This conversation is on the topic of Surrender. It is something that I have been curious about and opening myself up to more and more each day. I began my inquiry five years ago when I read The Untethered Soul by Micheal Singer. I had heard the concept of surrender several times, mostly in yoga classes and training, but had not been able to get much deeper than landing on the question I wanted to explore: Who am I who can watch thoughts coming up with a complete sense of detachment?
My journey into the concept went deeper a couple summers ago at my McCue family reunion. We have these reunions every summer, and while I only make it every few years, it is always a nourishing experience to be around a big group of people who love and support each other - despite our differences in lifestyle, religion, and massive amounts of time disconnected. My grandparents are mormon, and had seven kids, who all had at least two children, and as many as seven children (my siblings).
At the reunion two summers ago, we met at UBCO campus - near Kelowna, BC. I was almost done my yoga teacher training and was excited to practice. I had offered a 7am yoga class for each morning of our family reunion schedule, and was excited to share the experience with people in my family. I was surprised to have so many show up for this early morning yoga session, including my grandma.
I learned a lot from that experience. Being open to leading a group through an experience is thrilling and daunting. It's easy to allow the emotions of fear and resistance to overtake your system and either pull you away from being brave or tarnish your experience due to being too fixated on the what you lack, what doesn't feel good, or the doom-and-gloom possibilities.
The love and support from my family was a beautiful environment to practice in. I shared my thoughts on surrendering to the experience of yoga and surrendering your mind to accept who and where you are. It felt good to be in that role. And as usual, my dad had some interesting insights and thoughts on the experience.
In his inquisitive and fun way, he complimented my ability and shared that he enjoyed my thoughts on surrender. He then shared that he felt something was missing. While surrender is a great idea as concept, he saw the need to offer a balancing point with the need and importance of action and change. His worry was that the message was communicating that it's okay to accept your life as it is and not do anything to grow, learn, adapt and evolve. I agreed with him. And on continued my exploration of simplifying a complex concept.
So, where am I at now? A few years have passed and I have been playing with this idea of surrender. While I have made progress in my understanding of surrender, I have also realized that theory is one thing, but living, breathing, and integrating theory into life is a whole other ball game.
I knew I had to land on a working definition of surrender in order for me to integrate it into my life. The way you think about something dictates how you feel and how you show up. What's the point of living with surrender when you don't really understand what it means to you. Before you embark on a journey towards any worth while pursuit; i.e., balance, success, happiness, or surrender, it is important to truly understand what you are working towards. If you don't have an empowering and realistic perception of balance, you certainly will not be efficient or powerful in your pursuit. I have been curious to explore and understand the softer side of life. I know how to work hard, how to create structure and discipline in my life, and I have learned resiliency as I have overcome many dark and difficult moments and stages in my life. Now I am in the practice of releasing my need to control and force, and am inviting in a sense of deeper trust in what the universe is offering me moment to moment.
What I find most interesting, and most challenging, about understanding Surrender is that while it looks different for each person based on the stage of life they're in, it is also universally the same. The way I practiced surrender three years ago looks much different than today - but I needed to go through the practice to get to where I currently am. All ways of practicing surrender are important steps in your process!
Like any concept worth understanding, you must know the complexities before you can land on the simple truths. My practice of surrender is a unique experience because of the many experiences that have brought me to this moment. My hope is that through this blog post as I explore my practice of surrender, you will be inspired to take the reigns and explore surrender in your own life.
- What is my current understanding of surrender?
**I just finished reading The Surrender Experiment by Micheal Singer, which inspired me to circle back and re-read The Untethered Soul, by the same author. The notes below are a mainly influenced by Singer's work, but is also pulling wisdom from many conversations, books, and experiences I have learned from.
Surrender is a word used to signify an energetic shift from Force and Control into Receptivity and Softness. It works on many levels.
First of all, when we soften into the moment, we are present and alive to what is happening right in front of us. Your energy and focus is tuned into what is real, right now, rather than being drained and weighed down by feelings from the past or projected feelings of what the future holds.
Second, surrender serves as a reminder when you do find yourself stuck, fighting, victimizing, or anxious. It reminds us to release what we cannot control and open ourselves up to what is being presented. It creates a safe inner-environment to meet your feelings as they come up rather than simply feeling your feelings and reacting. It shuts off the fight or flight response so you have the ability and brain power to make a thoughtful choice of getting into action or letting go.
Third, surrender tunes us into the universal connection we all share. Yes you have a unique experience and your tiny grain of sand has the potential to make a huge positive impact, but you are also a part of something bigger and wiser than your individual life. The universe is unfolding in its own way and we each are a part of that unfolding. Surrender becomes the gateway into this vast and beautiful vortex that offers lessons, presents creative ideas, and connects you with the souls around you that elevate your existence. Your impact is mighty and your shared part within the Universe is something to be grateful and responsible for. Whether you believe in a God or a Supreme Consciousness of some kind, we are sharing an experience that is much bigger than each individual.
- What are some ways to practice Surrender?
First thing to do is to remind yourself daily that you are in the practice of surrender. We quickly revert back to old habits unless we keep our focus and attention on new thoughts and ideas. When you feel stuck, stagnant, in competition, in judgement, in shame, in sorrow, in defeat, in victim hood, in assumptions, or simple just too much in your head, this is the time to practice surrender.
Stop fighting the flow of life. Stop blaming others. Stop viewing yourself as a victim in your own life. Stop forcing the puzzle pieces to fit just to satisfy your need of order and external validation. Not only are these ways of being exhausting and intense to be around, but they are ways to drain your own energy and get in your own way. Life has a way of working out. We learn important lessons from failing, we meet new people or experience new levels of emotions when we lose others, we experience new ways of being when we lose the foundation beneath our feet. What if you just allowed yourself to experience and live life without trying to plan every detail and control every move along the way? Wow, imagine what that would feel like. Even our triggered reactions become fruitful when we develop the habit of pausing, noticing the reaction, letting go of our attachment to reactions, and witnessing your mind being hijacked by your over-protective ego.
There is so much going on inside your mind and body that the only sure-fire way of generating positive and sustainable momentum forward is to get balanced on the wave and ride it with as much presence, contentment, and detachment as possible. The wave will end, you will have to put some effort in to get back up, you will learn and fall and get stronger each time. Why fight, blame, or get angry if you know and trust that it is all an important part of the process?
The best way to start this practice is to meditate. Start your day by sitting with yourself. Just your breath and your conscious mind at the wheel. Detach from the story telling and emotional pendulum swing and get to know the calm depths within. The more you do this, the more you will notice when you are reactive, that there is the calm witness behind the scenes that you can connect with as you let the reaction move through you and get released. It can become a fascinating game as your goal is to continuously release your ego - which wants you to feel good now, avoid pain at all costs, look good in front of others, and achieve your dreams at all costs. Your ego pushes you to be cynical about others and about life because it feels good when you see you were right. Your ego puts up major resistance and fear when you approach change or are engaging in something you're not well versed in, because it registers social exclusion or embarrassment as physical pain.
- How do I find a balanced pursuit of surrender?
Before we know the balance point we must know the two extremes we want to be balanced within. On one side we have passive acceptance and on the other side is extreme attachment. Neither one will be sustainable on a long-term basis, and neither one is detrimental in and of itself. As I like to remind myself, too much of anything is no longer a good thing. The problem is not that we get attached to things or that we accept things as they are. The problem is when things become a pattern, a way of operating in the world, an extreme stance that ends up holding you back in life and getting in the way of enjoying and truly living in this precious existence.
Surrender also has an extreme counterpart to be aware of; Effort. In yoga philosophy, we are taught that effort and surrender are two wings of the same bird. I have found that my life has shifted in many positive directions as I have become efficient and powerful in my effort while honoring my down-time and self-care with just as much attention and time.
Ultimately, Surrender embodies the energy of many other concepts and ideas, and is the balance point with its equally important counterpart of Effort. It's a dance. It's an energy fuel-up system. It's a gateway to the calm depths within. It's the deep wisdom the resides within us all.
With surrender, we notice when our healthy inquiry has turned into a waste land of blame, confusion, or replaying the same story until we find the answer we are looking for. Surrender brings our mind and body into a place of feeling calm, centered, and balanced. It allows us to let go of our emotional pendulum swing and relax into the moment to deal with whatever is coming up. For many of us, we have been so disconnected from our body for so long, that the world of thinking has become the main mode of existence. But with surrender, we are reminded to stop reading, talking, and thinking about the mind, and instead just get into the practice of quieting down and allow life to unfold with your highest Self at the wheel, ready to receive and give to the universal flow of life. You still can have preferences and you will still make judgments, but you will begin to see these as surface level reactions while the truest and deepest part of you surrenders to the moment and simply flows with life through our unique experience of consciousness.