Surrender is such a powerful tool to help us towards inner peace. It is the simple but profound wisdom of acceptance rather than opposing the flow of life. Surrender is like a fish finding the current and going with it, rather than trying to swim against it. It is to relinquish all that inner resistance and yield to the flow of life.
There are many misconceptions with surrender, as it has many negative connotations. People think it means to give up, to be a floormat, to imply defeat, to wave the white flag and forget trying to rise up to the challenges of life. This could not be further from the truth. But we have to delineate the difference between your inner and outer world to truly understand the meaning.
Surrender is about your inner state of mind, not external events. It is about accepting this very moment, what is. Your life situation may not have huge challenges – you may be worried about bills to pay, hate your job or perhaps dealing with a health condition. These are all important matters to deal with and you must address them when it’s time. But can you surrender to this moment now? Can you relinquish all that inner resistance, the mental judgment and emotional negativity? We unconsciously add so much mental commentary to our detriment. Let’s say your girlfriend drags you to the movies. It’s a chick flick but you wanted to see Terminator 5 instead. So you pout and complain like a five year old. Your mind goes off on how you never get your way: first she picks the restaurant and now the movie, what next? She is going to run your life, you tell yourself, it’s not fair and now you’re really going to let her have it. You fantasize about telling her off after the movie, yelling at her in the parking lot, showing her who’s boss. Meanwhile, you’ve ruined the evening as she senses your anger and neither of you are enjoying yourselves anymore. But looking at it objectively, was it all really so awful? You had to go to her movie. Is that it? Actually, yes. All the noise in your head was this narrative of how you are being treated unfairly and never get your way. Your ego took over and completely blew up the night. If you had simply surrendered, unconditionally, and accepted going to her movie you would have had a wonderful evening. And if you do feel you’re being taken advantage of, then after, when you can approach it with a centered state of mind, tell her you hope the next movie will be your choice.
This is a small example but it happens all day everywhere in our lives. How miserable are you standing in line at the airport? I don’t want to be here, look at all these losers in line, I’ll never fly this airline again, I don’t even want to take this trip. What if you just allowed it to play out as is and stop resisting. Yes, you’re still in line, but you’re not exacerbating it with this negative narrative. You just accept this moment, unconditionally, surrendering to it. It’s an inner shift, the external circumstances are the same, you’re still stuck in line! But you’re not feeding it this mental commentary on how miserable you are. You’ll notice a shift in your body too, the tension dissipates as your shoulders soften. Next time you’re at the supermarket and your mind explodes at the pathetically slow cashier and long line in front of you, try to surrender to the moment and notice how your body reacts. Again, nothing changed on the outside, you’re still in line, but there’s a profound shift with your inner state of mind. You feel a different energy. You’re not going to get out of the supermarket any faster, but you stopped resisting. As you observe this phenomenon, you’ll realize you resist nearly everywhere: traffic lights, coffeehouse, meetings, even just sitting quietly in the comfort of your home. Whatever you are doing at this present moment, try to accept it as if you chose this moment, that this is where you should be right here and now.
As for external situations, surrender is perfectly compatible with taking action and making changes. It does not imply you be a doormat at all. But if you have surrendered first to the present moment in your inner state, you now can make decisions far more clearly in the outer world. In the state of surrender, you can see what needs to be done, what action you need to take, one step at a time. Let’s say you’re miserable at your job. Your mind is going bananas: I hate my coworkers, I’m so bored, I knew I should have gone to med school, I’ll never be happy at work, my life sucks. Your mind is swirling with negative thoughts making you infinitely more miserable. Maybe your workplace is indeed horrible. But if you can surrender to what is, you can come from a place of nonresistance. You are no longer controlled by external conditions and feel centered. From this state of mind, you are now far better equipped to explore your options such as can you change the situation, can you instill the necessary changes to feel fulfilled, can you talk to your boss. Don’t get lost in all your issues at work but rather narrow it down to what you can do right now. Take a small step and then build on that, moment by moment and take the appropriate action. If there is no possible action to take, and you cannot leave your job, then go deeper in surrender and accept this reality for now. Often this inner shift will create changes externally for you. The mental commentary and noise serves no purpose other than to fuel your misery.
We resist things big and small every day in our daily lives and what you resist, persists. This makes us anxious and agitated. Surrender to these daily challenges with an inner shift in consciousness and observe how much easier the flow of life becomes. Observe how life suddenly starts working for you instead of against you. You still have to do all the mundane things in life but now you are finding the current and going with it without the inner mental noise. It is a subtle, often nuanced, shift that can make all the difference in the quality of your day.