Surrender is the name of the spiritual game. ~Adyashanti
Marianne Williamson wrote about a challenging time she went through in her life. She described getting knocked to her knees over and over. Each time, she did what most of us admire and like to think that we would do. She got up. Again and again. Until she finally wondered if the message she was getting from the universe was to stay on her knees.
Our culture teaches us to keep fighting, to keep getting up, to struggle on in the face of insurmountable resistance. To never, ever give up. Surrender is for sissies.
So why is it that surrender is such an essential component, perhaps the essential component, of the spiritual path? And what does it really mean?
It doesn’t mean escaping difficulty. In the Bhagavad Gita, the warrior Arjuna is sick at heart, reluctant to fight in a great battle because he has family members on both sides of the conflict and he doesn’t want to kill his kinsmen. Krishna tells him that he is a warrior and he must fulfill his destiny by fighting in a righteous war. Surrender in this case meant bowing to the divine dictates of fate and marching into battle.
It doesn’t mean being a coward. Jesus could have saved himself but faced his trial and death with courage, surrendering to God’s will.
It doesn’t mean defeat. The Tao Te Ching teaches us that yielding is how we overcome. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. modeled this wisdom with courage through their nonviolent movements to bring freedom to their people. Their surrender to the violence directed towards them didn’t just change politics, but changed people’s hearts.
It doesn’t mean not trying. When I think about surrender, I think about the efforts I made to adopt my daughter Lily. Lily grew up in an orphanage in China and by the time I met her, she was nearing the age beyond which she would be unadoptable. In fact, I was told it was already too late. But I felt an inner guidance telling me to try. So I did, and kept trying in spite of roadblocks at every turn. So where was the surrender? I knew my part was to do whatever I could, but whether she became my daughter or not was out of my control. At each step I made my peace with the outcome, whatever it turned out to be.
Surrender is hard because it asks us to transcend our fear and to trust in the basic goodness of the universe, whether it involves something as mundane as being stuck in traffic, or as grand as liberating a nation. It asks us not to give up, but to give back. To give back ourselves, not to the tyranny of another, but to the unconditional love of the divine. [Surrender, in fact, means to give back over and above – sur meaning over, and render meaning to give back.]
So, it seems, surrender is not at all for sissies. Each moment of surrender is a moment of courageous release, radical transformation, heartbreaking joy, exquisite peace, and sublime freedom.
For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. ~Larry Eisenberg