Surrender to What Is

This article is part of my series The Fabric of the Universe, a fictional, artistic interpretation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The first article is titled “Here and Now We Begin.”
Please note: The translations of the Sanskrit verses are not literal.

To perfect your design, unravel yourself.


The teacher rises and circulates around the cave. As he circles, his robe sweeps the floor and seems to sing.

After a while, he comes to stand behind the old woman. Her design is of the sun: a perfect, round circle surrounded by rays that reach all the way to the edges and beyond. The colors are many, but all shades of yellow, from nearly white to a deep gold. When the teacher softens his gaze, it spins.

He holds his hand flat above her head with his palm facing down. She feels the top of her skull open, as if a cover has just slid off a hole that was always there. Several times, the teacher draws his fingers together and lifts his hand, as if he is teasing something out. A crown of violet light appears. It flickers as it spins, hovers, and then vanishes.

“You are almost ready,” the teacher tells her. “Your future awaits you.”

When she looks up, her face is glowing.

The teacher then moves behind the boy. His design is simple but bold. He too has a circle in the center, five concentric circles, all primary colors with a tiny, black one at the core. In one corner is a bow with a straight arrow drawing the string far back and taught, ready to fly. It points directly to the black hole.

“Yes,” the teacher says. He nods once with closed eyes and a curve on his lips. “You understand what must be done. Remember,” he says, touching the tip of his forefinger between the boys soft brows for an instant, “Keep your eye on the target at all times.”

The teacher is barely behind the young man when he leaps up and shouts, “I think I’ve got the hang of this,” shattering the silence in the cave. He holds his loom closer to the teacher’s face, as if since the man is old, he must have trouble seeing.

The teacher gazes down at the ground for a long time, and then finally back up at the young man and his design. Black knots punctuate thick stripes of red and orange, several warp threads are bent, and there are some gaping holes. He fixes his gaze at the center of the young man’s chest and then nods his head.

“In a way,” the teacher says, “you are right.”

The young man sits up taller and beams.

“The pattern you have created is clear and easy to read, but it is also painful.”

The young man slumps. With one hand on top of each shoulder, the teacher sweeps from his neck outward three times.

“It is a perfect illustration of who you have always thought you were, who you have been in the past. The colors speak of anger and pride, envy and greed, confusion and darkness. And these bent warp lines,” the teacher says, tracing them with his finger, “show the times when who you thought you were was very far away from who you truly are, times when you were enslaved by your own ego and allowed it to act on your behalf. This, in turn, contorted the crossings, which reveal where you made bad decisions at those times, decisions that led you farther away from your real self rather than toward it, decisions with consequences that then determined how the pattern continued, repeating itself over and over again.”

The young man’s face falls and he hangs his head. The teacher places one hand behind his neck, cups the other in front of his throat, and lifts gently. The young man’s spine crackles and the heat from the teacher’s hands creates a circular wave between them. When the teacher takes his hands away, the young man opens his mouth wide and a long stream of hot air rushes out like steam: Hhhhaaaa.

“Do not despair,” the teacher says, “as you have done in the past, which is evidenced by the tight clusters of black in your design. This, too, you must overcome, for your true self, your highest self, which is the same self in all beings, is pure light. Do not cover it with your despair any more than with your anger, or you will always dwell in darkness. It is a choice. It is your choice.”

The young man struggles to control his emotions. Inside, he feels a battle raging. A familiar part of him screams: It’s not fair, I hate you, Why me? But another part, newer to him, quieter but growing in confidence, says: I understand, I can do this, I want to.

The young man stands erect and looks the teacher in the eye. “Tell me how to fix it. What do I do now?”

The teacher smiles. “First, examine the holes in your design, which have exposed certain warp threads. These strands are your personal values, which are always based on universal truths, such as love, compassion, and kindness. Look through the holes to see which ones you neglected to notice while you were weaving and so skipped over them. This is where you have lacked awareness in the past. Reflect upon your relationships and what was most difficult about them, relationships with people, animals, nature, and even with yourself.”

The young man gnaws his lips and nods. “Then what?”

The teacher places his palm on the young man’s sternum and hums. The young man feels the sound vibrate all the way down to his very core.

“Unravel it and begin again.”