Ishvara Pranidhana: A Sanskrit term which could translate into “give it over to God.” That’s an over-simplification. Ishvara means Supreme Consciousness. A consciousness that is unaffected by attachments or aversions, free from expectation or outcomes. This is the consciousness that permeates all things, all beings, and when experienced, the little ego dissolves and that singular soul can feel the mergence with and expansion into the infinite. But I digress… Essentially this concept is about turning over your efforts in life to something bigger than you. So important is this concept, that it holds a place in the beginning limbs of yoga as one of the 5 Niyamas -- moral/ethical ways in which to act within your own being to promote soulfulness and health.
Ishvara Pranidhana could sound a little religious or dogmatic. Coming from no religion (and having a hearty ego), I find no fault with resistance to the thought of surrendering ones actions, words, fruits of their labor to “God.” But the idea is so much saucier and sexier than it sounds…
Can you relate?
You have a ton of work in front of you. Some of it is awesome and some of it sucks. ALL of it is stressing you out and so, like an ostrich, you bury your head in ice cream and Netflix. That part of your ego that can spin a story better than any used car salesman comforts you by asserting that no one is watching and you still have time before any serious deadlines. That’s me! I have always struggled with procrastination and can feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I take on at this point in my life. Even though it is work I LOVE.
Today, Ishvara Pranidhana has come to my rescue. I am in the process of launching a yoga teacher training while immersed in other important tasks related to my position as a Wellness Coordinator for Evoke Therapy Programs. I also have a dirty house, a dog that needs lots of walking, a full yoga teaching schedule and, thanks to the rain, some achy joints and extreme desire to curl up with a book and tea.
While driving away from Costco this morning, Ishvara Pranidhana was whispered in my ear by a young homeless man holding a sign that said “SOBER.” I stopped on the side of the road, much to the dismay and disdain of many self-important honking individuals behind me, to chat with this man. Dan, let’s call him, couldn’t be much older than 25, dark brown eyes, chapped lips. He told me that he had left an addiction treatment center in Arizona because he didn’t trust a few of the staff and felt like he was in an unhealthy facility. He had struggled with a meth addiction that had brought about paranoid schizophrenia. Because he left the facility, his family had ‘cut him off,’ which is a common and usually healthy tactic to use when addicts are resisting treatment. He told me that he is staying clean and he looked as though he is (I’ve been around lots of drug use as part of my profession). He looked scared, dejected, tired and self-conscious. He ultimately wanted food and a tarp – the rain was taking a brief respite before it would unleash again in typical desert monsoon fashion. We exchanged some more conversation about possible shelters and places that would offer him work or support for another treatment center. I gave him a tarp that I had with me and some food. I wished him well, encouraged him to stay clean, and let him know that there are strangers like myself that do care and hope for his health and well-being.
When I drove off, I could see, actually feel, the web of our connection – Me, Dan, students, teachers, parents, those that suffer, those that honk horns and speed by late for church... My mind began unfolding the details of how my commitment to my yoga practice, my work, my time writing blogs like this all translate into putting more good into the world.
Driving back in the rain, swimming in these thoughts, it became clear -- My work, my practice, is not for me. It’s for Dan. It’s for all the Dan’s in the world – our sons and daughters, sisters, brothers, friends who just want love, compassion, support, to feel like there is enough awesomeness in the world that it’s worth fighting through addiction, depression, isolation. This is Ishvara Pranidhana.
If we bury our heads in procrastination, stress, overwhelm, then we are succumbing to the little ego that wants to be comfortable. We forfeit putting our gifts on the global table that day. Those gifts reach the hands and hearts of beings so far beyond our comprehension.
The Bhagavad Gita, like the yoga sutras, relates this concept of Ishvara Pranidhana by stating that we are not entitled to the fruits of our labor but that we are entitled to the labor itself. Sounds dry and austere, right? But giving that tarp to Dan, feeling myself enter into the pulse of humanity, feeling uplifted by and more aware of my connection with every being around me, being able to run home and effortlessly write this blog (which is over-due according to my schedule)… priceless.
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Desert-Dwelling, Life-Loving, Globe-Trotting, Food-Adoring, yoga-practicing, Health Coach. Passionate, affirming, intuitive listener and guide for those seeking more health and happiness in their own Journey!