Just Say Yes!
Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment…. Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
During my first 10-day teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City in 2007, I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. and commute for at least an hour on the F-train from Brooklyn, where I was staying, into Manhattan; spend 12 to 15 intense hours learning yoga; and then return late at night on the same train, which frequently incurred delays.
One night, after an unusually long wait on the subway platform, there was a garbled announcement saying that the F-train had stopped running; Brooklyn-bound commuters should go to another platform, take another train deeper into Manhattan, and – – -. The message trailed off. Panicked, I wondered if I’d ever make it home. I started running down the stairs with other commuters. We stopped cold when another unintelligible announcement was made, telling us to do something completely different.
I started to run with the others and then stopped, not knowing where to go. At that moment, I realized that I could spend the night on the train if necessary, and it would be OK. Relieved, I took a breath and looked around. The woman next to me caught my eye and asked where I was headed. “Park Slope,” I said. “Me too,” she replied, smiling. “Let’s share a cab.”
Sometimes, when we accept a situation, it solves itself.
Indeed, much of our pain and suffering comes from having expectations about the way we think things will be, and they turn out differently (e.g., we plan a picnic and it rains). Instead of dealing with the situation, we resist it. When we do this, the mind often adds some old memories and starts churning out of control and putting us into what Eckhart Tolle in his 2005 book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, calls “the pain body.” Next thing you know, we’re miserable and taking everything personally.
“Why sometimes does life become so difficult?” asks Swami Vishnudevananda in his 2015 book, Teachings on Yoga Life. “What is the real difficulty? I will tell you. The difficulty is only in our mind. There are no difficulties. Many of us fight against the natural flow of life whether consciously, or even subconsciously, without knowing that we are struggling. But if we do this, our energy, our prana [vital life force], is eaten away by the fight. Others among us manage challenges easily because we may have already experienced enough difficulties in our lives to have come to an understanding that resistance brings suffering. Each one of us, teacher and student alike, has to eliminate the negativity in the mind, because otherwise it stays with us throughout our lifetime, and we lead an unfulfilled life. When the opportunity arises to rid ourselves of negativity, we have the choice to surrender or to resist. To change by surrendering is not easy; it is like being burnt. Remember though, that once that moment of pain has gone, it has gone forever and we emerge stronger.”
In other words, surrendering can initially be painful and even feel a little frightening. But fighting the way things are causes more pain, not to mention a great loss of energy.
When we try to rush or control things, we fall out of the natural flow of life. This causes us to feel more separate from others, which thickens the ego (asmita, or ego, is the second klesha, or cause of pain and suffering, on the path of yoga) and makes us feel like we’re swimming upstream. Our consciousness and world contract, and we live in anger and fear. In other words, resistance, or dvesha (aversion, the fourth klesha), only increases our suffering and makes us feel like the world is a hostile place.
When we accept what we cannot change and go with the flow—even if it’s initially difficult—the ego begins to thin. We feel open to life; we feel taken care of, and our consciousness expands. Fear is replaced by trust, and we start to feel surrounded by love.
We have an invitation to do this in every moment. Wonderful things are happening around us all the time if we’d just stop resisting what is, and pause to notice them.
Tolle calls it coming into presence. “When you recognize that the present moment is always already the case and therefore inevitable, you can bring an uncompromising inner ‘yes’ to it and so not only create no future unhappiness, but with inner resistance gone, find yourself empowered by Life itself,” he writes in A New Earth. This means sitting with the situation and any emotions it brings up, rather than fighting them.
Being in the present is sometimes referred to as flow. “It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were,” writes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his seminal 2008 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. “It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness, not by trying to look for it directly.”
“I think there’s a lot of similarity between what people try to do with religion and what they want from art,” musician Brian Eno once said. “In fact, I very specifically think that they are the same thing. Not that religion and art are the same, but that they both tap into the same need we have for surrender.”
Surrender to the will of the divine, or ishvara (also isvara) pranidhana, is the fifth niyama (observance) in Raja (Royal) yoga; it means constantly living with an awareness of one’s own true nature and surrendering to the will of the universe.
“Isvara pranidhana, or devotion to the all-knowing Isvara, is another method for obtaining Samadhi,” says Swami Satchidananda. “It is the emotional path which is easier than other methods … just surrender yourself unto Him, saying, ‘I am Thine; all is Thine; Thy will be done.’ The minute you have resigned yourself completely, you have transcended your ego.”
Surrender means to trust that life is unfolding exactly as it should be. A direct and practical way to surrender when things are difficult is to look at past problems and realize that things have always turned out for the best. (If they hadn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.)
As Sri Dharma Mittra says, “Everything is moving perfectly.”
“Walking by faith means being prepared to trust where we are not yet permitted to see,” Chandra Om once said. “This kind of faith knows nothing of doubt, discouragement, or impossibilities, but solely in success and trust in God.”
Someone close to the Dalai Lama was once asked what he is like in person. “The smallest person in the room,” he replied. In other words, he has no agenda; there is no craving and no seeking or sense of entitlement. Just presence.
“We expect there to be some sort of prize, some sort of gift for us in the world out there,” writes Tony Parsons in his 2003 book, All There Is. “All the time we are looking for that, we are not seeing what is already there. Awakening is simply the dropping of looking for something. It’s the dropping of the one that seeks. That’s all it is.
“And once that acceptance is there, there is also an acceptance of the character, the character in the play, the ‘me.’ There is an acceptance of this body/mind organism that walks around on this stage. It is simply seen and taken in, in love. Once there is an acceptance of this character, then there is an acceptance of all the other apparent characters. It is seen that this is simply all the one manifesting.
“This is really what unconditional love is.”