The Beauty of Surrender

Today, I went to a second yoga session on my trip to Nicaragua. It will likely be my last here as we leave for home in a couple of days. It has been an illuminating, exciting and utterly exhausting trip. Caring for two toddlers is a lot of work in perfect conditions with all the tools in place like diaper pales, level sidewalks and regulatory high chairs with seat belts. All things for which I have a new appreciation. Doing all of the same day-to-day tasks here in the remote Third World without these luxuries has been a challenge for sure. A challenge that has stretched my coping abilities to their max.

I’ve yelled at my children more than I would like. I’ve been short with my husband for no reason. I have been too tired to enjoy some of the fun things because there’s just so much damn work to be done everyday. I’m not proud of it, but even on vacation surrounded by immense beauty I can be pissed off.

I needed yoga today to bring me back to myself. To remind me of the important things.

The wind was whipping my hair in the open-air studio. My dingy, borrowed mat flipped up on the edges from time to time. The pigeons congregated and cooed somewhere above me while the sounds of small-town Nicaragua swirled around me in cries, hollers, motors and horns. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was part of the soundtrack to the practice and somewhere around “…with every breath we drew a hallelujah” I let it all go and I sank into the beautiful space of surrender.

Surrender is beautiful, isn’t it? When we fall on our knees and crumple from the strain of life? When we’re brave enough to admit that we don’t have it all together, that we struggle, that we need help, that even on vacation in paradise we can get pissed off? When we stretch out our arms or join our hands in prayer asking, often begging for love, for peace, for a moment of grace in a hectic world–it is nothing short of a beauty-filled miracle. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to a controlling, anxiety-ridden, yeller… like me.

But it came. It came with the strength of a thousand wind storms.

I was in the zone, or in yoga speak, “on my edge” in every pose. My leg went up in wheel. I held crow. I got closer to a head stand than ever before and I stretched farther and deeper than usual… I chatuaronga’d the shit out of that mat. The hour and a half felt like mere moments in time. I was in my breath. I was humbled yet confident; filled with a strong weakness that transformed me from one inhalation to the next. I have been in many yoga classes in the last 10 years but this one will stay with me forever. It shifted me–left an indelible impression on my soul.

The teacher said, “Every breath brings an opportunity for change.” Like a gong this struck a chord deep inside. She is right. With every breath, I can change. With every minute, I can be better– I can come back to myself and all I have to do is surrender… “with every breath a hallelujah.”

9 thoughts on “The Beauty of Surrender

  1. Shannon you wrote a beautiful honest post that really touched me. There are times that it’s in those darkest moments in our lives that we learn to find our way to the light again. I have been in that place you describe in your post so many times myself. For me it was being there many times where eventually I began reaching for the light that was in me and bit by bit learned to surrender to what was so I could also find a better me in all of it.

    Leonard Cohen’s song is the only song I have put on my iPod (otherwise lots of educational stuff). That song comes to touch something deep within me. Thank you for sharing.

    Blessings! xo

  2. Nice post, Shannon. Have you heard Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah”? Sublime & haunting, in my opinion.

    And, yes, so much truth in this–” With every breath, I can change. With every minute, I can be better.” I’ve never been a yeller and rarely am I short with anyone (especially without really good cause!), but that’s the license / freedom of choice we have — to define ourselves as we wish. Every breath affords us this opportunity: to decide how we want to show up to life, moment to moment, which wolf we want to feed within us–the kind wolf or the angry wolf. The wolf that win our heart is the wolf that we decide most often to feed. That is life. That is how we become better, in my experience; and by really realizing and letting ourselves fully feel how fragile and fleeting this life is, how fragile and perishable we are, and those we love and are short with are. When we “get” this, it’s then that we realize that only loving-kindness and being our best really matter anymore.

    Before you know what kindness really is
    you must lose things,
    feel the future dissolve in a moment
    like salt in a weakened broth.
    What you held in your hand,
    what you counted and carefully saved,
    all this must go so you know
    how desolate the landscape can be
    between the regions of kindness.
    How you ride and ride
    thinking the bus will never stop,
    the passengers eating maize and chicken
    will stare out the window forever.

    Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
    you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
    lies dead by the side of the road.
    You must see how this could be you,
    how he too was someone
    who journeyed through the night with plans
    and the simple breath that kept him alive.

    Before you know kindness as the deepest thing
    you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
    You must wake up with sorrow.
    You must speak to it till your voice
    catches the thread of all sorrows
    and you see the size of the cloth.

    Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
    only kindness that ties your shoes
    and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
    purchase bread,
    only kindness that raises its head
    from the crowd of the world to say
    It is I you have been looking for,
    and then goes with you everywhere
    like a shadow or a friend.
    (Naomi Shihab Nye)

    Warmest regards to you and yours, Shannon, and continued safe travels.


  3. Hi Shannon, you do capture the moment of Zen so well. I remember that class and you did chattaranga the hell out of that mat! And actually, on the playlist you heard in that class it was the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah. I have gotten some moving accounts over the years of how this song touched students during practice. Thank you for your blog, I loved and related to your words so well. Come back to San Juan for more yoga and more childcare!!! Namaste, Julie

  4. Your post today makes me want to book a trip to Nicaragua. I have been practicing yoga for about seven years and have only rarely – once, maybe? twice? – had the experience that you describe here, of finding that sweet spot of surrender. (And, on a much less Zen note, I can completely relate to the tightened patience that comes on the road. Traveling with kids depletes all of my deepest reserves of calm. Glad to know that I’m not the only one.)

  5. Pingback: How the Life of Pi Changed My Life | Shannon Lell

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