Recently, at one of our Live Online Teachings, one of the participants used the word ‘surrender’ and asked where does this lie within the practice of resting in awareness. I remember being immediately struck by the question as it had come up time and time again for myself in my own practice. We spoke about acceptance and how surrender is a word that has traditionally been used within spiritual practice, but what does surrender mean from a secular point of view?
Surrender… The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines surrender as ‘to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you won’t win’.
Reading this, I immediately began to reflect on the struggle that I often create internally when worry, anger, conflict or the need to ‘do and be better’ surfaces for me as I go about my day. The need to control. The need for approval. The need to keep things right side up. It seems so obvious that all of this striving, this desire for keeping all of my balls in the air is a futile exercise. And I know this. Yes, I know this. Yet still, this inner struggle creeps in through the smallest of cracks- an unanswered email from the week before; an early afternoon visitor when the breakfast bowls, still crusted over with cornflakes, are on the table; a reaction to the same argument had time and time again with the same person; or indeed, a reaction to a slow moving clerk working behind the till in Tesco. Internal struggle doesn’t have to mean huge explosive moments, or clinical depression. In fact, we often experience internal struggle all throughout our day and in many different moments.
So, can we win? Can we beat all of these trigger points? I am not sure. I suspect the answer is no, or if so, it will take locking oneself away in a tower, away from all interaction with the outside world.
But, what I do know is that we can try to practice surrender. We can try to stop fighting these persistent triggers. We can try to stop hiding from the idea that the need to be perfect is itself flawed- an impossibility. We can try to stop resisting difficult emotions and accept that they occur whether we like them or not.
Perhaps, we can set the intention to start to notice when start to feel the rise of emotion and aversion within us, this internal struggle, and simply surrender to the moment- meeting the struggle with a kind heart.
Can we refrain from the fighting, from the trying to make it better, from the reactions and simply rest in awareness of what is happening while it is happening? Can we surrender the balls that we are trying to keep afloat and practice some self compassion when we notice this striving?
This week’s challenge is to observe when we start to feel challenged, or hear internal fighting words, and experience agitation. Then, without trying to change anything, simply surrendering the tension to our innate compassionate heart. Can we give ourselves a break from the fight?
In this way, we can really witness what it means to surrender within the practice—off the cushion.
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