I wanted to write about what seems to me is the most important spiritual practice – surrender. Although the word is used to imply “giving up” or “giving in,” I use it differently in the context of the journey toward union with the Divine.
Surrender is the opposite of holding on to a lack of authenticity. It is the opposite of gripping tightly to personal, religious, and cultural biases. Surrender is a process of letting go into something greater than the one or the many, while retaining a sense of “I”-presence.
Muscles grip tightly in a stressed body – they ache and cause discomfort. Relaxing muscles surrenders the pain. It feels so good to let go into a more expansive feeling than to hold onto tension. Spiritual surrender is very similar.
One sage has termed the ego as “a constricted self.” People get used to discomfort and find new thresholds of tolerance. However, when the pain is relieved, there is a sense of “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” Or “I didn’t know such a feeling was possible!”
Letting go of tension and stress of being alive is a relief. The expanded awareness that is free of minutiae is a gift. Our presence becomes holy when we surrender to that holiness and release the chains that bind us.
Those who felt chronic pain know that this feeling changes your outlook on life. It is only in the past few years that I am finally free of this pain. Until that point, I needed to consciously practice moving my attention to release the physical tension that resulted from being in pain. Today I remembered that I had been surrendering that pain to the light – not to be “taken away,” but to be transformed.
There is no “taking away” in this life. Nothing really gets taken away, in the greater sense. Things just get rearranged, recirculated, and possibly elevated. When I leave this world, I want to leave it slightly better as a result of being here. “Better” means to me free-er from illusion, more awake, less bogged down in habitual patterns of relating to life.
My students at school often act unmotivated, uncurious, angry, and disinterested. I tell them that this behavior is not original. Most people are doing that. It’s basic and been done before – over and over. Something about being here – probably lack of development and fear – causes most to sleepwalk from one task to the next, from one distraction to another, from one satisfied craving to another craving. All of it has been endlessly repeated. There is no wish to surrender in such living, but hoarding of absolutely everything becomes the norm – including a negative outlook on life.
A woman told me about some events in her life and then added: “I just give it all up to God.” In truth, she was holding on to all of it and repeating a mantra – probably from her childhood. She looked angry and with tears just beneath the surface. That is not surrender. She said “If you want my advice…” I stopped her and responded that I didn’t want any advice and that I wished her well. This is true for most of us – advice is useless. We all want to discover for ourselves where our lives will lead us.
People say that older people come with “more baggage,” which is mostly true. However, it is possible to live life such that most baggage is unloaded with age – and way before being too frail to move about. Life challenges us to see beyond the things we grip tightly and to feel freedom in any situation – not because we are ignorant or naive, but because we choose to surrender our very being into our source.
The action of surrender is far from doing nothing. Perhaps, it is the most challenging spiritual act that is also hidden from public view. There is an internal battle that takes place, which requires utmost courage to see oneself with fresh eyes and examine one’s life from a new perspective. We can always choose to keep doing what we already do. Perhaps, we will flower and open to new ways to relate to what is already here.
When I am uncomfortable, I put my attention on the light and let go into That. I pay attention to what comes “with me,” and release what stays behind.
Fearless people are the most frightening of all to those prone to fear. The fearless go through life without clinging to what didn’t go their way. I guess that can seem pretty scary to many who bow to feeling afraid.
Perhaps the greatest challenge in my life has been learning to deal with uncertainty. I’ve been through a series of life-changing circumstances that left me feeling that there is nothing to hang onto. When life got pulled out from my feet over and over, I saw surrender as the only door open. I was lucky to be nudged in this direction. Although I’ve had intuition about the results of my key decisions, I made my decisions anyway. I know I am responsible for my life. Now I know that the past “me” was incapable of choosing differently, and that realizing this is growth I may not have had if I didn’t go through my experiences as I did. I surrender all of this too.
My ongoing meditation is my relationship to the light and all that is manifested here. When I leave, I hope to be completely innocent – free from undercurrent biases and deeply-ingrained patterns. This is my prayer – to surrender to the degree that I am innocent throughout my body and mind. Here innocent means free, and not the opposite of guilty.
My children will grow up, friends will come and go, and money will ebb and flow. Through it all, I will surrender. We transitioned from generation X to generation Z – it’s only fitting that the next one will restart the cycle at generation A. And through this too, I will surrender.
Surrender is ongoing for those who bring baggage into the enlightened state. It is a core practice that can be done anywhere and at any time – no candles or incense or crystals are required. It is a practice until it become automatic.
Surrender can be a natural part of daily rhythm to free us from the emotions, thoughts, and stuff we no longer need – no matter how deeply buried in the unconscious and bonded to our being. That of which we can let go is not who we are.