God had brought me to my knees and made me acknowledge my own nothingness, and out of that knowledge I had been reborn. I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything.
– Bede Griffiths
The Practice of Surrender
As students of the Eastern traditions, we are taught the importance of surrendering to God or to the Guru, as a necessary part of starting a relationship with the Self.
Surrender is not a popular word in Western society because it is often associated to thoughts about losing power and control. It’s a concept that’s hard to picture as a practical application in our control-driven lives. Yet if we can learn to surrender to something greater than our individual self—the doorway to the infinite can begin to open for us. Only then do infinite ways of dealing with life’s challenges become available, that we normally can’t conceive of with our limited thoughts. If anything can bring us the energy, inspiration, and tools to heal and change our lives, it is done through surrender. To become all of who we are, we need to surrender the limited sense of who we are—the small self—in order to realize the large Self, or divine potential.
The greatness of the man’s power is the measure of his surrender.
– William Booth
Many spiritual teachers have spoken of surrender in different ways. Two common ones are letting go of attachments, and devoting everything to God. The benefit of doing either of these is removal of the feeling that you always have to struggle to get through life. A deep sense of freedom and being guided /cared for by something greater. A universe that runs on the basis of perfection.
Let yourself fall apart my darling,
Let this exhaustion swallow you whole,
Don’t lift one more finger in your own defence,
You are so beautiful with all your faults, so perfectly exposed,
With arms wide open, I’ve been waiting,
Fall apart darling, fall apart—I’ve been waiting to catch you when you fall.
– Boris Kerjner
When we surrender in a spiritual sense, we discover that we’re not really as in control of our lives as we would like to think we are. Our false belief that we are in control of everything in our lives quickly falls apart when something seems to go “wrong”. Our strongest resistance is the resistance to ecstasy because we sense that to surrender to it we must abandon all certainty, abandon what we have put so many years into constructing.
Well if we aren’t in control, then what is? According to the Yoga Sutras and many other scriptures, God-Consciousness is the ultimate driving force in our lives. In the Yoga Sutras, this force is called Ishvara, which is Sanskrit word that can be translated to mean supreme, or personal, God. It signifies the ultimate consciousness that is inclusive of everything and limited to nothing. Pranidhana is the Sanskrit word that means to dedicate, devote, or surrender. Therefore, the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana means that if we are able to completely surrender our individual ego identities to God (our own higher self) we will attain the identity of God. If we can dedicate our lives to serving the God that dwells within all other beings, human and non-human alike, we will move beyond all feelings of separateness.
Today, I drove my weary bones to the country. I walked into the woods, feeling the armour and tightness I have accumulated these last months. I had returned to warrior, so familiar. I got down to my knees by the river of essence, renewing my commitment to the Divine Mother and her heartfelt ways, kissing the ground she walks on. The armour, it clanged to the ground. Time to surrender, sang the birds of pray.
– Jeff Brown
Bowing is another action that is strange to Westerners, but in India, people love to bow not only to the Guru and God, but also to their elders. It is a cultural symbol of respect and humility. It is good for the ego, to put your head below your heart. In India, the paying respect or bowing down is called “pranam.”
Pranam is not a sign on weakness, it is the proper approach to that Supreme Force of Reality.
– Paul Ortega
So we bow down to God in some form that has meaning to us, and we offer up our hearts, so that we may carry out the will of the Universe with every thought, word and action we take. As our practice continues, the quality of our devotion grows; we begin to surrender more fully to something much greater.
The one who is indifferent or silent
In censure or praise, content with anything,
Unattached to a place, equanimous,
And full of devotion; that person is dear to Me.
– The Bhagavad Gita
Today we make a promise: I will surrender myself to something greater.