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Guest Article

The Power of Surrender and the Unknown

By Sari Velar M.S., 500 E-RYT, YACEP, RCYT, RPYT 


In 2008, I voluntarily checked myself into an inpatient residential treatment facility hoping to detangle my 20-year battle with an eating disorder and co-occurring addictions. I surrendered everything I knew and held valuable, a very prominent job in the beverage industry, friendships, relationships with immediate family members, and even my dog. Every right, privilege, and freedom of my former life was now gone, or so I thought. I was now in the hands of a treatment team that were complete strangers to me. I surrendered to the fact that somehow, someway, the universe would provide me the scaffolding and support I desperately needed to get better, but only if I was willing to sit in my discomfort and embrace the unknown. It was an incredibly difficult feeling to surrender to given that it was the same feeling of “free-falling” I experienced when I was diagnosed with lymphoma at age 19. Could I trust these feelings of “unknowing” and “uncertainty” given that my previous experience played such a heavy hand in my current battle?

The notion of giving up control, of “groundlessness”, of not knowing what came next or the potential outcome was in short terrifying. It was like standing on the precipice of a deep and dark abyss and taking a backward trust fall while holding on to the tiniest seed and glimmer of hope. I questioned whether I could survive financially; if my career would be ruined, how this could potentially backfire and sever already fragile family relationships, whether I would lose everything, and if could even physically survive.

The unknowns of my residential treatment were vast, but my glimmer of hope laid nestled in weekly yoga, meditation, and somatic movement classes. As a longtime Yoga practitioner and teacher, the sobering task of facing my practice without the crutches of my addictions felt like a day to day run-in with fire coral. Within the four corners of my yoga mat, I surrendered to a full gamut of human emotions; fear, rage, grief, anguish, joy, freedom, and eventually the deepest form of gratitude for the humble chance to begin again. My mat became my solace and my lighthouse, the place where the “unknowing” wasn’t so scary anymore. My place of surrender where I sat with my discomfort, befriended my body and mind and made peace with not only the past... but with my soul. A place where no matter how convoluted, murky, or treacherous the tides became, I could see the beacon and it’s guiding light.

It’s been almost 12 years since this deep feeling of unknowing, surrender, and groundlessness. In 2020, it resurfaced. A feeling that as a collective, we are all too familiar with. We have all been sitting in our discomfort, pain, uncertainty, and physical and mental exhaustion since March, free-falling and wondering, “what comes next”?

On a conscious level, we know that tomorrow is never guaranteed, but as humans, we hang on to the outcome of tomorrow so tightly. Often, we reach for things to help us mask the pain of not knowing what the outcomes will be. We suppress, distract, dissociate, and deflect. I am certainly no stranger to it. But what would it be like if we turned inwards towards the unknowing, embracing this uncertainty and allowing the unfolding of our souls? What if this experience is not only bringing about an individual shift, but also a collective change? Perhaps this year we’ve found ourselves courageously examining our choices, habits, and patterns with curiosity and more gentle introspection. Perhaps an opportunity to finally “pause” and sit with our own grief or pain. Maybe sitting in our own “yuck” can help us identify what triggers us and what shut us down. What if this is really the opportunity to realize what gives us great joy and what makes our hearts sing and take flight.

What I can share from my experience is that the ‘groundlessness” is where I flourished and experienced a rebirth. The “unknowing” is where I could be honest and vulnerable about my pain and my past experiences. This is where I could share my truth with reckless abandon without fearing the repercussions because I knew that tomorrow was not guaranteed, and I had nothing else to lose. Standing at the precipice, the unbearable at my feet and the ground beneath me gone. Falling without knowing if the parachute would open. Not knowing whether the pain would take a few weeks or a few years to heal.

These moments of fear, feeling our own uncertainty, and realizing the fragility of life are experiences that help us re-organize, shift our paradigms, and sort out what matters the most.

This year has taught us that in order to grow, flourish and survive we must share not only the beautiful and triumphant, we must also share our experiences regarding this feeling of “groundlessness” and sitting in the painfully uncomfortable. Our “unknowing” and our current circumstances have opened to door for us to openly talk about depression, anxiety, isolation, and loneliness as well as inequalities and disparities on an economic, racial and social level. Uncomfortable? A big “yes” but as singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s lyrics to the song “The Future” tells us, “There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.” We have been cracked open in order for the light to illuminate a path of truth. Much like fractured Japanese art, our cracks are being filled with knowledge and wisdom that are invaluable gold.

We are learning that it’s OK to talk about our struggles, to stand up and advocate for those that can’t, to ask for support when we are not OK, to speak our valiant truth, and to also surrender without answers or proof that everything will turn out fine. Our collective vulnerability doesn’t make us any less; as a matter of fact, it makes us so much more. 2020 is the bow, and we are the arrows. The “unknowing” is the groundswell for learning what matters the most to us if we are willing to sit in the discomfort. This awakening is the impetus that has allowed me to share my story and passion for therapeutic yoga as a supportive and integrative healing modality.

My takeaway and offering are that no matter how messy it looks, stick with your “unknowing” as well as the discomfort and difficult feelings. Ask for help when it becomes too much. The world needs your vulnerability and your story. Treat yourself with the gentleness, kindness, and care you would show a new mother. You are creating a new life that feeds into the lives around you, including my own. You are certainly not alone. We are not strangers; I am here with you holding your hand, as is the rest of the world.


Sari is Yoga Alliance senior-level teacher specializing in accessible yoga and therapeutic yoga for cancer. She currently facilitates group classes and works with individual patients at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is also the Director of Training and Education for the Warrior Flow Foundation, a non-profit focusing on bringing trauma-informed yoga, mindfulness, sound therapy, and stress-reduction programs to local shelters, schools,
hospitals, and communities that experience high levels of stress.


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