I planned on finishing up the yama series today but I've had one of those days, actually - make that weeks, where everything seems to go wrong and all I want to do is scream 'serenity now!', which probably defeats the purpose of the phrase in the first place.
Instead, I will write about the concept of Ishvarapranidhana, another concept on the 8-limbed path of yoga that refers to the practice of surrender.
Ishvara refers to something higher or outside of oneself. Pranidhana translates from the Sanskrit as 'attention to', 'love for', or 'surrender to'. Put it all together and you get 'surrender to something outside yourself'.
This is one of my favorite concepts in my yoga practice. While it's not a magic pill that makes my frustrations or suffering go away, it does soften the blow that life occasionally hands us. And, eventually, after I've calmed down enough and gained some distance and perspective, I return to this practice of surrender and find that it's a gift. It's a gift that I'm able to practice giving up control. It's a gift to let myself feel supported through life, knowing that things have a way of working out.
However, this is not an endorsement of passivity. To get where we want in life, we must try to do our best; we must do the work. And, once we've done all that we can, we must also surrender, for the results are out of our control and trying to force an outcome usually has unintended negative consequences, the least of those being unnecessary stress.
I will leave you with a simple exercise that you can do anywhere and will leave you feeling a bit more free from your burdens.
1. Take 3 slow and mindful breaths (inhale+exhale = 1). You can even do this if you're in public or at a meeting. No need to exaggerate your breath or make it audible.
2. On your fourth inhale, imagine that you are breathing in space (if you're feeling stressed or anxious chances are your chest, lungs, and heart are feeling tight).
3. On the exhale, feel yourself physically release that tension and think 'I'm releasing that which no longer serves me', or something along those lines.
4. Repeat as many times as needed.
While you may still want to scream 'Serenity Now', this little practice can take the edge off in moments when you feel like you are going to burst.
Please let me know if you have any tips that you use to get through stressful days, or, if you tried this little exercise out.