As we conclude the series on yamas and niyamas, we practice surrender. This discipline guides us to bow to the divine self within, moment by moment.
THE YAMAS AND NIYAMAS
All through the year, we have continued a series that takes a closer look at yoga’s ethical guidelines for living. These are called yamas and niyamas, and they fall under Raja Yoga, the branch that governs the disciplines about controlling the mind and senses. The first two branches on Patanjali’s eightfold path are yamas and niyamas.
Simply put, yamas are things not to do, niyamas are things to do. Yamas can be thought of as practices of self-restraint, while niyamas are virtues to cultivate, or observances.
As a reminder, niyamas are individual observances of self-restraint. In contrast to the yamas, which are concerned with social relationships and harmony with the world, niyamas are more of an internal journey. As described in the aphorisms by Pantajali, they serve as support for the path towards the part of Self that is all-knowing. Some may refer to that Self as the Ultimate Reality. These practices aid us in gaining harmony within as they aid in creating personal discipline.
There are five niyamas: saucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya and isvara pranidhana.
Isvara Pranidhana is the process of the little self bowing and surrendering to the divine self.
I have been on a lifelong journey to surrender to the One. This is a daily process, moment by moment.
Some days I am more present in one moment than another. Surprisingly, I find that when I write this blog, I am most present as I notice life around me.
At this moment, it is mid-afternoon in India. The sun is out at last. We have had several days of rain and clouds. I welcome the warmth of the sun. Birds call from the branches of a nearby tree. The sounds of honking cars, motorcycles, mopeds and tuk tuks ebb and flow from the stoplight at the corner near the ayurvedic clinic where I have come to do an eight-day cleanse called panchakarma. (Find out more in my book, Cleanse Your Body, Reveal Your Soul.) Sound carries well between the buildings here.
One woman is hanging her laundry to dry. Today, it will happen easily as there is a slight breeze and it is much warmer than even yesterday. Yet another woman is working on her computer; not easily distracted by either myself or the one washing.
I am present. With my breath, with my senses. I gather information. I am aware without judgment. Observing, breathing.
Embodying higher self within
As I am writing this, I learned that Vietnamese monk and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh passed away. He embodied the elements of being present with ease, including walking meditations. I often share the walking meditation with others, because sometimes they tell me that “sitting still is impossible for me.” Hanh’s simple expression of this practice is a blessing.
On Hanh’s blog, he shared about planting seeds of compassion after he had been invited by Dr. Martin L. King to a breakfast meeting and speak of the need for change in the Sixties. Hanh was delayed arriving to the meeting because of the media presence, so MLK tried to keep the food warm and wait for him. Hanh always remembered that simple act of kindness. Both men agreed on the need to build community to create change for a more peaceful world. One year later, MLK was assassinated.
Hanh wrote that he never forgot the words they shared that day. They inspired him in the way he created Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery in Dordogne, Southern France, in 1982.
We can all take in Hanh’s essence as a meditator and teacher whenever we choose to be present. It is a conscious choice to do so. His teachings and his ability to walk the talk remain gifts for us to drink in. Blessings to a great teacher, sensei, guru.
Read about the friendship between the two men here:
https://plumvillage.org/thich-nhat-hanhs-friendship-with-dr-king/ The post is excerpted from Hanh’s book, “At Home in the World.”
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
How are you present in your day?
Find one small thing to be aware of and see what you notice.
Is there a guru/sensei/teacher that inspires you?
Read excerpts from your favorite one or find a new one.
Is surrender in your vocabulary?
When you surrender, can you do so without the concern that it feels weak to surrender?
MANTRA FOR BOWING TO THE DIVINE SELF WITHIN
Simply saying “om” up to 6 times a day is an OMKARA practice, the practice of OM making.
Feel the resonance of OM in your body, mind and soul.
This simple mantra is quite cleansing.
Lie supine on the floor with your arms held in prayer. Here your whole being surrenders to the Divine within.