Q: All along, I have had slight fear of getting old and then getting slow a incurable pre-death sickness (like cancer). But it never went haywire, until some months ago. Now it consumes me greatly and sometimes my mind and anxiety just go all over the place uncontrollably, although I'm not afraid of the death itself. These past few weeks, I've been trying to learn about spirituality and how to make peace with myself. I also do more talking & praying to Jesus, as well as my pastor, because I understand that "surrender" & "faith" are the only key words to find peace in my case. But there are still many things in spiritual lessons that I don't understand, and despite all of my efforts, the progress is very slow and I still can't surrender fully. Fyi, my life has been filled with a lot of tragedies, sadnesses & traumas, as well as many supernatural events & wrong paths. I'm a total mess. If you could find in your hearts to give me some help & guidance, I'll be extremely grateful. May you be blessed abundantly!
A: Thanks for writing. I will first of all share that what you are experiencing is not unusual and is very normal and natural, especially when someone is drawn to the spiritual path. It brings up our conditioning from all of the experiences in our life from early childhood on. And also, please know that none of this is your fault. You are not to blame for what happens to you in life, and so you are not to blame for any strong reactions that you may be having.
However, even if you are not to blame, the reactions are happening to you. And so they are your responsibility to work with and to heal. The good news is that what they need is simply attention and acceptance. That is the practice that can lead to true surrender. True surrender is not something you do, but rather something that happens when you come to rest as the simple witness to whatever arises. At some point, with full acceptance and awareness, you simply discover that everything is perfect and is the way it is meant to be in every moment, and that recognition is the experience of surrender. Again, you can't "do" it, but surrender does happen, and it happens every day in small ways and sometimes even in big ways. So you simply accept and pay attention and then when you see the bigger truth that whatever is happening is perfect, then you simply accept that moment of surrender also.
There is one little trick that can make acceptance easier whenever you find it hard to accept and simply be aware of your present moment experience, and that is to start by simply accepting and being aware of how hard it is for you to accept something. First accept that you find it hard or can't accept something. Just allow yourself to feel resistance and fear. Once you allow the fear and resistance, then it becomes easier to also allow whatever was triggering the fear or resistance. By accepting the fear, you create some momentum of acceptance that can then move on to accepting more of what is present.
And even if you can't accept the fear and resistance, then maybe you can accept that you can't accept the fear and resistance. If you are conflicted inside, then the simple truth is that you are conflicted inside, and you can start by accepting that.
What you may discover, as you start with whatever you can actually and truly accept in this moment and then again in the next moment, is that acceptance and awareness (or attention) are always here. The only trick is in finding what is being accepted already by your awareness. If fear is present, then it is already being accepted by something. If you are aware of fear, then awareness is paying attention to the fear....and is also accepting the fear. I often use the metaphor that if you fall off of a horse, then you try to get back on the horse where the horse is now...not where you fell off! Similarly, you learn acceptance by noticing what awareness is already accepting. If you are aware of something, then awareness is accepting it, because that is the inherent nature of awareness itself: it accepts whatever is present.
What we call unacceptance is when we move our awareness to something else in order to be less aware of something we don't like. But awareness is so accepting that it even accepts this effort to change our experience by redirecting our attention through judgments and distractions. But again, the way to get back on the horse is to notice this unacceptance and to start by accepting that you are in resistance, judgment or fear. That is where the horse is now.
This new habit of accepting your own reactions is a very simple but powerful practice that can transform your experience of life from the inside out. You can discover that nothing that is happening and nothing that you are feeling needs to change. You simply also accept that it is happening or that it is what you are feeling, and then there is no suffering....even in the experience of resistance, fear, doubt or worry. Your job is simple: just be aware of what you are already aware of. It is the nature of awareness itself that heals and resolves our inner conflicts. Any effort on our part simply slows down the process, but even that is OK if you can notice that you are aware of your own efforts to change or fix your experience. Awareness accepts that effort also.
The ultimate good news is that awareness and acceptance are your nature. You are not a mess at all because what you are is awareness itself. You can't harm your ability to be aware or your ability to accept, and they are operating fully already in every moment. You can notice what you are already aware of and accepting in any moment, and that starts this subtle momentum toward more and more acceptance and eventually the arising of surrender.
I hope this is helpful, and please keep me posted on how it is going. You will most certainly be fine no matter what happens.
Note: Nirmala invites questions he can answer in this blog or in the free weekly online satsang he offers.