In the practice of swaadhya (see previous blog entry), Patanjali's instruction was to study the Self, the universal life element present in every living being. In this next thread or sutra, Patanjali is inviting us to deepen the practice, which already seemed so complete, to the level of not just noticing and being curious about the Self, but practicing eeshwar pranidhaan, devotion and surrender, to the Self.
We're not that fond of the idea of surrender, let alone the practice. And devotion is traditionally found in religious spheres that require a particular membership to be considered valid. In yoga, often free of sign-up contracts, surrender refers to a state in which we are able to unclench our everything, especially our striving to get control over that which is uncontrollable, i.e., the natural world. For example, a two-year-old, a wild and uncontrollable natural phenomena.
I recently had the good fortune of coming across a library book called "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," which I highly recommend. I had been enduring regular tantrums from my newly-two boy, and could barely keep it together myself, and that's after 18 years of daily meditation.
It didn't seem to matter what I did or said, my son would rage to get out of basic things like diapers, tooth brushings, baths, getting dressed, getting out of the car, going into the car, comings and goings of call kinds. It was exhausting and demoralizing to us both.
What I learned then, in the "Happiest Toddler," was that toddlers can hear three only things, and require all three things, while they are in a tantrum and you hope it to end:
To be heard, to be understood, and to be respected.
Being heard isn't enough; being heard and understood, still not enough; you have to add (and muster up with full honesty during a gale-force behavior storm) respect.
I might add, you don't have to give the toddler (or presumably anyone) what they want, or let them get out of doing the thing they don't want to do. When I'm able to pull off the technique, it works 100% of the time, what a shocker! I now realize that we likely all need these three things when we lose our marbles, even in our sophisticated, socially acceptable ways.
This falls perfectly with what Patanjali is saying. The force of life (is there a bigger example than a two-year-old?), even in a violent state, is not to be hated and fought against, even if that did work.
What happens when we hate and fight with a natural force? One thing is we miss the opportunities for resolution, said Tony Krawats from my Thursday yoga class. If we are consumed by fighting against and being unsatisfied with what’s happening, then we can't see the cracks, or finite, fleeting and passing nature that is inherently there in any weather system.
Another way to say this is:
Come up with enough awareness in the moment to love what is there unlovable by our standards, and flow with the situation, be with it, if only briefly, as it is. This can bring it to extremely quick, nearly miraculous resolution.
The flow of life is always our teacher, a deep angle message in the sutras on eeswar praanidhaan If we can set this as a goal, what is happening, in the moment, will tell us how to be, what to do and where to go - our dharm, in Buddhist terms. If we fight against what it is trying to teach us, we of course miss the teachings, but also the satisfaction with your every day, every moment to moment life. Simple and yet incredibly difficult to practice. Tell me what you think!