Posted by: Banta | January 24, 2016

The art of surrender

Surrender 5

Surrender was never my strong suit. If you are someone who makes long-range plans, or keeps a detailed to-do list, or chafes at travel delays, then we speak the same language. You know what it’s like to get so attached to a certain outcome that you tie yourself in knots to predict and prevent all the pesky what-ifs that might capsize that boat.

But life unfolds true to her own plan, not ours. Trying to control the flow simply guarantees frustration. Somewhere along the way, we forfeit our happiness and put our relationships at risk. And by clinging to that illusion of control, we also miss the extraordinary gifts of the present moment.

The need to control is rooted in fear. When we let fear and anxiety run the show, they bully us into thinking we have to be in control all the time. They convince us that dire things will happen if we let go of the reins. Turns out, they have it dead wrong.

Fear and anxious worry beget more fear and worry, not less. They bury us in the what-ifs and steal our energy. They seduce us into thinking they’ll protect us from harm, but that’s a lie. Fear and worry never kept anyone safe. And when fear manages our choices and decisions, we often veer way off course.

In certain contexts—like war, sports, and politics—surrender connotes a white-flag retreat, a giving up or giving in, a backing down or crumbling under pressure. We grew up with the old adage that “quitters never win and winners never quit.” When that rule bleeds into our personal and inner lives, we turn everything into a struggle. But away from the battlefield and the ball game, the campaign trail and the boardroom, we can opt out of that relentless win-lose-draw mentality.

Even in difficult circumstances, we always get to choose our response. Always.

According to psychologist/author Amy Johnson, “Surrender literally means to stop fighting. Stop fighting with yourself. Stop fighting the universe and the natural flow of things. Stop resisting and pushing against reality.”

Some faith traditions call this spiritual surrender—to completely accept what is, and have faith that all is well, even without one’s individual input. Lest this sound too passive, be assured this kind of surrender is not about inaction. Rather, it’s about what Buddhists call “compassionate action”—the practice of active compassion toward self and others.

I like to think of surrender as a threshold, a path of less insisting and more allowing, less holding on and more letting go. Instead of pushing back, imagine how it would feel to soften your resistance—to a change in plans, or something new on the horizon. The art of surrender, in this scenario, invites us to melt into the present moment. When we surrender ego and will, and get out of our own way, we yield to the fullness of now.


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