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Learning how to surrender.

Happiness is not a matter of intensity,
but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony
.”

~ Thomas Merton

Dear students and friends in yoga,

Our society is built on the flawed premise that the more you do, the more you are worth, and the parallel assumption that the more you earn or possess, the more worthy you are. Living according to these beliefs is the chief cause of imbalance, unhappiness and the competitive urge that leads – consciously or unconsciously – to feelings of isolation and inadequacy.

Most people say they want to find harmony, yet continue to feed into a system within which their sense of worth is derived from transient, external measures. In this system, it is important to tell everyone how busy you are, how much you are accomplishing, and how much you are earning in order to validate yourself.

Over-scheduled parents have over-scheduled kids who need to accomplish more to prove their own worth and, in turn, prove to society that their parents are worthy of raising worthy children.

The dogma of living by the clock has many people stressed and run down, and there is no time in the agenda to stop and reflect upon whether this model is valid, let alone desirable.

Working with the wisdom of Ayurveda, we understand that Vata (representing the air and space elements) regulates outer activity as well as the inner pulsations of our central nervous system. The cool, dry, windy and changeable energy of autumn already taxes our capacity to remain grounded and calm at this time of year, and we can see that the more we busily scurry around, eat on the run, and stay up late, the more imbalanced we become.

As we become increasingly imbalanced, our behaviour becomes more compulsive, less considered, and we tend to make unhelpful choices that continue the spiral towards more anxiety and stress.

What if we just slowed down a bit? What if we were each our own reference point? The same people who claim to believe in free will operate within their lives as though some invisible force (societal pressure? the mortgage?) is pulling the puppet strings. How can we learn surrender to the flow of life?

This week I will be in the UK learning more about Ayurveda from on of my favourite teachers, Vasant Lad. Dr Lad thinks of the Autumn as “the season of dropping the old and surrendering to what is.” He says “From the trees, we learn how to let go during this season. We learn how to surrender. Trees are not attached to any leaf. During autumn, they give their luxurious leaves to Mother Earth and go within for deep meditation.”

As ever, nature is a perfect metaphor for life, and we can relax into our own experience by observing and mimicking natural cycles. In her recent post, Katariina explains why detoxing is so helpful at this time of year, and shares some tips on how to do it. Observe how your physical practice feels at this time of year – is it nourishing you and bringing you balance, or leaving you tired and agitated? Is there an element of rest and relaxation in your practice? Are you doing or being yoga?

The clear, dry weather of the past couple of weeks has allowed us to enjoy the sunny, crisp blue skies by day and the enchanting, starry heavens by night. If you get up before sunrise these days you will catch Venus (the brightest light), Mars (small and reddish) and Jupiter (lower in the sky and less bright than Venus) clustered near each other in the East.

Seeing Venus as the morning star makes the autumn challenge of getting up in the dark much easier for me, as it reminds me each day that I’m an intrinsic part of a greater whole – as we all are – and the very fact of my existence is justification of my worth. Any action taken from that point on is a contribution, not a validation.

With much love and light,
Susan