We live in a ‘never give up’ culture, in which reaching to the stars through difficulties and constantly achieving “things”, are ultimate virtues to live by. Just like the Romans said: per aspera ad astra — persist, resist, don’t give up, fight!
But there’s another way of fighting that most of us (especially if you’re an A-type personality) naturally disregard or condemn; the way of mindful surrender.
There is a number of ‘warrior’ poses in yoga; warrior one, two, three and reverse warrior more or less resemble fighting poses — they open us up and to the world, and require a lot of strength, flexibility, and stability to maintain. In all of these, your hands are stretched upward or in front of you, as if striking toward an invisible opponent.
But there’s another warrior pose: the humble warrior, a forward bend variation, which — with hands split together behind and overhead — looks more like a deep surrender pose.
Though seemingly defenceless, humble warrior is hardest to sustain for a longer period of time and most yoga practitioners (not so) secretly hate it.
To tense your muscles enough to make your upper body hover comfortably above the ground, without leaning on your front leg; to bow your head and clasp your hands together behind your back with the arms stretched forward across your shoulders; to carry on breathing when in the full pose, is as difficult to practice as it is to describe.
I think that warrior poses in yoga aptly depict our relationship with the world and with the Universe. While fighting is undeniably hard, it’s so much harder to be a humble warrior, patiently surrendering at times when fighting no longer brings desired results.
While I do think that perseverance is important and we cannot achieve our goals without putting a healthy dose of hard work in, I also think that many of us (including myself) have taken it to an extreme, forgetting about that necessary, subtle — and conscious — power of surrender.
Now, there’s a difference between ‘giving up’ and ‘surrendering’. ‘Giving up’ is quitting, no longer giving a sh*t about what happens to us, with us, around us and — importantly — within us.
Surrendering, in turn, is a mindful act of acceptance that most of the time our efforts are just one small part determining our life outcomes. It’s about being comfortable with the unknown, uncertain, random, and ‘unfair’ (or what seems unfair at the time). It’s about giving space for all these deeply unsettling factors in life to flourish into an ultimate manifestation of our life purpose. It’s a wise understanding that the Universe knows the way — even at times when we seem to have lost sight of it.
Imagine being caught by a riptide and trying to get out of it; the only way to do so — as diving instructors will tell you — is to go with the flow of the current, not against it. Most of rip currents are no more than 90 metres long and 45 metres wide and although it may feel like it, a riptide is not going to suck you out to the sea. It’s likely to peter out as it gets past the surf line, giving you a chance to break away and catch the white waves to push you in the desired direction.
Sometimes to surrender is the best way to move forward.
No matter how bad you feel right now, how much you feel you’re drowning, ‘this too shall pass’.
One thing that practicing mindfulness is teaching me, is that there is little point in fighting with your mind, forcefully trying to empty it from fears, worries, sorrows, visualisations of imagined future disasters or memories of failures long gone. The more you fight these emotionally laden thoughts, the stronger they seem to grow. Paradoxically, the only way to tame them, is to treat them with respect they deserve and, instead of running away or striking against them, bow down to them. Be the humble warrior — stop fighting, surrender.
Surrender to the fact that you do not have to push and struggle. Find ease. Surrender to the busy monkey mind.
Surrender to the bigger picture.
-But what if I fall?
Trust the ground is there to catch you.
-But what if I fall?
But oh, my Darling, what if you fly?
You won’t know until you try, but the point is — you’re going to be alright. So, if only it’s moving you forward, surrender.
And to finish with a quote of someone much cleverer than myself:
“Nothing happens to any man that he is not formed by nature to bear.”
— Marcus Aurelius