45
Contemplating the teachings of Ishvara Pranidhana, my mind immediately conjures up those words that we baby boomers know so well, “Surrender Dorothy.” Following are visions of a colorless Kansas with a whirling farmhouse caught up in the swirl of a raging tornado that magically sets down in the colorful world of Munchkinland. Here the journey begins as Dorothy’s black-and-white life of the mundane is transformed into the vibrant full spectrum glory within the wonderful Land of Oz. Ahhh, yes.
Herein lies the wisdom that is so commonly accentuated through so many spiritual teachings. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” And where is home? Home is where the heart is. And the heart is the home of our true self and our connection to the Divine. Trust is what is needed to live this life lesson.
Dorothy’s adventures offer the perfect analogy to the fears and doubts and external desires that disturb our peace of mind distracting us from the sweetness of all that lies inside. How often do we pine away for a world outside of our present reality? Dreaming of perfection that lies Somewhere Over the Rainbow, just beyond our grasp. Believing that there is a better world out there fosters the feelings of not having enough or not being good enough. How many of us hear our own inner critic, that Wicked Witch of the West, chiming, “If only, if only, if only…”
If only I were smarter. Scarecrow, my personal favorite in the Land of Oz, brings this belief to the forefront of, well, our brains. Personally, I am a glutton for knowledge, a seeker of wisdom. And I grasp for more by stockpiling on-line courses in the files of my computer while never completing any of them before I purchase another. There are books unread and videos unwatched, yet there is an unquenchable desire for more. That Wicked Witch tells me that I don’t know enough, am not smart enough, am not good enough. Why didn’t I stay in college and earn that degree placing recognizable letters after my name? Who the hell knows what LMT, RYT, CNMT even mean? I need a BS, MS and PhD. That would make my life so much easier. So the story goes.
Scarecrow is my mentor this year, as you see, he had a brain all along. In fact, he tends to make all the wisest decisions along the Yellow Brick Road without even realizing it. He will serve as my reminder that I do possess a brain that is full of knowledge and understanding, and I can stop grasping for more confirmation outside of myself. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop studying. Forever the perpetual student, I will continue to fulfill my thirst for learning with Scarecrow’s reminder to acknowledge that I do know enough to feel good enough about myself right now. And I can trust that life is flowing just as it is meant to be.
Some of you may find your story in the other lovable characters. If I only had a heart. If I only had more love, was more lovable, felt more loving. The heart is both a tender spot and a vast ocean of unlimited potential. Our true love, when recognized, knows no boundaries. And to feel that boundless warmth of compassion, we must first experience love from the inside out. First love, the most authentic love, is Self-love, nourishing our capacity to give love unconditionally without fear.
Tin Man’s tendency to freeze-up, tighten-up and get stuck in his own armor (his skin of tin) offers a bittersweet analogy of how we might feel when we hold ourselves back from love in the belief that our love is limited. That if we give our love away we will become empty – like a tin drum. Protecting our heart from fear of breaking often hardens us from opening our hearts at all. Enter Dorothy and the oilcan. Can’t you just feel the welcome release that comes with the compassionate care she offers to Tin Man’s joints and his desire for a heart? What will loosen your grip on love and set your heart free? It takes courage to open and trust and know that you have enough and are enough.
Cowardly Lion touches many a heart with his outer show of bravery falling victim to his lack of true valor. Self-doubt and the absence of self-love are culprits to the lack of confidence and courage. How insightful of L. Frank Baum as he wrote his fairytale book back in 1900 developing characters that so impeccably represent our deepest fears and shared beliefs that we are just not good enough.
Dorothy’s quest for a better world outside of Kansas and all that is familiar reflects for us our common desire for deeper meaning in a place where trouble melts like lemon drops. If only… goes the mantra that does not serve us well. For this place really does exist, not over the rainbow, but deep within our own hearts.
As the Good Fairy reminds Dorothy, and all of us tuned into her message, the power was within her all along. She simply had to learn it for herself. Though others may offer their knowledge and love and courage to support us long our path, we must look inside to recognize the truth of our own heart’s desires. “And if we can’t find our heart’s desires in our own backyard, we won’t find it anywhere,” exclaims Dorothy in her moment of enlightenment.
Ishvara Pranidhana encourages us to connect to our hearts with courage and wisdom. It is the practice of surrendering to a Higher Source, whether you call it God, Life Force, Universal Consciousness, the Divine or the Great Oz. It opens us up beyond the black and white world of our small self and the limiting beliefs of duality full of comparison, judgment and separateness. To Surrender is to be ushered into the true nature of our higher self and our Divine Connection where we find acceptance, diversity and unconditional love.
The Great OZ himself attempted to project an outward authority full of wrath and rage, demanding impossible feats (or so he thought) in exchange for the resolution of personal conflict. Underestimating the power of a driven woman, Miss Dorothy fulfilled her end of the obligation only to be told it wasn’t good enough. Luckily, little Toto, the true hero in the story, sweetly pulled back the curtain removing the veil of illusion to expose a kinder, gentler spirit. The separation of the Great OZ and Divine knowledge was resolved as each character was gifted a symbol reminding them that all that they yearned for to be complete was within them all along.
Ishvara Pranidhana is our guidepost along the Yellow Brick Road of our life. As we awaken to the beauty, power and magic of looking within, we find our happiness, understanding and wisdom realizing we’re not in Kansas anymore. This is surrender. This is connecting with the true nature of our Divine Essence – This is home. And we all know the mantra… There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.
Do you feel at home in your own skin? Do you have the courage to love unconditionally? Do you feel connected to a greater power that lies within you and all around you?
Let’s open the conversation and see where it leads – perhaps to the Land of Ah-has.