Surrender: to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you will not win or succeed
When I first quit drinking, I was told that all I needed to do was surrender my life and my will to the care of a loving higher power. I could choose my own conception of what that meant.
I quickly got rid of the harsh guy in the sky God (never did trust that man)but I didn’t have a whole lot to replace him.
In spite of having been intensely and inexplicably drawn to spiritual concepts and practices, I had no personal relationship with anything bigger than my own mind.
This was a challenge because my mind is clever and quick and kept trying to convince me that I was just about to get this whole life thing sorted out and absolutely did not require any outside assistance.
Following its best direction had landed me in the same damn hole over and over and it was clear (in moments) that I was going to need another way to navigate my life.
I am a pretty good student. I want to get the A.
So, I thought: how hard can this surrender thing be? I will just surrender and move along to the next part of the process. Maybe there are even spiritual bonuses for “she who surrenders the best”?
It was horrifying to discover that, although people could point the way, no one could tell me exactly how to make it happen. I could follow the steps laid out before me but there was no correct way to do it.
In fact, there wasn’t any doing it at all. And the harder I tried, the harder I tried.
I discovered that there was a huge amount of resistance to letting go. Deep down, I was convinced that, lousy as things were, they were sure to get far worse if I stopped holding up the walls.
I see this in my clients all the time, too.
The funny thing is that despite abundant evidence to the contrary (and we need only take a look at the weather, or our children, or the news, or the garden to see that we are not running this thing), we go about living our lives as though we had control.
This misconception gives birth to all manner of life-shrinking attitudes and behaviors. Addiction, eating disorders, disconnection in relationships, sexual dysfunction, spiritual and physical dis-ease.
Being at the mercy of a mind that seeks control (this is the ego’s job and it does it well), is a very small and tight way to live.
Obeying the mind is like going on a comfort and security scavenger hunt, insanity style. “Go over here! You will feel great!” “Nope! It’s this! It’s actually this that that you need!” “Whoa. Check this out!” And all along there’s another voice: “Well, that was dumb. Who do you think you are?” “You need to buckle down and get your shit together.”
The ego mind vacillates between delusions of grandeur or radio KFKD, as Ann Lamott calls it, 24/7.
In spite of this being a painful way to live, letting go usually requires getting bombarded by what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls “coconuts of wakefulness” that shake us out of the ego’s trance of tight control.
This can take myriad forms but it’s usually some challenge that rips the blinders from our eyes, revealing the truth about control. Illness, hitting bottom, death of someone we cannot stand to loose, loss of relationship.
To name a few.
When the coconuts hit, we always have a choice. We can move toward waking up and letting go or we can move in the opposite direction. In fact, every choice we make moves us in one direction or the other.
In spite of learning this, the practice of letting go did not (does not) come naturally to me.
I wanted to first figure out who or what exactly I was surrendering to and then get some guarantees that it was going to work out well if I let go.
This is laughable, given that I’d been entirely obedient to my own thinking and things were not working out so well.
Therefore, so long as it wasn’t my own wild cat mind that I was turning my life and will over to, things were likely to improve.
I started to develop a relationship, not so much with a higher power, as with a wider one; one that encompasses all of us humans and our basic goodness as well as all the other energies at play in the world. One that connects me back to my own heart, as well as to the goodness and mess in my fellow travelers. A power that included it all.
Life, I guess you could call it. Or God. Or Love. Or Whatever. Names and language fall short here; I don’t think it much matters what you call it.
And folks, I am here to tell you that it is an infinitely sweeter and easier path. All that energy I put into resisting, struggling, figuring out, and making things happen gets freed up when I surrender my way for Life’s way.
I have seen time and again that something better comes along when I release my attachment to a particular outcome. And though I forget very quickly, each time I see this, it strengthens my faith in the basic goodness of Life.
Real generosity, creativity, connection, receptivity, inspiration, openness, curiosity: these depend on letting go.
And all this stuff shows up, wanting to be born. This blog, for example.
Life becomes exciting and I stop being so damn predictable. There is nothing more tedious that living from that tight coil of control.
In the end, it seems that my work is to set up the conditions for surrender. It’s a process of grace, not force.
And meanwhile, as a friend told me early on, when I can’t let go, I can always let up. I can relax, even with my uptightness and clinging. I can choose to stay awake.