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Focus of the Month - March 2022

Ishvara Pranidhana ईश्वरप्रणिधान - Dedication

written by Marlene Schmitt

In the light of the heartbreaking events in the Ukraine, we are dedicating our practices, our efforts and outcomes in solidarity to the peace & freedom of all.

In past few days we have probably all asked ourselves: what can we do, to help people in need? What is meaningful support in this difficult time? Or how can we bring peace to this world?

And maybe you felt just like me paralyzed by it all, helplessly watching the violation of democracy and imagining the suffering of so many innocent people.

In a globalized, hypercomplex and highly interconnected world, it often seems like we are powerless. It feels like our actions are meaningless and make no difference to the world around us. Yet if we look closer we come to realize that our actions do matter and that we have an inherent power, as individuals and as a collective. If you feel the urge to step into action and help we listed where, how and with what you can help at the end of this article.

According to ancient yogic teachings each and every one of us has a unique place in the universe (Dharma), with a unique mission, with challenges approaching us that serve a higher good and individual actions (Karma) that have a ripple effect beyond our micro cosmos.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali listed the essential yogic practices that bring us back into unison with each other and with the trust in life itself.

One of these practices he lists is called Ishvara Pranidhana. "īśvara" means guiding and protecting force; the omniscient, primordial being; the soul free from all afflictions, karmas, and fruits of karmas. "Praṇidhāna" is translated as complete surrender; complete recognition; keeping at the center of life. Together, "īśvarapraṇidhāna" refers to having complete faith in the guiding and protecting power of the absolute reality and to fully surrender our individual ego identities to the higher truth. In other words Ishvara Pranidhana is the act of surrendering our ego to a higher source whatever it might mean to us: a god, a very special person, nature or pure consciousness.

On a superficial level the physical practice of Asana may seem to be a very self-centered practice, an act of caring for one's own fitness or mental wellbeing, which is of course not wrong.

Yet the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana asks us to redirect our energy away from our selfish desires and personal dramas towards the higher purpose of life and the ultimate pursuit of oneness.

3 steps of Ishvara Pranidhana

1. Unshakeable faith in the guiding and protecting power of Ishvara.

2. Infusing all of our actions with this faith in the flow of life.

3. Surrendering the fruits of our actions and not being affected by the results of our actions.

Ishvara Pranidhana is a test to assess how mature we are in our beliefs, how resolute we are in our decisions, and how strong we are in letting go of ourselves in favor of divine power. There cannot be a more active way of performing one’s duty than Ishvara Pranidhana: doing our best in alignment with our heart and a surrendered attitude to the outcome.

Ishvara Pranidhana on the mat

Practicing Ishvara Pranidhana within a yoga class, therefore means to cultivate an ability and willingness to surrender to the rhythm of the breath and to let go of personal suffering while trusting the process of the practice.

Therefore what actually matters when we practice Asana is the higher intention that we have while we do it. They say that you can practice for decades in a self-centered, ego-like manner and get nowhere with your practice. But when you dedicate your practice to something bigger than your personal needs and have an intention in mind that aligns with the needs of all sentient beings, your practice starts to unfold.

“Bury your mind deep in your heart, and watch the body move by itself.

- Sri Dharma Mittra

Ishvara Pranidhana off the mat

Contemplate for a moment on the ripple effect of your own actions. Think of a situation in your life, where your actions had an effect on those around you. Maybe it’s the work that you do daily, or the way you care for your family or friends. How are your actions impactful on those around you? And maybe it is just the smallest thing, that you share a smile to someone crossing your way, but this little smile will change the way they continue to pass through their day and pass their energy on to others.

Our actions do matter and, if we are aware of it or not, have a broader effect on life, the people we interact with and the world as a whole.

As long as we are able to keep Ishvara (our higher self) in the forefront of our minds by continuously offering our efforts and rewards to something more than just our personal gain. By putting aside our judgments and criticisms, and following the rhythm of life, the ups and downs, while staying aligned with our intention, we will experience Ishvara Pranidhana more easily and take cues from something beyond the ego.

This month we invite you to contemplate on the higher meaning of your practice and to dedicate your efforts to the peace and wellbeing of all sentient beings.

Relinquish the idea that you alone have to be the “doer” but allow life to guide you as you stay in contact with your heart on the way.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

- Anais Nin

The practice of yoga calms our minds and emotions so that we are able to find balance, calmness and clarity. In this way, we are enabled to see clearly and act with awareness for the benefit of all beings and for the living planet earth. As humans we have a right for peace and security; for freedom, justice and equality; for an unpolluted environment and a fair distribution of resources. We have to be conscious against those who want to betray our values and separate us as a society. Yoga offers a way to achieve a mastery of self, to access our limiting minds, to rise in love and solidarity for freedom from tyranny.

"Shutting off the senses From what is outward Fixing the gaze At the root of the eyebrows Checking the breath-stream In and outgoing Within the nostrils, Holding the senses, Holding the intellect, Holding the mind fast They who seek freedom, Thrust fear aside, Thrust aside anger And put off desire:

Truly that human Is made free forever.

Chapter 4, Bhagavad Gita, The Song of God Translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

Let us stand with Ukraine.

Let us breathe in solidarity.

Let us practice united for peace & freedom.

How & where is help needed

+ Money. The major aid organizations are currently asking for donations of money in particular. This is possible, for example, to the "Deutschland hilft" campaign, an alliance of German aid organizations. Caritas also prefers cash donations. "This is much faster than collecting donations in kind here and transporting them to Ukraine or its neighboring countries," a spokesman said in response to a Checkpoint inquiry. Aid organizations can use the money to organize help on the ground, build shelters, sanitary facilities or military hospitals.

+ Medical aid. So far, there is no official request for medical aid, the German Red Cross (DRK) informs. However, the DRK is already collecting addresses and contact details of doctors and paramedics willing to help. "Doctors without Borders" is still assessing the situation. One sends nobody simply into war zones, said it from the press office.

+ Medication. Who wants to donate medicines in Berlin, can deliver these with smaller associations. For example, Ukraine-Hilfe Berlin or the Polish Pilecki Institute. It is asked to label everything well.

+ Donations in kind. In addition to medicines, warm clothing is needed. Blankets and sleeping bags, power banks, camping stoves, canned food, hand lamps and first aid kits. Warm children's and baby clothes are also needed in the freezing temperatures. Independently organized transport is discouraged, aid organizations are organizing convoys to the Polish-Ukrainian border.

+ Sleeping places. 6000 Berliners are already registered at the housing exchange of the Elinor network for refugees. It is officially supported by the Senate Department for Integration. There is no financial compensation for taking them in. So far, the places in the state-owned accommodations are still sufficient.

+ Entry. War refugees are allowed to use Deutsche Bahn trains free of charge. The refugee aid organization "Mission Lifeline" is currently putting together a convoy of vehicles. Drivers are still being sought. Traveling alone to the border area is not recommended.

+ Arrival in Berlin. Volunteers with language skills in Russian and Ukrainian are urgently needed to welcome refugees at train stations. Those willing to help can find connections at the Berlin City Mission or directly at the main and eastern train stations, at Südkreuz or at the Central Bus Station.

Further reading & sources

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