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Surrender - Must We, Really?


Most teachers of Spiritual Elevation get to it: Surrender and your life will transform.

But doesn’t Surrender mean Giving Up? ‘Cos that doesn’t sound like something I want to do. For example:

One path we shall never choose, is the path of surrender, or submission.”  –John F. Kennedy


“If you fall behind, run faster. Never give up, never surrender, and rise up against the odds.”  —Jesse Jackson

In fact, we’re talking about a different kind of surrender. It’s commonplace to say; but (I have found) it can
be difficult to do. “Let Go, Let God”…”Go with the Flow”…Or:

”All of our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling.”
–Blaise Pascal

One of my favourites is: “Don’t Push the River.” That comes from the patriarch of Gestalt psychology, Fritz Perls. One of the reasons I like it is that it “flows” naturally into what for me is the clearest analogy for this, the kayak and the river.

I like having a handy image that explains Surrender, as it’s something I think of a lot.

The Kayak and the River

Life is like a river. (In Colorado, say.) It runs smoothly, steadily for most of its length but – there are several points where there are rapids and jutting rocks. You, being a spirit in a body, are: your self in a kayak. The only way to get to your destination is down the river. Like the pilot of a small airplane, you have checked out the kayak and it is in good shape – not allowing water where it shouldn’t go.

When you launch from the embankment, you are wading in tall green grasses, bending them underfoot as you push the kayak into the water and get in. You notice that your point of embarkation is a small, still pool that sits beside the main flow, and as you start out you notice that there are occasionally other refuges of stillness where, when you get tired, you can paddle in and rest, perhaps eat some bread and cheese and enjoy the wine you so thoughtfully brought with you. You could even pull off and sleep on the banks, but you really want to reach your destination so you keep moving. At least you’re making good progress.

Then come the rapids.

The Rapids

The water you’re riding on starts to churn a little. Eddies are forming. You realize that these are being caused by rock formations barely visible, and as you squint ahead you can see imposing boulders, some jagged and sharp, and swirling rapids that you are fast approaching.

There are no still resting spots here, no potential respite.

You know a couple of things. One is that others have traveled these rapids successfully. The other, born of all your kayaking experience, is that to ride the course it is Imperative that you don’t fight the currents. Martial Arts reflect this principle: use your opponent’s strength against him. Accept where he’s going, move with it and use the follow-through to direct him where you want to take the encounter.

The same with sailing. Or surfing. Ride the waves.

You align your kayak this way and that, sometimes picking the wrong move and being tumbled underwater only to bob up and start paddling again. You use the water flowing past the abutting rocks to carry you by as well. You avoid the inevitable whirlpools until one suddenly sucks you in. Your first reaction is that you’re going to drown here. Then Survival kicks in and almost without knowing how you did it, just going on gut instinct, you free yourself from the circling menace.

These experiences will repeat themselves several times on your way down the river. And each time you face a challenge you get a little better at handling it, just through experience.

Then: you have come through it all. As one of my favourite sayings goes, “Congratulations! You have survived 100% of your Worst Days so far – the odds are in your favour!”

The question is, what did you do, what did you learn on your way down the river?

What Did You Do?

I can tell you what you didn’t do: fight the current.

Instead, you used it.

You surrendered to it. Even when you panicked, you understood that the only way out was to see what the current was doing, and put your kayak in the way of success in riding out the challenges.

That’s the only way to get there.

And Surrender in life is like that. Going with the flow, not pushing the river.

“Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.” —
Eckhart Tolle

A Different Kind of Surrender

Yes, used in the Spiritual sense “Surrender” means something completely different. In its extreme, it is a Religious goal:

“We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can, namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.” —
Saint Teresa of Avila

But it also applies to some degree – of our choosing – in our everyday lives. That can range from being a Community or Spiritual Leader to Enlightenment (in which one assumes God’s Point of View). Or, surviving a tortuous trip through rapids.

In my analogy, the kayak is your body. It is the means of your expression. Launching would be a project, something you initiate. The river is the world, as it is being presented to you in a seemingly endless series of “Now”s. You must judge handling the rapids – your challenges – based on wisdom and experience, improvising to keep your responses current with the current – of life.

Does all this really apply in our Real Lives?

“I would say I was always very ambitious and goal-oriented, but rather than being just a go-getter hustler, now I surrender a lot more and I trust my path a lot more.”
–Jenna Dewan

In our Creative Lives?

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.”
–Julia Cameron

But I think Jenna Dewan put her finger on the X-marks-the-spot spot.

Do You Trust the Universe?

Well, the fact is you’re in the river. Rapids are part of the experience. And what you resist persists.

If you think about it, the Universe brought you Here Now. You have to trust it with your birth and death – without apparent options. The Universe was chugging along its way without you, and will go on without you.

Personally, I’ve had lots of reasons not to trust the Universe (or the God of my understanding). My first girlfriend, who I loved immensely, broke up with me. My “lifelong” commitment to marriage ended in divorce. Where was the Universe when these bad things happened to me?

I spent everything I had on a million-dollar business enterprise. Three days away from my signing contracts with my investors, the stock market crashed. (That coincided with my marriage breakup.) My cousin said encouragingly, “All the work you’ve put in isn’t wasted. You can rebuild it…” But I had learned it wasn’t really that important to me to have a million dollars, and in the end I was grateful that didn’t form more of my “river”.

But where was the Universe in that scenario? Did it have my back, as I thought at the time as I spent all my money and time on the project? On the one hand, no, it wasn’t there; on the other hand it was wiser than I, in the end, about what was good for me, and where my river was running.

“Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. the world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.”
–Marianne Williamson

Did You Crash and Take On Water?

For me the answer is yes. I’ve given a couple of examples. I have had to run the rapids but then cool off in one of the still sidesprits and learn to be happy even if I’m bailing at the same time.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is not a place, but a state of being.”
–John Burroughs

My contention is that we can be content now, with confidence that we can master the raging waters as they come, and taking the moments of stillness that we can.

That’s one key to a Richer, Fuller Life.

Mindfulness, Freedom and Limitations
Vata-Pitta Balancing Soup

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