Category Archives: yoga

Baggage

excessory_baggage_meryl_smith_3
Meryl Smith, Excessory Baggage

I dreamed last night that I was trying to follow a woman with graying hair, who seemed to be a bit older version of myself in a way. She moved too fast, though, and I couldn’t keep up with her. I kept having to pick up various bags I had been dropping, and eventually lost track of her.

Perhaps it is time to stop picking up the bags when they fall, to let go of my baggage to become the woman I am meant to be.

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
– Charles Dudley Warner

I think the label of “artist” is loaded and has a strange sort of baggage attached to it. People say, “I’m not an artist! I can barely draw a straight line” and I always cringe when I hear this. What’s so interesting about a straight line anyway? It is not an exclusive club, this artist thing. It’s just a bunch of people who like to play, to make things, to dream up ideas, to color, to sing, to build, to string words together. Don’t we all? I think it helps to remove the labels. — Andrea Scher

Although Patanjali wrote 196 sutras concerning yoga, only three of them pertain exclusively to the asana. The first concerns the means — firm, relaxed postures; the second concerns the end — effortless oneness with what is. The sutra above speaks to the first stumbling block most of us encounter in our practice: we try too hard… we come to yoga with cultural baggage that says we are not enough and never will be. We must improve, we must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we must try harder and make some progress. With more effort, we think, and a little more strain, we will get more out of the posture. The mistake is believing we can get where we are going through effort. Patanjali defines success as effortlessness. Floating in the center of our postures, the center of our experience, we succeed by moving into harmony with the moment, our limbs, our breath, our awareness. — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

The heavy is the root of the light;
The still is the master of unrest.

Therefore the sage, traveling all day,
Does not lose sight of his baggage.
Though there are beautiful things to be seen,
He remains unattached and calm.

Why should the lord of ten thousand chariots
act lightly in public?
To be light is to lose one’s root.
To be restless is to lose one’s control.

— Tao Te Ching, 26

Standing on tiptoe, one is unsteady.
Taking long steps, one quickly tires.
Showing off, one shows unenlightenment.
Displaying self-righteousness, one reveals vanity.
Praising the self, one earns no respect.
Exaggerating achievements, one cannot long endure.
Followers of the Way consider these
Extra food, unnecessary baggage.
They bring no happiness.
Therefore, followers of the Way
avoid them.

— Tao Te Ching, 24

Internalizing


Knowledge by Luis Cabrera

People think they don’t have to learn,
Because there is so much information available.
But knowledge is more than possessing information.
Only the wise move fast enough.

The amount of information available today is unprecedented. In medieval times a few volumes could form an encyclopedia of all known facts, or a despot could control his subjects simply by isolating or destroying a library. Now information is available to us in tidal proportions.

Some people take a lethargic approach to this enormity. They feel that if there is so much at hand, they do not need to actually learn anything. They’ll go out and find it when they need it. But life moves too fast for us to rely on this laziness. Just as the flow of information has increased exponentially, so too has the pace of decision making accelerated. We can’t be passive; we have to internalize information and place ourselves precisely in the flow.

It has been stated that the average human being utilizes 10 percent of his or her mental capacity. A genius uses only 15 percent. So we definitely have the capacity to keep up — if we unlock our potential. This requires education, experience, and determination. One should never stop learning, never stop exploring, never stop going on adventures. Be like the explorers of old. What they acquired for themselves will always surpass those who merely read about their exploits.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Forget about knowledge and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times better off.
Throw away charity and righteousness,
and people will return to brotherly love.
Throw away profit and greed,
and there won’t be any thieves.

These three are superficial and aren’t enough
to keep us at the center of the circle, so we must also:

Embrace simplicity.
Put others first.
Desire little.

–Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 19

Renounce knowledge and your problems will end.
What is the difference between yes and no?
What is the difference between good and evil?
Must you fear what others fear?
Nonsense, look how far you have missed the mark!

— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 20

Without opening your door,
you can know the whole world.
Without looking out your window,
you can understand the way of the Tao.

The more knowledge you seek,
the less you will understand.

The Master understands without leaving,
sees clearly without looking,
accomplishes much without doing anything.

— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 47

One who seeks knowledge learns something new every day.
One who seeks the Tao unlearns something every day.
Less and less remains until you arrive at non-action.
When you arrive at non-action,
nothing will be left undone.

Mastery of the world is achieved
by letting things take their natural course.
You can not master the world by changing the natural way.

— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 48

The more knowledge that is acquired,
the stranger the world will become.

— Lao Tsu, Tao te Ching, 57

The master seeks no possessions.
She learns by unlearning,
thus she is able to understand all things.

— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 64

Knowing you don’t know is wholeness.
Thinking you know is a disease.
Only by recognizing that you have an illness
can you move to seek a cure.

The Master is whole because
she sees her illnesses and treats them,
and thus is able to remain whole.

— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 71

I’ve always had a tremendous love of learning – learning new things is one of the greatest joys in life for me. These days, I sometimes joke that I don’t have to know anything because Google knows everything. But I still love to learn things for myself.

And yet, I also understand the admonitions of Lao Tsu about giving up seeking knowledge to seek the Tao. There is a point where we have worked so hard to understand something, and then, we seem to gain an instant insight and it all falls into place. I have found this while studying many different subjects, while dealing with difficult people, while trying to learn about myself, while trying to understand the world, and while studying the Tao. When we give up seeking to understand, suddenly, we simply do intuitively “get it”.

I always liked the expression, “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” Being an engineer, I have always had a real problem-solving bent, and greatly enjoy figuring out a solution to a problem. But life itself simply has to be lived – there is no special knowledge that will suddenly make your life wonderful. You simply have to decide life is full of wonder and go from there.

Tao is simply about how things work and how they change. That’s all. Once I understood that and stopped looking for more words to describe the feeling of Tao to me, I “got it”. I still like to understand how things work and how things change, but I no longer ask why they do – I just “get it”.

Changing it up

The blogroll will be changing again as political stuff falls by the wayside and I find new interests to pursue. I’m going back to some old interests as well — you’ll see more artists linked here, and hopefully more of my own art popping up again. I’m going to restart the art journaling and try to bring back some of my creative spirit, which has lain dormant for some time while I helped to create our new political change. Whatever small part I did in keeping people focused and informed on politics, it seems to have been enough, along with the work of so many others who did way more than I did.

Also of course a big return to the Tao focus. I’ll be looking for more new sources of inspiration, more Tao bloggers, and maybe reposting the older Tao posts. Return being, after all, one of the major themes of Tao philosophy.

Let me know if there are things you would like to see here, too. I’m more than happy to research areas of interest for anyone, and post what I find here. I seem to be great at finding things of all sorts. Never figured out what to do with that skill, but I has it. Would’ve made a terrific researcher, I suppose, in just about any field.

Positioning (repost)

Heron stands in the blue estuary,
Solitary, white, unmoving for hours.
A fish! Quick avian darting;
The prey is captured.

People always ask how to follow Tao. It is as easy and natural as the heron standing in the water. The bird moves when it must; it does not move when stillness is appropriate.

The secret of its serenity is a type of vigilance, a contemplative state. The heron is not in mere dumbness or sleep. It knows a lucid stillness. It stands unmoving in the flow of the water. It gazes unperturbed and is aware. When Tao brings it something that it needs, it seizes the opportunity without hesitation or deliberation. Then it goes back to its quiescence without disturbing itself or its surroundings. Unless it found the right position in the water’s flow and remained patient, it would not have succeeded.

Actions in life can be reduced to two factors: positioning and timing. If we are not in the right place at the right time, we cannot possibly take advantage of what life has to offer us. Almost anything is appropriate if an action is in accord with the time and the place. But we must be vigilant and prepared. Even if the time and the place are right, we can still miss our chance if we do not notice the moment, if we act inadequately, or if we hamper ourselves with doubts and second thoughts. When life presents an opportunity, we must be ready to seize it without hesitation or inhibition. Position is useless without awareness. If we have both, we make no mistakes.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I’ve been thinking a lot about this one. One of the comments my yoga teacher often makes is that yoga is about creating “steadyness of mind”. I think this is what this passage means. We have to steady and quiet our minds, creating awareness. Then, when opportunities are presented to us, we can easily know what needs to be done and take action.When your mind is confused or distracted with conflicting ideas or feelings, it can be impossible to know what to do. But Tao trains us in quieting and steadying the mind, just as yoga does. The two are very effective together.

I think I would like to learn other techniques for this as well. I know the medications I take have a great effect on steadying and quieting my mind and my thoughts, which is very helpful. My gardening becomes like this for me as well, as I get into an almost zen-like state of seeing what needs to be done and doing it, without doing so much that the overall effect is ruined. Not that I have a zen garden, it’s far more of a cottage garden. I don’t care for the over-manicured look of most meditative gardens, really. I prefer a natural look.

People often remark these days on how calm I am; how so little seems to upset me. Oh, sure, I can get upset when it matters. But little things don’t bother me. I am learning to trust Tao to work things out, and start to look for what comes to me when my plans are upset. Often I’ll find just what I’m looking for when things seem to have gone awry. So I’ve learned that sometimes Tao is telling me that what I need may be different from what I have planned, and learn to be less upset.

I suppose a lot of people would say their belief in their God is like this, but it’s different for me. I don’t look to a god, unless you could consider everything in life some part of god. For me, it is all a connected whole. I don’t see myself as separate from god, or other people as any better or worse for what they believe in. Perhaps I’m more Hindu in that, just accepting all gods as part of the pantheon. But I go further in accepting all spirituality as basically the same. What I don’t accept in religion is the imposing of one’s beliefs on others.

So, I guess I am learning to stand more quietly in the stream, hoping to catch more fish. Hey, last night I caught a pretty great salmon, all nice and cooked and brought to my table in a tasty sauce. The fishing doesn’t get much better than that.

(originally posted on Friday, January 14th, 2005 )

Mudita — Empathic Joy

from Wikipedia:

Mudita is a Buddhist (Pali and Sanskrit) word meaning rejoicing in others’ good fortune. Mudita is sometimes considered to be the opposite of schadenfreude.

The term mudita is usually translated as “sympathetic” or “altruistic” joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it. Many Buddhist teachers interpret mudita more broadly as referring to an inner spring of infinite joy that is available to everyone at all times, regardless of circumstances. The more deeply one drinks of this spring, the more secure one becomes in one’s own abundant happiness, and the easier it then becomes to relish the joy of other people as well.

The traditional example of the mind-state of mudita is the attitude of a parent observing a growing child’s accomplishments and successes.

Mudita is also traditionally regarded as the most difficult of the brahmaviharas to cultivate. To show mudita is to celebrate happiness and achievement in others even when we are facing tragedy ourselves.

The “far enemies” of mudita are jealousy and envy, two mind-states in obvious opposition. Mudita’s “near enemy,” or quality which superficially resembles mudita but is in fact more subtly in opposition to it, is exhilaration, perceived as a grasping at pleasant experience out of a sense of insufficiency or lack.

Somehow, I am still working on this one. I received some excellent news from a friend this week, and it was a bit hard to just be happy for him. He’s one of those friends who has cut me off to a great extent, though not as completely as others, and sometimes I simply miss those people very much. The saddest part of bipolar is that people are often so unforgiving of things that happened during a manic time, in a way that is hurtful. And even when they do forgive, the closeness that was there is lost and can’t be recovered.

Still, I am happy for my friend and wish him all the best. He has all that I ever wished for him and all that I tried to show him how to attain – so I should simply be pleased with that. But intentions are often misunderstood, especially when they are expressed by someone in a hypomanic state, as I’m sure anyone who has dealt with bipolar disorder knows all too well. Even those fun shopping sprees can have repercussions we don’t expect later on. It’s good to not be in that state anymore!

So while I don’t work to “just be normal” anymore, now I think I work beyond that even, to try to come to a place where I can be glad even for those who do not wish me well. And finding joy even for those who cannot let me be a part of their lives is a difficult, but necessary, step for me.

You go, girl!

Man, I wish I was still in this good of a shape…. I do pilates and yoga, but was never a runner. I can sprint pretty fast, but distance running just never was a good thing for me. Run, Joan, run!

Marathon Matriarch Is Still in the Race – New York Times

She keeps a home for her husband, Scott, who was her college sweetheart and is now a marketing executive. She keeps an eye on her 20-year-old daughter, Abby, a sophomore at nearby Bates College, and her 18-year-old son, Anders, a high school senior.

She confers with neighbors on how to replace an old neighborhood bridge that was recently closed. She makes speeches and appearances.

And she runs an hour or two a day in preparation for the women’s United States Olympic marathon trials next Sunday in Boston, which raises questions:

Why would a 50-year-old woman (51 next month) want to run 26 miles 385 yards against potential Olympic medalists?

Why would she compete as the oldest of the 160 or so starters? (The next oldest are four 46-year-olds.)

Because she is Joan Benoit Samuelson, the matriarch of American distance running, the winner of the first Olympic marathon for women in 1984 and a pioneer in bringing acceptance to women’s distance running.

In a recent interview at her home, she said she would be running “just because it’s an Olympic trials and I qualified. But if the weather turns up terrible, I might not run and just race in the Boston Marathon the next day.”

The first three finishers in the trials will qualify for the United States team for the Beijing Olympics. Can Samuelson make the Olympic team?

“Oh, God, no,” she said. “It’s just me against me. I want to run 2:50 at age 50.”

If she averages 6 minutes 30 seconds a mile, she will reach her goal of 2 hours 50 minutes. Her career best is 2:21:21, but that was 23 years ago over Chicago’s flat course.

“This will be my fourth Olympic trials,” she said. “I qualified for all of the previous six, but in 1988 I just had Abby and in 1992 I had a full mother load with two small children. But I’ve always had the urge to run.”

Samuelson said she used to run 120 miles a week. “Now I’m down to 70 or 80,” she said. “That’s all I can do.”

Faith (Repost)

In spite of knowing,
Yet still believing.
Though no god above,
Yet god within.

There is no god in the sense of a cosmic father or mother who will provide all things to their children. Nor is there some heavenly bureaucracy to petition. These models are not descriptions of a divine order, but are projections from archetypal templates. If we believe in the divine as cosmic family, we relegate ourselves to perpetual adolescence. If we regard the divine as supreme government, we are forever victims of unfathomable officialdom.

Yet it does not work for us to totally abandon faith. It does not follow that we can forego all belief in higher beings. We need faith, not because there are beings who will punish us or reward us, but because gods are wonderful ways of describing things that happen to us. They embody the highest aspects of human aspiration. Gods on the altars are essential metaphors for the human spiritual experience.

Faith shouldn’t be shaken because bad things happen to us or because our loved ones are killed. Good and bad fortune are not in the hands of gods, so it is useless to blame them. Neither does faith need to be confirmed by some objective occurrence. Faith is self-affirming. If we maintain faith, then we have its reward. If we become better people, then our faith has results. It is we who create faith, and it is through our efforts that faith is validated.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

The point of faith is to become better people. Not to force your religion on others, but to better yourself. Not to strengthen your religion or return it to its traditions so you can glory in the past, but to allow yourself to face the world as it is now, and deal with life as it is now. Tao doesn’t encourage us to live in the past or long for some past glory days of Taoist rule, or go around converting everyone to Taoism, or to force our governments to meet some holy standards of justice. Tao tells us to live our own lives in harmony with natural forces. The “faith” of Tao is to know that if you follow its principles and move in harmony with the Tao, your life will naturally become better.

And it does. That’s the beauty of it. It works. Just as Christianity does if you truly follow its teachings, and don’t reinvent your own interpretations of it to suit your misogynistic tendencies. Just as Buddhism does, if you follow its logic. Just as Islam does, if you follow its true tenants and don’t use them as ways to control the women in your society, or enforce the power of the Mullahs over the people to their detriment. Just as any faith does, once you get past the “rules” you’re “supposed” to follow and understand the heart of what it is trying to tell you – to treat other people well, to better yourself before complaining about others, and to live your own life in accordance with what you believe, and not impose that on other people around you.

For the unified mind in accord with the tao all self-centered striving ceases. Doubts and irresolutions vanish and life in true faith is possible. With a single stroke we are freed from bondage; nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing. All is empty, clear, self-illuminating, with no exertion of the mind’s power. Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value. In this world of suchness there is neither seer nor other-than-self.

To come directly into harmony with this reality just simply say when doubt arises, ‘Not two.’ In this ‘not two’ nothing is separate, nothing is excluded. No matter when or where, enlightenment means entering this truth. And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space; in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there, but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes. Infinitely large and infinitely small, no difference, for definitions have vanished and no boundaries are seen. So too with Being and non-Being. Don’t waste time in doubts and arguments that have nothing to do with this.

One thing, all things: move among and intermingle, without distinction. To live in this realization is to be without anxiety about non-perfection. To live in this faith is the road to non-duality, because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.

Words! The tao is beyond language, for in it there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today.

–Hsin Hsin Ming (Verses on the Faith Mind)
Attributed to Chien Chih Sengtsan, ca. 600 C.E.
Translated by Robert B. Clarke

Trickster

I am beginning to understand that there is much of the trickster in my personality. I’ve always identified with Loki, and often use humor to try and defuse situations (not always successfully, like any trickster…)

I’m currently reading Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift” right now, but I think his “Trickster Makes This World” will be in the reading stack soon. (It’s been on my wish list for a few weeks now).

Lewis Hyde

“An important part of any sacred activity is marking a boundary between the sacred and non-sacred. It’s important to build a container so the action is conducted inside sacred space,” he noted. “So, when you get to a character like the Trickster, you now have somebody who is the critic of the boundary, whose position is that all boundaries can be become too rigid and too impermeable, causing the life to dry up inside the container. So you need, both … some way to make the container and some function that is smart about how and where to break it. The Trickster is the sacred boundary crosser. And it’s not just that he crosses boundaries, he does it as a needed sacred function. If all you have is sacred forces who are maintaining their fiefdoms then you can end up with a fragmented heaven. Trickster gets a commerce going among the various sacred powers.”

Speaking of “heaven” – Hyde related in his book the story of C.G.Jung when he was a twelve-year-old schoolboy in Basel, Switzerland, admiring the glorious cathedral in the town square.

Said Jung, “I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sight, and thought: ‘The world is beautiful and the church is beautiful and God made all this and sits above it far away in the blue sky on a golden throne and … Here came a great hole in my thoughts, and a choking sensation. I felt numbed, and knew only: ‘Don’t go on thinking now! Something terrible is coming …’”

For several days Jung struggled with the thought of whether or not God, who controls all things, could allow him to think a thought he shouldn’t think. Finally, having worked himself around to believing that God wanted him to have the forbidden thought, he relented: “I gathered all my courage, as though I were about to leap forthwith into hell-fire, and let the thought come. I saw before me the cathedral, the blue sky. God sits on His golden throne, high above the world – and from under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder … I felt an enormous, an indescribable relief. Instead of the expected damnation, grace had come upon me. I wept for happiness and gratitude.”

Hyde said he was indebted to C.G. Jung, particularly one of his students, Marie-Louise von Franz, and their work with the idea of Mercurius. To the medieval alchemists, Mercury was the metal symbolizing duality – metallic yet liquid, matter yet spirit, cold yet fiery. Mercury was the metal uniting all the opposites. This Trickster energy was known to the Greeks by way of Hermes, the messenger god; in the Roman pantheon, Hermes becomes Mercury.

“C.G. Jung was a fabulously smart guide,” Hyde continued. “The Jungian insight is that the psyche is a community of forces and you need that whole community of forces working together. The pathology is when one member of the community begins to dominate in an individual, so some other part – your Warrior, say, or your sense of justice – gets muted. Or if we’re speaking of a group rather than one psyche, it’s when somebody begins to take over through display of one singular force. In a healthy community, every force will have a counter force. For example, Hermes steals the cattle from Apollo, but at the end of the story, Hermes and Apollo are friends. They find a way to relate. They need each other. You can’t have a boundary crosser unless you have someone who cares about the boundary. Hermes needs Apollo to be able to play with the rules and Apollo needs Hermes to keep things lively.”

To help people come back to a place where they’ve been trapped or lost requires them to become a ‘Hermeneut’ of their own life. They have to be helped to understand that there is an active learnable role to play in relating to the story you tell about your own life, the story you’ve inherited, the story you’re going to create as you live your life. Most Americans are passive recipients of the story that the media wants them to live by and only when you realize it is a story are you able to make different choices. You can interpret the story and be converted – from a passive object of commercial pitchmen into an actor living a life that you yourself create.”

Hyde said he believed a lot of Americans were “numb.” I liked the quote he used from child psychologist Donald Winnicott: “It is a joy to be hidden, but disaster not to be found.”

To explore within ourselves all the limiting behavior we’ve been taught takes a kind of “imaginative amorality,” the author said. It’s not an immorality, but an archetypal motivation in our own psyche to “play with the rules rather than observe them.”

Peace be with you

On a day when I am not at peace with myself or my surroundings, Ascender comes along and kicks my cage door wide open. I was going to write something about how I am feeling today, but I think I’ll just link to her good wishes instead. Please click on her link below to visit all the bloggers she lists; I don’t have the time to fix all the linky love at the moment here.

Namaste, to all.

Studio Lolo tagged me with this ‘peace and love’ meme; to spread the word to send loving energy and thoughts to the places and people that need it. Rather then tagging others I hope to pass on some urls of my virtual pals who could use some of your loving energy and thoughts. Please leave some virtual peace and love to some people who could really use it right now.

Red Moon at the loss of her daughter

The Daily Warrior successfully fighting ALS for 16 years

Studio Friday is closing down. Stop by and show her some love for her dedication all these years.

Check out these bloggers who address peace and love almost everyday: 3191, a poetic justice, another poster for peace, anti-war us, Art For A Change, Art of Mark Byran, Artists Helping Children, Blog Like You Give A Damn, Blood For Oil, bricalu, Buddha Project, Change Me, Changing Places, Crafty Green Poet, No Blood For War and Profit, Inhabitat, kamurawayan, Light a Candle, Military Families Speak Out, Miniature Gigantic, Paris Parfait, Peaceful Societies, Pinwheels for Peace, Poets Against the War, rambling taoist, smile, smile, Take it Personally, The Peace Train, Treehugger, Visual Resistance, We Are What We Do, Betmo, Bloggers For Peace

Shakti

I was reading Sally’s latest article in Yoga Journal today, “Waking Life”, which is excellent, by the way, and decided to check out her web site. She has a number of other excellent articles posted there, including this one which appealed to the engineer in me. Surrender is probably one of the most difficult concepts on Yoga for me (or any spiritual practice).

Sally Kempton, meditation teacher, Swami Durgananda

My favorite surrender story was told to me by my old friend Ed. An engineer by profession, he was spending some time in India, at the ashram of his spiritual teacher. At one point, he was asked to help supervise a construction project, which he quickly found was being run incompetently and on the cheap. No diplomat, Ed rushed into action, arguing, amassing proofs, bad-mouthing his colleagues and staying up nights scheming about how to turn the tide. At every turn, he got resistance from the other contractors, who soon took to subverting everything he tried to do.

In the midst of this classic impasse, Ed’s teacher called them all to a meeting. Ed was asked to explain his position, and then the contractors started talking fast. The teacher kept nodding, seeming to agree. At that moment, Ed had a flash of realization. He saw that none of this mattered in the long run. He wasn’t there to win the argument, save the ashram money, or even make a great building. He was there to study yoga, to know the truth—and obviously, this situation had been designed by the cosmos as the perfect medicine for his efficient engineer’s ego.

At that moment, the teacher turned to him, “Ed, this man says you don’t understand local conditions, and I agree with him. So, shall we do it his way?”

Still swimming in the peace of his newfound humility, Ed folded his hands. “Whatever you think best,” he said.

He looked up to see the teacher staring at him with wide, fierce eyes. “Its not about what I think,” he said. “Its about what’s right. You fight for what’s right, do you hear me?”

Ed says that this incident taught him three things. First, that when you surrender your attachment to a particular outcome, things often turn out better than you could ever have imagined. (Eventually, he was able to persuade the contractors to make the necessary changes.) Second, that a true karma yogi is not someone who goes belly-up to higher authority, but a surrendered activist—a person who does his best to help create a better reality—all the while knowing that he’s not in charge of outcomes. Third, that the attitude of surrender is the best antidote to anger, anxiety, and fear.

I often tell this story to people who worry that surrender means giving up, or that letting go is a synonym for inaction, because it illustrates so beautifully the paradox behind “Thy will be done.” As the god Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, surrender sometimes means being willing to get into a fight.

A truly surrendered person may look passive, especially when something appears to need doing, and everyone around is shouting, “Get a move on, get it done, this is urgent!” Seen in perspective, however, what looks like inaction is often simply a recognition that now is not the time to act. Masters of surrender tend to be masters of flow, knowing intuitively how to move with the energies at play in a situation. You advance when the doors are open, when a stuck situation can be turned, moving along the subtle energetic seams that let you avoid obstructions and unnecessary confrontations.

Such skill involves attunement to the energetic movement that is sometimes called universal or divine will, the Tao, flow, or in Sanskrit, shakti. Shakti is the subtle force—we could call it cosmic intention—behind the natural world in all its manifestations.

Surrender starts with a recognition that this greater life force moves as you. One of my teachers, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, once said that to surrender is to become aware of God’s energy within oneself, to recognize that energy, and to accept it. It’s an egoless recognition—that is, it involves a shift in your sense of what “I” is—which is why the famous inquiry “Who am I?” or “What is the I?” is central to the process of surrender. (Depending on your tradition and your perspective at the time, you may recognize that the answer to this question is “Nothing” or “All that is”—in other words, consciousness, shakti, the Tao.)