“We have to be active in order for the stillness to have meaning.” –Ryan Holiday
Have you ever found yourself declaring that you are going to surrender, you’re going to leave it to the Divine, the Universe or whatever helps you let go only to find yourself wondering what that means? I mean, are you supposed to do nothing? Is there a god that plops opportunities in your lap if you let it all go? Even the smartest-of-smart get caught in this quandary.
In this time of quarantine, during civil unrest, and layers of injustice exploding into this “new normal,” I think it’s safe to say that we are all going through our own turmoil. The uncertainty is palpable and collective. Our hearts are seeking understanding as the pain reveals itself in the U.S. and around the world. While there is information swirling around, eliciting great fear, there is also information pointing toward going internal, finding the answers inside and figuring out how to benefit from this time. I vote for the latter. Why not take this time to go deep within yourself to find stillness?
Given that we have been jolted into an uncertain time, it’s tempting to resent it, to look at all its failures and worry about our future. Uncertainty is uncomfortable but it’s an opportunity to surrender to what IS. That is where creative solutions emerge.
Action and release
Surrender is a dynamic process of stillness that requires action and release. It doesn’t mean you sit lifelessly in your chair waiting for change; rather, you create space for insight to emerge. This occurs in the present moment where the realm of possibilities exists. If you are not in the present moment new thoughts are blocked because you are dwelling in the past or fearing the future.
Surrender is not easy for Americans; it runs counter to what we’ve been taught. In a country that wants things fast, surrender is an affront to our national mindset. Production over presence.
I started to understand the true potential of surrender on a yoga retreat in Maui last year. For five days straight we did yoga — morning and evening. By day two of the retreat I felt energized and alive, only needing six hours of sleep! For someone who normally sleeps eight or nine hours a night, I was surprised by this phenomenon.
Science shows us that yoga reduces cortisol levels, stress, and anxiety. It also creates better connectivity between the mind and the body, where you recognize the way in which your thoughts impact your body, either creating ease or creating tension. This concept became clear to me when our yoga instructor had us hunker down into pigeon pose, a deep hip opener. If any of you have done yoga, you know how tight the hips can get. When we go through stressful times, emotional tensions stay lodged in our hips until we find ways to express them.
As my tension melted away, I gained insight into my life. At the time I was in the second year of my business, feeling extremely fatigued. No matter how much sleep I got, I was unable to mitigate my exhaustion. Being in pigeon pose helped me let everything go — the loneliness, the compressed muscles, and the wild mind. It was an emotional release, like that of a garden hose right after it’s been shut off; all the water spills out leaving the hose empty.
Spaciousness in surrender
Surrender requires spaciousness, or what Eckhart Tolle calls, “inner space consciousness,” where we are present to our inner wisdom. Yoga is one way to create spaciousness and presence. By using a counter pose to release tension, we create space for a deeper intelligence to emerge.
It seems contradictory to utilize tension to release tension doesn’t it? That’s why it’s challenging to understand surrender. Surrender means we let go of control, but it doesn’t mean we stop acting. Rather, we take inspired action.
In a time where you are consumed by this pandemic, historical racism and corruption, it behooves you to go inward. Dig deep. Create time each day to release worries and tensions. Get yourself into a state of stillness — go running, walk your dog, do yoga — and then listen for the insight that the inner stillness offers up.