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Surrender Does Not Require Passivity

| Nirmala | Suffering

Surrender Does Not Require Passivity

Published on
08 June 2016

What does surrender look like?

What does it look like when we surrender to divine will? Does that mean that we just sit back, take our hands entirely off of the steering wheel, and let everything and anything happen as it will? Do we need to sit without moving a muscle? Does surrender always mean you let someone walk all over you like a doormat?

""Or is spiritual surrender something much more subtle and actually rich? Could it be that true surrender is an inner attitude towards whatever is happening? What if you can be fully surrendered and also take appropriate action when needed to relieve suffering? What if surrendering includes both passivity and activity? Can you still protect yourself, improve your life, work to change your circumstances, do any inner healing and processing of your conditioning, and make definite choices about your life while still being in a place of total surrender? 

The three part Brain

A friend just shared a simple three part theory of the brain: The lower brain is the seat of our reactivity and resistance to life. The mid brain is where sensory experience is taken in. And the higher brain is where we experience the capacity to understand and ultimately accept, surrender to and embrace life. She then suggested that the key in every moment is whether the sensory input into the mid-brain activates the lower brain, triggering the fight or flight response and other emotional reactivity and suffering, or whether that same sensory experience is processed by the higher functions of intellect and perspective that process the sensory experience into understanding, peace, acceptance, surrender and even joy.

""She then shared a simple practice for directing the present moment sensory experience into the higher functions of the brain. All that is required is speaking or thinking, "I am happy to be here." It is a surprisingly effective way to shift from resistance and suffering to surrendering spiritually and experiencing peace and joy.

What if that fundamental attitude of "I am happy to be here" is all that is required for spiritual surrender to happen? What if you could even continue just as before to actively engage with the experiences you are having, including trying to make it better or more comfortable or more whatever, as long as you also were "happy to be here"? And of course it also would be fine sometimes to stop trying to change or fix anything if the underlying attitude is that it is all fine and I am happy to be here. 

How to surrender Spiritually when you are suffering?

""Taking this one step further, when the opposite is happening and the thought is "I am not happy to be here" or even "I hate being here" and "This totally sucks!", then the possibility exists to add on this attitude of acceptance to that experience of suffering also. When the lower brain is being activated and we are upset, worried, fearful, etc., what if in the midst of that experience, we also think "I am happy to be here"?

Could that bring an overall sense of peace and surrender in spirituality to the experience as it is? Can you surrender to suffering itself and thereby short-circuit the suffering into something else called peace or joy?

The many levels of suffering

The more I explore the nature of suffering, the more I discover the endless layers of subtlety to the experience of distress or suffering. There are many levels to our present moment experience and as long as there is also this level or layer of an affirmed acceptance, then the other layers do not need to be gotten rid of. You can still struggle, effort, give up, try harder, take a break, wish it was different, try to get rid of something, try to hang onto something, explore the conditioning that is operating, and anything else that is either active or passive, effortful or collapsing from all effort, as long as there is also an overarching attitude of "I am happy to be here". It is not necessary to choose one level or the other of our experience, but to simply add in this "attitude of gratitude", as we sometimes call it. We sometimes hold back from the admission or affirmation of happiness because we think we have to get rid of the unhappiness first. But what if you can just add a heaping layer of happiness and spiritual surrender on top of whatever else is happening? 

The key to Surrender and Happiness

""Surrender and happiness could be much simpler than we have believed. Instead of spiritual surrender and happiness being something else that requires a super-human degree of passivity and total allowing of everything just as it is, and instead of being something that we have to do in place of whatever we are already doing, surrendering spiritually and happiness could be something we simply add to whatever is already happening or whatever we are already doing. This simply adds to the experience an inner movement towards whatever is present, whatever is actually here in sensory experience, including any inner "sensations" of thought, emotion, desire or judgment. Even our suffering or movement away from what is becomes one more thing that we can also move towards as described in a blog post on here entitled,  "Surrendering Our Way Out of Suffering". And no matter how many layers of suffering, effort, activity, striving, struggle and just plain everyday doing or activity are currently activated in our mind and body, we can always also add a layer of true surrender and happiness to the mix.

The key to spiritual surrender and happiness may not be a difficult sacrifice of all we know and already trust in life including our striving and effort, but simply an invitation to add in a deeper attitude of trust, acceptance, and gratitude to everything that is already here and already functioning in our inner and outer experience. You can even be very busy and also be totally surrendered! All it takes is "I am happy to be here."

The deepest surrender is always already here

Someone emailed me with a question about hopelessness and surrender:

Q: I experience a looming hopelessness in ever truly fulfilling this yearning of totally surrendering to the Beloved. There is a resignation or a sense of, “What’s the use?” Since I am not this body, what’s the use of taking care of it, when llife involves so much suffering?

A: Everything is unfolding naturally and normally. Within this unfolding, hopelessness can sometimes seem to be a somewhat valid perspective. However, I invite you to check if there is truly an absence of any hope or expectation, or if there is a negative expectation or negative hope that things will not unfold completely. True hopelessness is a recognition that there is no need for hope or expectation of any sort, since life itself brings every experience just as it is needed. It can seem hopeless for you to surrender only because you have already lost the struggle; life is already surrendering to itself. Everything is happening perfectly whether you are suffering or not. At most, struggling delays things a bit and causes you to suffer, but it all works out anyway. So there’s nothing you can do, nothing you need to do, and nothing you need to not do in order for surrender to happen. Any instructions on how to surrender spiritually are not actually a prescription for you to follow, but a description of your true situation, of what is already happening.

""As for taking care of your body, while from an absolute perspective it ultimately doesn’t matter if you don’t take care of your body, it also doesn’t matter if you take very good care of it. If you are meant to experience health and well-being, then life will bring these experiences to you. And if your soul chooses to experience physical challenges or diseases in this lifetime, then these will arise. Whatever experience is needed will naturally arise. Part of this natural arising is all that you do or don’t do to take care of your body. If it truly doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter if you eat well, exercise, and get healing support for your body or if you don’t. Seeing both sides of this issue and holding the question this lightly allows deeper impulses and intuitions to guide you. It will simply feel truer in each and every moment to take care of the body or not to take care of the body. And this will change moment to moment as life unfolds. Sometimes you will be moved to take very good care of your body, and sometimes you will be moved to just let it be.

Sometimes, when we experience true hopelessness and the depths of knowing that there is nothing we can do to fully surrender to Being, we fall into the trap of thinking that therefore we should do nothing. But there is also no "non-doing" or inaction that we can do to make surrender happen. It turns out that all of our doings and all of our non-doings are actually a part of the natural unfolding of life that already is coming from the surrendered depth of our soul.

How to surrender by Asking the right questions

In a scene in a Woody Allen movie, a UFO suddenly lands in front of him and little green men come out. Woody’s character runs up to them and says, “Thank God you’re here! What is the meaning of life? Is there a God? Why are we here?” And the little green men reply, “These are the wrong questions” and fly away again in their UFO, as Woody runs after them yelling, “Wait! What are the right questions?”

""Sometimes the right question is not so much what should I do, but what is happening right now? What is this like? How do I know what I am thinking, feeling, or experiencing right now?” For instance, you might ask: “What’s it like to have no hope or expectation either way? How do I know I am hopeless? What’s it like to have a body right now? How do I know that this is my body? What is true right now? What am I spontaneously doing already? What is already surrendered to Being right now?”

This kind of inquiry is in between doing and non-doing. It isn’t totally passive, but it isn’t very active or effortful. It is giving space and curiosity to the unfolding of life that is already happening through you, around you, and within you. You can do this as hope comes and goes and as taking care of your body comes and goes. The real gift of this kind of questioning is not that it answers the more practical questions, but rather that it means you are paying attention when a bigger truth arises. If you are always asking, “What is happening right now?” then when a deep experience of Being arises, you’ll notice. What a treasure it is to be home when the Beloved comes for a visit! Such questions don’t make surrender happen, but they can show you that surrender is always here. Surrender is what is.


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