To Be Mastered

"You surrender to a lot of things which are not worthy of you. I wish you would surrender to your radiance...your integrity...your beautiful human grace."
-Yogi Bhajan

Being in the healing business makes one the recipient of a lot of stories and secrets. They vary in tone and content from heartbreaking to heartwarming, triumphant to shame-filled, sacred to irreverent. My favorite stories are those of the healing journey, hearing about and sometimes having the privilege to watch people transforming. I had the joy of bearing witness in such a manner recently, after Donna Quesada's ever gorgeous class at Yoga West. An older gentleman approached me to ask some questions about my practice and tell me his story of a decades long battle with alcoholism. He had been in and out of many types of programs over the years, but shared, with tears in his eyes, that after three days in yoga he had finally found something that made him feel different, that he felt would actually help him. He talked candidly about how afraid he was to lose this feeling and asked how to proceed. We chanted the AA mantra, "Keep coming back. It works if you work it," together, smiling, and then I recalled the above quote from Yogi Bhajan.

The good news is you already know how to surrender, I told him. You spent years of your life surrendered to this substance. You have recognized that your life has become unmanageable, that alcohol has mastered you, and you sincerely wish to change your experience.

Now comes the easier-said-than-done process of giving yourself over, body, mind and soul, to your Highest Good. This will change you, sometimes in ways that are most uncomfortable. There will come a time when you want to slip back into the safe familiarity of the skin you're shedding right now, but it will never be the same. You will be too expansive, too free, and your old ways of being won't soothe you as they once did.

You will be humbled before the disorienting task of learning How To Be all over again. You might stumble like a weak kneed fawn. It might get weird. When you change fundamentally, you stop playing the role you always have and then no one knows what to do with you. You may be met with frustration or distrust while you're making this shift. There may be some people who will cut you out, or who you will have to cut out. There is often a price to pay for following our sacred heart, but it is never too high. It will always be worth it in order to live our truth, to do what is healthy and life giving.


My own healing path has been strange and fun and uncomfortable and full of backsliding. I used to teach yoga then bounce off to happy hour. I have spent quite a bit of time in AA and Al-Anon, in individual therapy, in healing circles, in acupuncture, in church...but none of it really made me feel different until I became very vibrantly, thoroughly alive through the practice of yoga, specifically, Kundalini. It activated in me an undeniable awareness of my truest self and what was aligned with my Highest Good. In my inexhaustible desire for The Truth, I took the red pill and true to form, there was no going back.

Such is the harrowing aspect of surrender. We don't consider this when we're slipping addiction on. No one thinks, "Oh yeah baby, I'm going to tie on a massive opiate addiction! I'm going to surrender myself completely to this horrible beast! By the time I really let go, I'll be so skinny and unwashed, no one will recognize me!" This happens incrementally. The addict's freedom is slowly chipped away by the dis-ease of addiction until they have a moment of awareness that they've come much further than they ever intended. Sometimes several of these moments have to compound before a person begins to think that it may be time to reevaluate. We go far deeper than we intended because we think we can control the substance. But it is us who is under control.

Surrendering to our radiance, integrity and grace, as Yogi Bhajan suggested, inspires more awareness. We don't consider what might become of us as we wade into addiction, but the outset of revolutionary, positive personal change seems to come with a deep knowing that aggravates the ego something fierce. Cue the ability to suddenly do absolutely anything other than the new habit you're trying to establish. "I was going to meditate but I've suddenly been inspired to pick ALL the lint out of the rug...and make a souffle!"

There is a fear that in the silence and clarity, we will have to face ourselves honestly. And fair enough, because it's true. Everything you've been knowingly avoiding and things you aren't even aware of yet are waiting for you, to be seen, to be felt, to be healed up. Embarking on the healing journey is an act of incredible courage. We decide to walk willingly into the darkness and engage with whatever we find there. It will strip you of some important things you thought you knew about yourself, revealing deeper, truer truths. It will change how you react to and interact with the flow of your life. It will take you places you never thought possible. It will break you...and put you back together again, better, stronger, happier.

What would you like be mastered by? I was once mastered by unhealthy habits and patterns. Despite deep fear and resistance, I chose to sit still, close my eyes and breathe slow. I'm not perfect. I'm not a master of anything yet, but I am slowly surrendering, allowing myself to be mastered by the dawning remembrance of who I really am and alignment with what is best for me.

We have the ability to choose what to surrender to and be mastered by. You will be changed by becoming absorbed in something bigger than you. Being mastered will make you a stranger to yourself and others for a time. With as much consciousness as possible, choose to be mastered by what will give you the most space and freedom, inspire the most joy and be in truest alignment with your Highest Good.

Surrender to a version of yourself who you don't even know yet, who the people that love you know under the noise of all your chaos.
Be mastered by your body's irrepressible desire to thrive.
Become absorbed in that which will elevate you beyond all your illusory limits.
This is your life.
This is your time.
Be brave.
Choose well.


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