I was enjoying a yoga class recently, and the instructor lead us into Shivasana. She queued it in terms of surrendering our body, our minds and our emotions as a way to integrate the practice that day. I love a good Shivasana, so I made a mental place holder and dived deep into that posture and experience.
When I picked up the mental place holder it was because the thought I had was the queuing of the posture had been very emotionally vulnerable. Words like surrender and open being used in yoga is very common, but what is the impact on men?
From a very young age, I had it drilled into my head that real men don’t cry, don’t show weakness, don’t show pain (except if a limb is removed, then real men swear) and most of all, real men never back down or surrender (The Duke *never* surrendered).
But it can take a lot of work and it challenges our (at least my) cultural identity. To be clear, I’m not lobbying for a generation of men who cry at AT&T commercials or when they stub their toes. What I am saying is that as men we need to acknowledge that we have a range of emotions that is wider than what I see as the big four:
- She/He’s hot
- I’m hungry/thirsty
- I’m mad, must break things
- I’m happy
This stereotypical thinking has gone a long way in making things like yoga more difficult for men to approach. It has been my experience that surrender in this case isn’t about giving up. Surrender is so much more about strength; being brave and staying with our endeavors when we don’t have the upper hand or are vulnerable.
Surrendering isn’t about being weak and running away or hiding from a challenge. Surrendering is about letting go of that which is safe in order to explore newer, deeper meanings or emotions in life. For me, the toughest concept to work on has been surrendering the illusion of control. Hearing Oogway explain it to Shifu in Kung Fu Panda really hit home for me.
Control over things is an illusion and the source of great stress in life. You can choose where to plant a plum tree, how much water to give it and even build a shelter to regulate the temperature. But in the end, you can’t control the weather. Nor can you control the seed. No matter how much you may want an apple or peach tree, the plum seed will always give me a plum tree. And there is nothing you can do about it.
The take away for me is that trying to enforce my will (control) over something that I can’t control (pretty much anything outside of myself and my emotions) leads to frustration (a lack of contentment) and if it continues, could lead to anger and resentment. If I allow myself to give up the notion of trying to control things outside of myself, a whole domino effect happens. I have less stress and frustration. I am likely to be happier and more content with my life. I have mental and emotional space to use on other pursuits.
Surrender is about giving up what doesn’t work for you. It is about letting go of things, situations and even people that are of no benefit and that more likely drain us of time, energy and emotions. Surrender is giving up the illusion that we can control everyone and everything around us.
With that in mind, I’ll leave you with a question to ponder. Knowing that surrendering is giving in or giving up, but freeing yourself from something or someone who isn’t good for you, what are you willing to surrender today?