December 30, 2012

Nothing to Do: A Lesson in Surrender. ~ Nancy McCaochan

“You don’t have to do a thing,” she said to me emphatically, and then added, “It’s already been done.”

“She” is the shamanic practitioner I see when I’m feeling stuck.

I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga for nearly 18 years. When I first began my sadhana, I was convinced that my own efforts, channeled by yoga, could fix any problem I was having.

It took a few years to learn that one of the secrets to healing is surrender.

Eventually I found that surrender was more difficult to experience in my home practice than in group classes. Away from my home with many distractions­ such as laundry, dishes and kids, I was better able to let go and let yoga work its magic. Still, it was yoga—primarily the practice of asana and simple breathing techniques—that transformed me.

What I surrendered to was the process, but it was a very specific process. It was breath-based asana, meditative and witness-based consciousness that opened me up.

But then I got stuck again, and no amount of home or group sessions helped me become free of the chronic discomfort I was experiencing in my body. I knew enough about the interface between my body and my emotionally imbedded core beliefs to understand that there were “issues in my tissues,” which I was either unable to unearth or unwilling to face. Either way, I conceded that I needed help. Enter my energy worker and shamanic friend.

According to many sources, yoga roots are in the shamanic traditions of early India. Patanjali is often referred to as a shaman. And at its core, yoga—in all of its forms—is an energetic practice. Sensations log into our neural programs whenever we react to experience, and we’re always reacting. Much of this occurs below the radar of our conscious minds and is controlled by numerous subconscious patterns that we inherited with our DNA, from our past lives or from our early cultural conditioning.

Shamanism, a healing modality common in indigenous cultures, is one of many practices enabled to both access and clear our deeply rooted patterns. As an adjunct to yoga, it’s perfect.

Up until this last session, I’d noticed that I always felt lighter after a session—both more bright and optimistic.  But at the end of this session, I felt a knot like a huge dark stone in my solar plexus. Her words, “There is nothing to do,” made me angry.

“What about getting up early in the morning to do my yoga?” I screamed internally. “What about lighting candles for those I love? What about meditating twice a day? What about the latest liver cleanse or making sure my bed is made before I leave the house each day?”

“There’s nothing you need to do,” she had said. “Nothing. It’s already been done.”

The biggest reason for my discomfort was a sense of purposelessness. If there is nothing that needs to be done, how would I spend my days? I couldn’t just do nothing. I need to be busy and I need to feel as though my busy-ness is necessary.

When I looked more deeply at this “need” I realized that many of my spiritual rituals were an attempt to barter with God instead of trusting that She/He loved and cared for me. The good little Catholic grade school girl within me was convinced that if she did everything right, everything would be alright. God would smile on me, my bank account would grow and my children would be safe from the effects of their own karma.

Energy workers help us heal, but it’s up to us to accept their medicine and allow it to work within us. In my own case, this last session was an ever-deepening lesson about surrender.

What I discovered is this:

When I let go of doing things because I think I need to do them in order to find grace, I find the grace to do those practices that make me happy.

“Doing nothing” doesn’t mean sitting around all day watching clouds go by. When I let go of “should-ing” on myself, I see that there is a world of things left to do. My sadhana, though erratic, has never been more playful or productive. My daily life is filled with friends, meaningful work and love. I do my practices now not because I “need” to be a good yogini, but because the effects of my practice enrich my life. And as my life is enriched, I experience the laws of the universe from the inside out rather than hoping that what I do will make God smile.

When I let go, I discovered that truly, God is pleased, and not because of the things I do each day, for there is no way I can add to the infinite; God is pleased because I’ve let go of fear and allowed myself to surrender.


Nancy McCaochan is a writer and yoga teacher living in Metro Detroit. She is the author of Yoga at the Wall (www.yogaatthewall.com). She can be reached at [email protected].




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Ed: J.H. & B.B.

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