“Surrender is a process that takes place inside of you. When fear, anger or any strong emotion arises, if you can let those feelings go, you are surrendering.” (S. Shambhavananda)
I must confess that I have done a fair amount of wondering about whether or not I really know how to surrender. Over time, I am learning to let go of my confusion and desire for immediate results. Every now and then I see clearly the benefit of my meditation practice, and there is absolutely no doubt of its gifts. It goes something like this. A pattern, such as jealousy, shows itself over and over again inside of me. Someone has something that I want and can’t have, and I feel jealous, left out, sorry for myself. Or maybe someone has hurt my feelings, and each time I think about it, my chest gets tight and I play out a brief but colorful revenge fantasy.
These days, it is becoming second nature to use my meditation practice to help me when I am in danger of becoming stuck in mental/emotional ruts such as these. I simply notice my reaction, I soften, I take a breath, I connect to mantra, and I let the feelings or reaction go as best I can. To be honest, it does not always seem to be working immediately. Some feelings are strong and tend to linger. Over time, however, I’ve developed some faith in the long term process. I’ve come to believe that my countless efforts at surrendering really do make a difference. The miracle comes when, one day, I am presented with the person/object/situation that triggers my anger/jealousy/hurt feelings and … I don’t feel a trace of a reaction to it. It’s just not there. There is no tightness in my chest, no surge of stress hormones, no craving or aversion of any kind. In place of the familiar tension, there is in fact a lovely feeling of openness. A lovely inner spaciousness. This is the magic of my meditation practice. In my experience, it is the purpose of surrender. It allows me to have great peace and acceptance for life “just as it is.” Events may or may not change, but my inner experience is completely transformed. I am loving this practice of paying attention, taking a breath, whispering a mantra, and feeling the magic.
“Lokah Samastah Sukhinoh Bhavantu.” My 5 year old daughter spent Sunday afternoon singing this mantra. It had been the “lesson” at family yoga that day. I smiled to myself because she had not seemed to be paying attention during a lot of the family yoga class, and so I was a little surprised when I heard her chanting this somewhat complicated mantra. It means “May all beings everywhere be happy and free. And may the thoughts and actions of our own lives contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all.”
I am reminded that my daughter is paying attention to everything. She is a sponge. Often at night, I will whisper “May you be happy and safe and may all beings everywhere be happy and free.” I love the ritual of blessing her and thinking of others. Tonight I grew impatient with her slowness at moving through the bedtime routine (aka intentional stalling to avoid bedtime when mommy is already extremely tired and increasingly grumpy). She said I was “being mean,” and she had a point. I thought about arguing with her some more (yes, sometimes I engage in arguments with my 5 year old). Instead, I took a breath, and I deeply let go of my mounting tension. It is a precious gift to have been taught how to do this. I felt my heart relax, and I settled into the next moment. We read a book. I tucked her in. She reminded me (as she often does) that it’s not fair that she has to sleep by herself. And then she said “you forgot to say May All Beings Be Happy and Free. Say it in the other language.” And so we said it again together, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.” It was a very nice way to end the day.
The planets in Vedic Astrology are called Grahas which means ‘to seize’ or ‘to take hold of’. They represent forces that have influence on us in different ways. In Sanskrit, the word Shakti has to do with energy or power. It is related to the feminine aspect of Divine Consciousness. Shakti has to do with the manifestation and creation of everything in the universe. It’s nature is to create and manifest things.
All of the planets have their own kinds of Shaktis, which by their very natures, want to manifest things, one way or another. The nine planets are always affecting us. Sometimes we go through periods where one or some of the planets are influencing us more than others. And in our natal birth charts there are planets that are more influential or more dominant than others.
The planetary mantras are tools to work well with the energies represented by the planets. The mantras help us to raise our level of awareness of these energies and to more consciously use these energies in our lives. As we go about our daily life, we don’t have to be thinking of our actions, drives, urges, reactions, etc. as being caused by this planet or that planet. But what can happen is that we become more aware at any particular moment that we have a choice of whether to react or not.
Each planetary Shakti can manifest (with us participating) in relatively conscious or unconscious ways. For example, when we are under a strong influence of Saturn, we can naturally react with resistance, frustration, getting a little negative, just feeling really stressed, or Vata provoked in Ayurvedic terms. We can even feel physically tired or have more health challenges.
When we consciously use the planetary mantras and the positive qualities of Saturn, then we can be very focused, very present and clear, very confident, organized, patient, practical and have very good structures and routines in life. These conscious ways of using the Shakti of Saturn leave less and less Shakti or energy to manifest in some of the difficult ways that it can.
In my experience of doing the planetary mantras, I sometimes become more clear on things while doing the mantras. It is as if the deity of a planet is providing some grace or a blessing. When the mantras are done in the morning, they seem to ‘tune up’ the energies for the day and allow the day to go either more smoothly, more consciously, or both. I will also do a specific planetary mantra to help me with some of that planet’s positive qualities. I may know, from doing astrology, that a particular planet is influencing me strongly during a certain period. So I might do extra mantra for that planet to help me to be more conscious and balanced during that time.
It is very good to do the mantras in a group of people and feel the energy that is generated (or attracted). This becomes a very real experience of the planets.
This past weekend, we held a Mantra Immersion. Taking a full day to do mantra practice is like soaking oneself in the most soothing and refreshing of inner baths. I really feel renewed, as if I have let go of tons of accumulated tensions. One of the mantras of our school is “Om Namah Shivaya,” which means “I bow with respect to my Inner Self.”
In one session, we practiced pulling our awareness inside, like a turtle pulling its head and legs inside of it’s shell, and practicing the “Om Namah Shivaya” mantra from this inner perspective. This is a powerful way to refocus, recharge, and strengthen one’s ability to stay centered in the midst of stress. The result is a feeling of spaciousness, lightness, and a stronger capacity to open up to whatever life brings next. Give it a try. Get quiet. Focus inside. Breathe “om namah shivaya” as you inhale and exhale. Repeat endlessly.
Much gratitude and love to Babaji and all of the Shambhava teachers who taught this weekend!