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Resignation or Surrender?

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What’s the difference between resignation and surrender? To me, resignation seems to have a hopeless aspect to it, giving up on possibility. Surrender doesn’t have that flavor. It’s more a letting go of control, so that life can bring possibility to you instead of your clutching at it. Yet, perhaps there is more to resignation than first meets the eye. What if you have to go through resignation to get to surrender? What if in resigning yourself to life not turning out the way you thought it would, you let go at such a deep level that complete surrender is at last possible? In expecting nothing, you open the door to everything.

I recently experienced something like this as I continue to integrate living in a new state after more than 30 years in another part of the country. Massachusetts and Florida could not be more different. In order to make the transition, I had to embrace those differences, which has been very challenging at times. I have surrendered again and again. Yet I still felt stuck in some indefinable way. Basically, I don’t feel at home here, at least in the way I had previously defined it. When I accepted that I may never feel that way, something started to change.

It was a book that brought about this perceptual shift: Braiding Sweetgrass by Potawatomi naturalist Robin Wall Kimmerer. In early chapters, she writes of her people losing their traditional home and being forced to walk the “Trail of Tears” to Oklahoma. With that background, she also writes of her family’s ties to New York State and how “home” has been defined in her life, usually through a deep connection to Mother Earth. Her stories and descriptions are so vivid that at one point I just sat and cried, feeling all the past homes in my own life and how nature was an integral part of each of them.

I have lived many places, north, south, east, and west, but my childhood home in Illinois and my recent home in Massachusetts tug at my heart most. As I allowed myself the thought that I may never see either of those places again in this lifetime, something in me let go, into grief, into resignation—and then, gradually, a release into a deeper surrender. I had no expectations anymore about anything. I was just present in my life as it was, with no attachments to past or future. The sadness and loss broke my heart, but in the breaking, spirit poured in, as it always does, and left me washed clean.

Life brings us so much, realities arising from possibilities, again and again. Each reality, beginning and ending, is the doorway to another possibility, another reality. Our lives are forever shifting from one dimension into another wider dimension. Right now at this moment, we, as individuals and as a planet, are being asked to let go of everything that came before and move forward in our lives, through resignation to surrender and ultimately to infinite possibility. Our feelings are passing signposts. Where we are going, there are no parameters really.

As I look out my window today, there is only the living presence of Mother Earth in all directions, filling my heart and soul with a greater sense of home than any one particular place. Each of us has a soul window that opens out to that same view. Each of us is finding our way home.

“Whether we jump or are pushed, or the edge of the known world just crumbles at our feet, we fall, spinning into someplace new and unexpected. Despite our fears of falling, the gifts of the world stand by to catch us.”—Robin Wall Kimmerer


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