Always say yes to the present moment . . . Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life—and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you. –Eckhart Tolle
When I reflect on this concept of surrender, a number of images and phrases come to mind. What emerges is a visualization of people standing in a place of worship, singing with fervor, “I surrender all,” or hearing the hook to a neosoul artist, “Surrender to love, ’cause love is the only way.” I even have flashes of some individual being arrested by the police, with their hands up in the “universal” signal of surrender. These depictions, however, never connote peace or anything remotely appealing to me. Perhaps it’s because surrender is a place that’s all too familiar. Digging deeper, I must acknowledge that the need for surrender has frequently disrupted my world, creating loss, precipitating the onslaught of tears, inciting the rise of anger, and an overwhelming desire to scream because once again a goal or dream has been shattered. Things suddenly went left.
Here are the aspects of surrendering that personally create the most dissonance:
• The expectation is that I must relinquish control rather than fighting against some typically undesirable outcome.
• I’ve constructed a picture of how things are “supposed to be” which is now a mismatch with how they are. This is not what my visualization looked like.
• There’s a tension between assuming a defeatist stance (i.e., surrendering) versus accepting that things are unfolding in a manner that differs from my expectations.
• I am not a quitter!
• I’m really being driven by the fear that my needs will not be met. Therefore, I must fight harder!
• I’m being asked to trust and believe that there is some greater good that will come of this, and I just don’t know if I can do that.
There is a nuanced dance wherein we are effective agents of change who persist in actions to chart our own life course, but we also have wisdom in recognizing when surrender is what’s indicated. To facilitate such recognition, we must reign in the ego, especially those notions that we are always in control.
Surrender requires great strength, though it may appear that we have succumbed to failure.
I’ve wondered why and how the term “sweet surrender” came to exist when we more often associate this concept with a bitter taste. The term “sweet surrender” is typically used to refer to sudden, unexpected, but pleasant changes, often in the specific context of love. But can it be generalized to other areas of our lives?
We can’t experience “sweetness” until we identify the need to relinquish control. Bitterness and resentment appear only when we insist on holding on to old ideas that no longer serve us or our reality.