Surrender

May 3, 2009

The goal of life is living in agreement with nature. ~Zeno

Here is one take on the idea of “surrender.” As the opposite of giving up one’s true nature or conforming, we can surrender to the truth of who we are and find our right place in the universe. I believe that is what we all long for. It is a theme I return to again and again: Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Finding Flow; what David Whyte talks about in The Heart Aroused (The Soul at Work); and what Parker Palmer refers to as the integration of soul and role (An Undivided Life).

Surrender in this sense is not giving in, but giving up the illusion of control, letting go of the defenses we have built against our heart’s desires. Those defenses may stem from parental or societal expectations, fear of failure, fear of success, or myriad other things.

If you surrendered to your heart’s desire, what would you be doing? What would your life look like if you were in agreement with your true nature?


Interbeing

September 21, 2008

In one sheet of paper, we see everything else, the cloud, the forest, the logger. I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am. That is the meaning of the word ‘interbeing.’ We interare. ~Thich Nhat Hanh, from Being Peace

I have just read the book Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach. Before I read this wonderful book, I had a post by this title. I’m sure it was Brach’s book that was referenced by the authors I quoted in that earlier post. All that to say that this idea of radical acceptance is one that echoes for me as something I need to embrace.

Letting go of the idea of control allows us to better see and be receptive to the gifts that come to us. Brach says, “When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.” When I cease to struggle with the life I have, I see the beauty of the hills across the valley, feel the cool air of fall streaming in the window, hear the quiet on this Sunday morning, and know the peace of feeling safe and loved. Only when I can understand the great grace that has fallen on me can I feel true compassion for others. And that understanding is not with the head, but with the heart.

May I understand from the heart that we are all interconnected, worthy of grace, and responsible for each other. May I live my life as though I am no more or less than any other in the universe, and as though every breath I take ripples through all.

Breathing in, I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is the only moment.

~Thich Nhat Hanh


The Tyranny of Expectations

September 17, 2008

The unexpected will certainly happen, while the anticipated may never come. ~Nisargadatta Maharaj

…you cannot control the result of your actions. As painful as it is to admit, oftentimes you cannot even know if the results are truly positive or negative just because initially they appear to be one or the other. ~Phillip Moffitt, “The Tyranny of Expectations”

The title of Moffitt’s piece from Yoga Journal says it all. We can create a lot of suffering for ourselves with our desire for a particular outcome. Focusing on right effort is the key. Moffitt says, “The Buddha continually warned us not to be attached to any specific outcome, yet he also stressed the importance of making an effort and sacrifices, of living a life of moral discipline…The difference is in what you control. You have the power to choose your level of effort, you can learn from experience how to improve it and how to be balanced in what is skillful and what is not. But you cannot control the result of your actions.”

Part of this art, I think, is accepting and loving what is (including our imperfections in doing so). As Tolle reminds us (see Denial and Surrender), that doesn’t mean accepting the status quo, the whole situation, but rather embracing the present moment as it is. I am reminded today to turn my attention to right effort, to let go of expectations of results, and to rest in the present moment without dwelling on past or future.  

See also Expectations


Being Flow

April 11, 2008

You write from what you know, but you write in what you don’t know.  ~Grace Paley

When the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself.  ~William Baziotes

Writing (or any creative work) is discovery. That is why it is so frightening, so exhilirating, so compelling. This blog is my exercise in writing in what I don’t know. When the blog entry is finished, the subject reveals itself. I merely try to follow my mind and heart where they lead–first in choosing a quotation, then in my response to it.

This is good practice, I believe, for surrendering to life, for letting myself “be carried” by the universe, for loving what is. Perhaps writing will save my soul. I keep returning to Ray Bradbury’s advice from Zen in the Art of Writing: “WORK. RELAX. DON’T THINK.” There is so much wisdom in that simple exhortation. I am not sure how it could be more perfect.

William Stafford said, “Intention endangers creation.” May I approach my work with relaxation and a spirit of inquiry. May I surrender to the world with faith that I will be carried. May I set aside intention, will, and the illusion of control in order to be in the flow–no!–to be the flow–of all creation.


Living in Process

April 1, 2008

Living in process is being open to insight and encounter. Creativity is becoming intensely absorbed in the process and giving it form.  ~Susan Smith

In creative endeavors, I have tried to remember that process is important, usually (always?) more important than product. But I don’t know that I’ve applied this principal consciously to living itself. At least this seems to me a new way of thinking about familiar ideas. What does it look like to live in process? Smith gives us some definition: being open to insight and encounter.

Cultivating openness seems a worthy goal. And I love the fact that the quote addresses openness both to intuition (self) and in relationship (other). If we think beyond subject-object dualism, this is one and the same, I suppose. An open heart is an open heart. And I long for a truly open heart.

It is fear that prevents the heart from opening fully to experience. Creative moments are so ecstatic because we flow, for a moment, in the stream of process, without fear. Because we open our hearts to the experience, surrendering the illusion of control. In that place, fear has no substance, no power.

When are you most open to insight and encounter? How can we expand those opportunities for living in process?


Getting Out of the Way

December 3, 2007

…by simply listening to and recording your inner longings…they will begin to manifest in your life without your having to do anything else…by carefully listening to our hearts we seed our waking dream with those intentions. If we try to force our longings into being however, the door to their realization remains firmly shut…We have to get out of the way in order for the things we long for to start showing up, and when they do, they almost never look quite the way we had imagined.  ~Sarah Susanka’s blog at http://www.notsobiglife.com/

Well, this seems to be a theme this week–listening to the inner voice. I have read many accounts of witness to this phenomenon, that clutching the illusion of control inhibits finding that center. The concept of surrender has for so long been anathema to me, carrying a connotation of helplessly giving oneself over to the power of another. I spent my childhood practicing self-denial and self-betrayal (surrender) to survive, and my young adulthood rebelling against virtually everyone and everything that would try to control me. In the end resistance is no better than surrender, and I must learn to get out of my own way, to relax into all that is (what some call nature, God, the universe, a higher power). To wash myself of myself, as Rumi suggests, to be melting snow.

What is the middle way? Listening to the inner wisdom, being fully present in order to respond authentically from the heart, moving toward the heart’s desire but understanding that there is no controlling one’s life; there is only finding the path with that next step. How frightening that is!  But as Susanka says, “In fact we’ve never been in charge. We only thought we were.”


INFJ, Again

November 6, 2007

This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
~William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Sc. 3

An assignment in the leadership institute I am in this week was to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator — in my case, for the third, fourth, maybe fifth time.  Each time the result of my score has been INFJ–Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging–the rarest combination. 

There were a couple of changes this time, however. Always before I have had close scores on the Introverted-Extroverted dichotomy; this time I showed a clear preference for Introversion.  Before I have shown a clear preference for Judging over Perceiving; this time my scores were much closer. What does that mean? I’m in a job that requires less extroverted behavior than my previous one, and I do feel myself getting more solitary as I age. I hope the move toward Perceiving indicates a greater openness to change and less need for control. 

I want to think and write about surrender soon. I have always resisted, struggled with, protested any attempt to control my behavior, including self-control in many cases.  This is no doubt a result of being overly controlled in my youth. But I am beginning to realize the foolishness of that stance and recognize the many ways it has prevented my growth. Can you give up control? Some say “let go and let God.” Creatives talk about ceasing to think about or sleeping on a problem and “receiving” a solution. I want to learn surrender.