When faced with a trying situation, ‘surrender’ is a common enough piece of spiritual advise that we give to ourselves or others. However, unless we have clarity on what this means to us, there is a danger of it being reduced to a meaningless cliche or a means of running from that which is inviting our growth. It can become a means to escape responsibility, embracing victimhood instead.
While we may subscribe to a theory, the true test of it is to see how it plays out in our experience. My current understanding of surrender (as described below) has arisen from an iterative process. I routinely go back to my concepts and factor in what life has taught me and allow newer clarity to emerge for myself.
To begin with, I am clear that surrender is not the same as resignation. It does not carry tones of helplessness, victimhood, exhaustion or dead-ends. Nor does it assume that life is against me, ‘unfair’, or that in summary, I simply have to be miserable with an unhappy lot dealt out to me.
Instead, surrender acknowledges:
- I do not know everything. This mind-body operates as best as it can from the narrow cognizance, experience and perception it has.
- I cannot know what I don’t know.
- Even what I think I know, I cannot be certain of: Most of what I think ‘I know’ is based on unquestioned thoughts, assumptions and limited experience. We take so many things for granted that we do not even realise that they are only our points of view and not unshakeable guarantees of truth. Scrutinising our beliefs provide eye-openers on a regular basis. Consequently, what I think of as the best possible outcome is not necessarily correct.
- There is a way to make the old adage of ‘Whatever happens is for the best’, true for ourselves. Things take on the meaning we give them. So while we may not have control over the ‘ten thousand things’ that appear in our world, we are always free to decide our response. Consciously choose a narrative that is empowering and liberating. (And make no mistake about this – it is a story that we build to string together happenings in a way that make some sense to us. The same set of happenings may tell an entirely different story to someone else.)
- This too shall pass: Nothing is permanent and whatever it is now, whether I see it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it will eventually change. It is my own resistance to things that deepens my suffering.
It is also helpful to remember:
- Who we truly are, remains untouched through this all. As ACIM reminds, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”
- The mind-body(mine or any ‘other’ that I am concerned for) has its limitations. Therefore, it will experience pleasure and pain. That is the nature of things and to argue with that is futile. But if we are able to see ourselves as the screen, rather than identifying with the movie characters, their adventures become just that – temporary adventures.
- In the world of duality, there will always be pros and cons to everything. Its okay to make mistakes, face painful consequences or not find the ‘perfect’ solution. Who we become through the process is usually far more important than what we get. By insisting we ‘must be happy all the time‘, we prolong our unhappiness.
- Indecision is itself is a choice. You cannot avoid taking a stance. Even when we choose to procrastinate – avoid decisions or implementing action – in all cases, we are making a choice. There is no real way to avoid the inconvenient responsibility of it’s consequences.
Given the above, it becomes easier to see that Surrender does not imply disowning personal responsibility or avoiding choice. Practically speaking, the best way to go about it seems:
- To go as quiet as one can, so that you are able to access your true nature and innate wisdom more clearly. (Our habitual, unconscious, noisy mind-chatter normally drowns out this ever present, serene guidance.)
- To allow your self to receive clarity from this space, no matter how inconvenient or unappealing this insight be.
- Actioning this insight, with full willingness and openness to its consequences, without any blame, or guilt. (Please note that now, even if it is not doing anything at all, the choice no longer comes from fear and hence has a different effect.)
- Gracefully meeting whatever arises then, in flow and in sync with life and its unfolding.
- Using the learnings from this experience to inform and deepen your conscious dance with life.
Sunny-calm and turbulent weather are both a part of this life. The point is not to pretend or run away from the storms, but to sail through them. The less rigid we are, the smoother the journey becomes. It has taken a great deal of practice and mindfulness to arrive at this place for me. But I have found that regular inner work, self-inquiry, clearings and meditation have helped create more balance and calm. It has helped me grow less and less attached to specific outcomes and brought in an increasing ease with whatever shows up.
Perhaps some of this will help you articulate your own understanding of surrender and to move forward with ease. If you find this interesting food for thought, please share it on. Many of us are struggling with navigating difficult situations right now and I would be happy if it were to be useful to someone.