If you’ve ever taken a challenging yoga class, you know that savasana, the final corpse pose, can feel like a reward at the end of all the effort. Some people don’t like it, but for many, it’s a moment of delicious letting go. I don’t take strenuous yoga classes these days, but when I used to, f’d often be in a light sleep within a minute or two of beginning savasana. Sleep is not the point, but think of yourself falling asleep in the most vulnerable possible position in a room full of relative strangers and you might get how powerful the sense of abandon can be.
Savasana, or corpse pose, is meant to be a preparation for death, for the final relinquishment of the body. You lie on the floor with arms and legs spread to at least a 45 degree angle, palms up, and simply stop. All the doing is done. Now is just being.
Ajahn Brahm, a Theraveda Buddhist monk and a great meditation teacher, says that success in meditation is aided by cultivating a mind that inclines to abandoning. Savasana is where you abandon all notions of doing. You surrender.
In western culture we have a hard time with the idea of abandoning—abandoning our responsibilities, our goals, our duties and obligations. We like to think of ourselves as doers, not be-ers. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Do or die. Sink or swim. And so on. She persisted!
What’s inadequate about this philosophy of accomplishment is that it doesn’t enlist the assistance of any of the energies available to us outside of the egoic view of ourselves as bodies, as characters in this dream of human life. It assumes that everything necessary can be made to happen through the body-mind, by the dream character.
We hear a lot of talk about allowing—that we don’t have to accomplish anything, we just have to allow it. But what exactly is the actual act of allowing? It is stopping doing. And what is our main occupation, our main doing? It’s thinking.
It’s like we want assistance with this game of human life, but we don’t know how to let it in. We yell “Jesus Take the Wheel” only to discover that we’ve somehow superglued our hands to it and can’t stop madly steering.
How to let it in.
A Course in Miracles call this the little willingness:
“You merely ask the question. The answer is given. Seek not to answer but merely to receive the answer as it is given. In preparing for the holy instant, do not attempt to make yourself holy to be ready to receive it.”
The little willingness is when you stop doing. You stop trying to improve yourself. You give up. The mind stops, or rather, you cease identifying with the incessant stream of thought telling you that you have to become worthy.
You are good enough exactly as you are. You do not have to become a better person. You do not have to be “spiritual.” It’s a come-as-you-are kind of party. In fact, when we try to be better humans, try to improve ourselves in order to make ourselves worthy, we may be blocking any possibility of inspired assistance.
The problem for many of us is that we don’t really understand the difference between what we’re in charge of doing and what we can rightfully expect to be assisted with. It’s like we’re running an ultra marathon and we assume that we have to carry all of our food and water with us right from the beginning, not understanding that, of course, there are aide stations along the way.
The point I am clumsily trying to make is that when we surrender, when we give up, we automatically manifest an aide station, because at that moment, we cease controlling the manifestation and allow it to be done through us and for us, rather than by us.
When we enter a mental space of savasana, of giving up, giving in, abandoning, trusting, not-knowing, inner silence, we become conduits for the greater energy that is our birth right.
You might want to try this, if it appeals to you. Sometimes before I go to sleep at night I lie in savasana, on my back, palms up and totally relaxed, and I say to myself, “I give up.” I imagine myself abandoning all of my apparent responsibilities… leaving them behind one by one and just giving up. I put down all my burdens. I might say to myself, “I place my life in the hands of God. I’m done.” Nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to be.
It’s an interesting experiment. Sometimes it leads right into peaceful sleep. Other times it evokes anxiety of one sort or another, and the mind may try to find ways to restart the engine of thought—of fear and preoccupation. But because it’s bedtime, the socially appropriate time to put down one’s burdens, you might find a deeper state of relaxation and a night of helpful dreams. It’s a way to let the aide stations manifest for you.