Give In to Win
If you're a typical type-A personality, the mere notion of giving in or surrendering is a non-negotiable. You're in it to win it, not give up when the going gets tough. However, in the practice of yoga, we are asked in the Eight Limbs to regularly give up to a power greater than ourselves. We are asked to recognize when we, on our own, cannot make the thing happen. Sometimes this has to come with great effort.
When I arrived at the practice of yoga, I often gave up in life, because I perceived things as being too hard. I was at the opposite end of the spectrum I guess and yet I kept coming back to yoga classes. I really wanted to do handstands, forearm stands and breathing exercises even though they were hard. There was something about the tiny incremental victories that enticed me to return. I was also blessed with gifted teachers who encouraged me to keep trying. Twenty-two years later, I still can't do a handstand in the middle of the floor and my arthritic back would prefer I not do the upward facing bow pose. Interestingly those poses just don’t mean that much to me anymore. My yoga focus has shifted from asana to meditation.
In the real world, we can apply the practices of yoga to solve real world problems. Leaders of Fortune 500 companies talk about the value of meditation in their daily lives. Some CEOs have even left the demands of the 24/7 work cycle to slow things down and change their approach to and even their definition of success. This doesn't work for everyone but the point is that it CAN work. Moving faster isn't always the answer. Driving yourself harder isn't always the best choice. As trite as it may sound, the best leaders are those able to delegate responsibility to the people around them. Recognize talent in others, hire them and be willing to lean on them.
Bringing this back to the notion of surrendering to a higher power, first you have to have one. This can be the hardest part of the task if you've had negative experiences with the big "R" of religion. Many don't even WANT to believe in a higher power, thinking that the whole thing is hogwash because of bad things that have happened to family members, loved ones or to themselves. Or you’re simply not interested in what's on offer. That's totally understandable. Yoga doesn't ask you to join a church. Yoga doesn't require you to idolize a strange diety (even though some yoga poses are dedicated to odd deities). The Eight Limbs of Yoga as written in the Yoga Sutras suggests that if we want to completely free ourselves of the bounds of our bodies and minds, we're going to need some help and that help is going to partly come from a higher power.
As I move through my day, I'm fairly Cynthia or self-powered. I accomplish tasks simply
through my own years of experience and know-how. On occasion I run across issues that I simply have no idea how to solve. I am completely dumbfounded. Googling doesn't help me. My first course of action is to ask someone I think might know something about what I'm doing. I've made some pretty random phone calls in my career. My first job as a journalist might have helped in this regard. I'm naturally curious and I like to ask questions.
Asking for help might be harder for others who have to overcome fears of appearing "stupid" or simply not knowing who to ask their questions. This can take practice, just as yoga is a practice. We're never perfect, but we get a little better every time we practice. We might be uncomfortable as we start but eventually we yoke to the practice and this is in the literal meaning of yoga. Yog in Sanskrit means: to yoke. Students of yoga are encouraged to find a teacher or guru. I know lately there's been a lot of hullabaloo about teachers who took advantage of students but this is the exception not the rule. A teacher lights our way, points out the difficulties and guides us through life as seen through the lens of yoga.
I turn to the Eight Limbs of Yoga on a daily basis; I'm checking in on my motives (ahimsa), I'm working to make my life and environment just a little cleaner (saucha) and I have daily conversations with my higher power, who I choose to call God. No, I don't see burning bushes or anything quite that spectacular but when I get really quiet and listen, I listen for a still, small voice that nudges me in the right direction. I'm always astounded by what is revealed. Sometimes it's big, oftentimes it's small. Sometimes I'm guided to do something as simple as hold someone's hands. What a delicate but well-meaning gesture. Something we could use a little more of in these times.