How to practice surrender? I have heard that surrender rids the heart of all its burdens. How do we minimise our expectations from people, remaining non-attached and completely surrendered to the will of God?
Surrender, as you say, is letting go of attachments and uniting our will with the will of God. There is an important balance to be aware of in that surrender is not becoming passive. It requires tremendous strength of will on our part to turn all of our heart’s longing, all of our devotion upward toward God. It is not a path for weaklings! We eventually must offer all that we are to God.
Minimizing our expectations from people and from the world in general is a central aspect of surrender. It is about realizing in every particle of our being that we will never satisfy our soul’s longing for joy, truth, love, peace, and connection by seeking them in the world. Our desires (except for the ‘desireless’ desire for God) define the ego and keep it separate from God. Yogananda said that 25% of the effort toward freedom is the devotee’s part, 25% is the Guru’s part on behalf of the devotee and 50% is the grace of God. Yogananda also said that the devotees ‘25%’ requires 100% of the devotee’s effort.
What can the devotee do to surrender these attachments and desires that keep us separate? These are all of the practices of the spiritual path! The devotee practices meditation to increase connection and openness to God and Divine Grace and to realize the truth of his soul nature. The practice of affirmation helps to reprogram the subconscious where our desires and attachments lie and loosens their hold. The practice of selfless service (karma yoga) helps open the devotee to unite his will and energy with the Divine Will and Energy until that devotee realizes that nothing that he does is his ‘own’. It is God flowing through the devotee’s will. Well, I could go on for a long time but you get the picture. Every spiritual practice connected with true paths helps to release attachments and open the heart in surrender to God’s will.
Swami Kriyananda, who founded Ananda and was a direct disciple of Yogananda, advised the devotee to examine his heart before bed every evening. Look for any burrs of attachment that have accumulated during the day. Cast these burrs out of your heart, toss them into the fire of Divine Love. Go to sleep with your heart cleansed of attachments as best you can. Do this each night.
Our effort to surrender requires steadfast, daily, life-long practice. If we do our part, God and Guru will come to handle the rest. There is saying of Lahiri Mahasaya who is one of the line of gurus for this path, ‘Banat, banat, ban jai’, which translates ‘doing, doing, one day done’. Keep up your positive expectation that you are on the road to soul freedom. Do not let discouragement deter you. Just keep up your practices.
If you would like to learn more about the spiritual practices that Yogananda brought please take a look at the courses offered through www.onlinewithananda.org. Classes on Learning to Meditate and The Art and Science of Raja are wonderful places to get started.