A few weeks ago, I did my usual jotting down of goals and “I hope I get to this” lists and subconsciously wrote surrender. I didn’t intentionally do it; in fact, I didn’t realize I did it until I went to start a new page and saw the last entry. And there it was – with a little empty box to the left of it, as if it was something I needed to do and check off once accomplished.
It’s is such a heavy concept, and to embody it means to break an entire set of thought patterns I’ve built throughout my lifetime.
I’ve always been good at worrying. Like, really good at it. And it stems from this intense fixation on the future. The future of everything: doing laundry, a scheduled commitment, how I’m going to prepare for the next 3 months or 3 minutes, and even death. My worry has no boundaries!
I remember when my therapist told me that much of anxiety comes from the holding onto the past and/or over-anticipation of the future and I thought, Oh yes, IT ME! I didn’t realize how intensely anticipation affected my life until I heard her utter those words.
Enter, surrender. But what does it actually mean?
“Surrender happens when we know that we don’t know. It arrives when we know that we cannot think or see our way through where we are. We don’t have the answers. In true surrender, we don’t know if what’s to come will be better or worse, more comfortable or more awful. All we know is that we can’t do it this way, the way we’ve been doing it, a moment longer. Surrender happens when it can’t not happen.”
It can seem so science-fiction at times. Not having all of the answers. Not knowing what’s to come. And being okay with that. Many of us need to sit deeply with this idea of surrender because the thought has rarely crossed our minds for longer than a fleeting one.
At times (and in my case), a lack of surrender can turn into an overwhelming need for control. This tends to happen when we’ve experienced painful situations that were anything but situations we had control of. Each of those moments create a snowball effect, birthing this urge to control as a defense mechanism (albeit a crappy one) in an attempt to protect ourselves from the unknown. Worry, obsessive, and/or controlling behaviors creep in quietly until they’re repetitive enough to become habits – and we all know how difficult they are to break.
But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. And unlike Nancy Colier, I don’t fully believe we have to be on our knees to surrender. I think if we search for pockets of it in even the tiniest moments of our lives, we can taste enough liberation to keep going.
I’ve been on a quest for those moments, and started by reaching for the low hanging fruit – taking small steps to strengthen my relationship with myself.
I’ll share some of my go-to practices:
MOVE: Often and in a variety of ways. Our bodies can either hold on to or leak energy if we’re not moving much. Releasing and balancing out your physical energy makes room to process your mental energy.
BREATHE: and meditate in a quiet space as much as you can, even for just a few minutes [read: even one minute]. Find the path to surrender within your thoughts. Instead of pushing them away, we allow them to move in and out of our mind just as our breath moves in and out of our bodies.
RELAX: and do things that make you happy. Read, write, watch movies, and play. Even in small increments. Make time for your happiness. It’s just as important as doing laundry.
YOGA: For all my fellow practitioners, a restorative session has surrender written all over it. Having a gentle, invitational evening where I just kick it with my bolster and a blanket is freeing. I use those moments to really ground myself and release the tense areas in my body and breath.
WING IT: My last tip is just being okay with not doing any of the above. If there’s too much control over trying to surrender, it just defeats the purpose. Sometimes we just need to sit in bed all day with chocolate. Sometimes we need to cry. And sometimes, we’re going to feel lost. When we have those days, maybe we can just open ourselves to them. Hey crappy days – let’s just get this over with.
Life is tricky. There’s no recipe for how we’re supposed to move through the minutes. And I wish this entry was a step by step guide and a “here is what works for me!” type of entry. But I’m still just searching for surrender too. Using the tools at some points and just straight up wingin’ it at others.
And when I find it, it’s bliss – taking my hands off of the steering wheel; letting the moments play out as they are; releasing the need to control every aspect of my waking life; letting it be. It comes and goes in waves, but I just try to accept that it’s part of the dance of life and if I just keep going I’ll dance with it longer.
And I hope you get to dance with it too.