The morning after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, I dropped off my seventh-grader at school just like always and said “I love you.” But instead of his typical, hasty “you, too” response, this time he held my gaze, looked straight into my eyes, and said, “I love you, mama.” With that seemingly simple change in his tone and timing, he showed me that he had internalized—again—another sorrowful reminder that no one can promise his safety.
As I drove away to a business-as-usual workday, I wept. When I got to my desk, I had a hard time concentrating. Honestly, I’m still distracted by the gnawing feeling that this latest carnage isn’t going to be the tipping point for change. I’m overwrought by a deep sense of inadequacy in how we are collectively showing up for this country’s children. I’m filled with impatience at the government officials doing nothing to make changes. I feel powerless, fearing that yet another round of phone calls to my representatives isn’t going to make a difference.
Hopefulness and resilience—the kind I work hard to instill in my kids as a mother—depend on tangible evidence that things can and will get better. Lately, that has been in short supply.
When darkness begins to creep into my consciousness, it’s hard not to feed my own cynicism to my children. Yet part of my job is to ensure they have more reasons to be hopeful about the future than not—an increasingly tall task, considering my middle- and high-schooler boys’ first exposure to distressing news like the latest school shooting often occurs during the day. I sometimes don’t hear about their reactions to the events until we’re at the dinner table. And what I’ve learned is that if I am not grounded, ready to listen, and able to empathize (read: if I’m indignant or fearful), I’m not able to give them the emotional fortitude they need.
How the Practice of Surrender Helps Me Get Through Tough Times
It may seem counterintuitive, but I replenish my courage through a practice of deep, repetitive surrender from the teachings of Sri Baba Hari Dass. Stepping away from news and social media to turn inward helps reset the negative feedback loop of life these days.
The Sanskrit word for surrender is Praṇām. Its asana is prostration—fully prone on the floor. This position requires trust and devotion in its vulnerability. It transforms the very same powerlessness that can sweep me away in the flash of a headline into a beautiful and impartial tranquility. It resets my internal compass so that I can find my way through the dark.
My Home Practice of Surrender
Here’s the home practice I turned to the day after the Florida school shooting. My hope is that it gives you solace, too, and helps you find your ground in these turbulent times.
TO START Cover your mat completely with a yoga blanket folded in half to add warmth and padding.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the back of your mat, with your hands in Anjali Mudra (Prayer pose). Inhale and reach your arms overhead.
Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
Exhale into Uttanasana (Forward Fold), resting your hands on your shins or lightly touching your fingers to the tops of your feet.
Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
Inhale and come to Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) on your knees, keeping your toes curled under and resting your sitting bones on your heels. Let your hands rest lightly on your thighs, palms facing down to help ground your energy.
Ashtanga Pranam (Eight-Points Bowing)
Exhale into Ashtanga Pranam (Eight-Points Bowing) with your knees, chest, and chin in contact with the floor.
Fluidly extend into full Pranam: completely prone with your forehead touching the floor and your hands either directly under your shoulders or reaching forward, palms facing up.
Pause here to surrender ego and ambition, and to offer suffering and humility to the Divine.
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Inhale into Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), feeling your lungs expand and allowing your head and feet to reach in opposite directions.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Push back into Balasana (Child’s Pose), exhaling completely.
Back to start On an inhalation, return to Vajrasana and make your way back up through Uttanasana to Tadasana, with your hands in Anjali Mudra.
Repeat this salutation as many times as feels right for you—until your mind is calm and centered. My suggestion is that you proceed through a few more rounds than you want to do at first. Your mind will try to quit, but I think you’ll find your thoughts will be pacified by the repetition of breath and movement.
See also Find Comfort in Child’s Pose
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
To finish, come into Savasana (Corpse Pose), with a thinly folded blanket under your head. Cover your eyes with an eye pillow or a scarf and cover your body with another blanket. Rest here for 10–15 minutes or more. To come out of Savasana, roll onto one side and then press into a comfortable seated position. Spend a few minutes seated to observe how your practice changed the activity and noise in your mind.
See also The Subtle Struggle of Savasana
About Our Expert
Nancie Carollo is a Denver, Colorado–based yoga teacher and Yoga Journal researcher. Learn more at nanciecarollo.com