Surrender is a paradox. When we surrender, we actually achieve real and authentic power. How is it possible that we are more powerful in surrendering?
The Buddha discovered that the mind enslaves us in conditioning that is reinforced through the repetition of habits. Jesus was a revolutionary precisely because he represented a break from the rigid and repetitive ways of thinking that dictated his society. Krishna counsels Arjuna on the battlefield that it is in the present moment that we must master our minds, which keep us trapped in the vicious cycle of samsara, of the past repeating itself in our present and future. Two days ago, our Muslim brethren began Ramadan, which involves fasting, a ritual break from those things that keep us apart from God in each and every moment.
We are slaves to our conditioning. Our habits define us. We don’t even realize the ways in which we are gripped by them: Our friend says something, and we already know what they are going to say. We make the same commute in traffic, and next thing we know, we have somehow guided ourselves back home without even remembering how we got there. Our partner says something with a bit of a tone, and the next thing we know, we’re fighting the same argument we’ve fought a hundred times before.
Surrender offers us freedom from this conditioning. It is a recognition that we are trapped in our conditioned ways of thinking, speaking, and doing, and saying, “I know where this is going to take me, and I don’t want to go there anymore. I choose to give up, trusting that I will be led to a place I’ve never been before.”
It is a surrender to every possibility made available by the unknown. It is in this infinitude of possibilities that we derive power, a power that can only be accessed through surrender.
There are moments in life where one wakes up, looks around, and asks oneself, “Is this all there is?” … Is this the relationship I want to continue with? Is this the job I saw myself being in? Is this how I want to spend the days of my life? … These are the critical moments of tenderness and humility when we choose between settling and leaping into the unknown, between surrender and resignation.
I was once asked, “What is the difference between surrender and resignation?” Resignation and settling means that we have given up hope. It is the limited self no longer seeing any possibility beyond what we already know.
In contract, surrender is an act of wisdom. It is a profound acceptance of Life. It is saying “I don’t know” and putting all that we are into the hands of something greater than ourselves.
In this way, surrender is not an act of capitulation, but rather one of victory for our Highest Self.
The Big Bang is taught as the scientific explanation for how all of the Universe was created. If we go far back enough, we can trace everything around us to the basic building blocks that emerged from that initial infinitesimal point of potentiality.
And yet, there is a more profound meaning to this event than the sterile perspective science presents us. In that moment before the Universe exploded from nothing, in that tiny space, existed every possibility of Life. And all of it was the same vibrant energy that coalesced into hydrogen, helium, oxygen and nitrogen atoms, which eventually became the foundation for every phenomenon in the Universe. As the Taoists say, “From the One came Two, and from the Two came the 10,000 Things.”
We are descendants of this ancient original event. We inherit the miracle that was the Big Bang.
We are the unique fulfillment of a possibility born eons ago.
“In fact the spiritual path can be viewed as one of progressive surrender to uncertainty, for the known is the past, while the unknown is a field of infinite possibilities.” – David Simon M.D, and Deepak Chopra, M.D., in Freedom from Addiction
As I continue to work on letting go of my addiction pattern as a series of life-diminishing habits, I stand facing the inevitable unknown that lies before someone who has grown too used to my morass. It is the very nature of addiction that we rely on the familiar because it feels safe to us even if it is harmful to us in the end.
The above quote from Dr. Simon and Dr. Chopra of The Chopra Center helps to put the seemingly daunting unknown in perspective. By our own doing, we have gotten ourselves to this point in life. It is of our choosing that we now know … know the short-term comfort and subsequent emptiness left us by indulging sex, alcohol, drugs, eating, gambling, spending, etc. And it is knowing that tells us that we are stuck in the past rather than being in the deliciously present moment.
It is when I don’t know that I can have hope. It is when I don’t know that I can celebrate … because it means that a different future, rather than a familiar, predictable one, is possible.
“We have come to accept such declarations of faith as commonplace and natural. We breathe, we eat, knowing that certain things will result. We turn on the lights, start the car, light a fire, plant a garden without a bit of hesitancy, fear, or doubt. We have faith. We know certain things work in a certain way and that is all there is to it.”
– Ernest Holmes and Willis H. Kinnear, A New Design for Living
Yesterday, I was feeling really confronted by the overwhelming frustration that I would never be able to let go of the addictive behaviors that have run me. I was relating to myself again as a limited being, as the powerless self to which my self-talk has taught me to relate. As I sat in meditation, I found enough space to remember that I am much more than that, … that although I don’t yet have the experience of being powerful in the face of my addiction, that that possibility exists and that the choice I have is between staying trapped in that self-fulfilling, self-defeating prophecy or to have faith that I am letting go of and recovering from my compulsions.
I must remember. I must know to the core and beyond my fears that I am the beautiful and unique expression of Love.
For me, the new year is a few hours away. In other parts of the world, 2011 has already arrived amidst much fanfare. Many are greeting the new year with new hope and optimism that it will bring something different from the hardships and challenges of the year we are about to close. Symbolically, the turn of the new year does represent a fresh start. And yet, as failed New Year’s resolutions of the past have proven, the new year starts to look like the new one. Pretty soon, we will once again find ourselves disappointed that what looked like a good turn of events for us echoes last year’s trials.
What, then, can we do to have the new year truly be a new beginning for us? The first step is to clean house. Literally, we can rid ourselves of the clutter and useless knickknacks onto which we cling. We must make space for the blessings of the new year.
Figuratively, we need to clean out our lives. We must go through the work of taking a look to see what loose ends need to be tied up, what conversations are left to finish, what amends need to be made. We need to wrap up the new year having completed what there is left to complete. In so doing, we can greet the new year with a truly clean slate upon which we can imagine new possibilities distinct from the last year.
I have written in the past about how I use the period between my birthday on Christmas Eve and the New Year to reflect on my life in the year that is wrapping up. At the end of 2010, I cannot help but feel incredibly blessed. So much has happened: My father survived having a sizable brain tumor removed from his head; my mother’s blood condition continues to be stable and she has not shown signs of the onset of leukemia; things are taking off at work with the fundraising; and my life has been filled with new, inspiring souls who have shown me what it truly means to Love. Truly, I have much for which to be thankful.
As I look forward to closing the year, I have a commit to truly be complete with this year. To be complete does not mean that things come to an end; rather, it means that I acknowledge the reality of my life and start from there. For in just being with what is true for me,… rather than what I wished had happened this past year, …. then I am able to look to the new year with a sense of how I might create something new for myself.