Barbara Emrys

Victory in Surrender

As you read over these blog posts, you’ll come upon the word ‘surrender’ now and then. Surrender typically means relinquishing power and control. That’s how we’re used to defining the word; surrender calls for us to admit defeat and throw in the towel. It can also feel like a form of public humiliation or at least some private shame. The mind naturally resists the idea of surrender. It fights against defeat on any level. Where the mind is concerned, how is ‘giving up’ even a thing? Why should it be a thing? 

I’ve had many occasions to discuss the meaning of surrender over the years, and I’ve always had to remind myself who I’m talking to. I’m talking to people’s minds, of course, the part of them that’s reluctant to lose an argument. I’m talking to the storyteller that resides in all of us– the one who’s least likely to give up its narrative, no matter how destructive or illogical the old stories have become. 

While our hearts may be eager to change old emotional habits, the mind has a different agenda. For all its brilliance, the mind is a heckler and a nervous watchdog, guarding established beliefs from any outside attack. It claims to want change, but then it stalls, resists, and negotiates. The mind has an arsenal of excuses not to give in. However, giving in (and occasionally giving up) is the whole point of growth and transformation. 

So, what does ‘surrendering’ actually mean for a spiritual seeker? If the mind finally does wage war against its own lies, who eventually wins? Who loses? Well, when your mind lets go of its need to be right, the body wins. All the drama subsides. When knowledge is able to admit it’s not in charge, wisdom is the reward. This means the mind can begin the practice of trusting life. 

This seems hard at first. The mind wants to protect its importance, no matter what. It fights to stay certain and unyielding. And yet, consider for a moment how often it surrenders to rumors, to gossip, and its own laziness. It’s absurdly vulnerable to suggestion, and to other people’s will. So what is the mind protecting, after all? Ideas aren’t real. Beliefs come and go. The body is real. Life is real. Energy is eternal and it’s the truth of you. 

You say you want to change your ways? What are you willing to give up and what are you prepared to gain– yes, gain– to make that change happen? To many of us, success is scarier than failure. So, how much success can you really take? Are you ambitious enough to master self-awareness at the expense of all your stories? Are you willing to gain a fresh outlook, a new perspective? Can you confront your own lies? Can you laugh at your fears?

There is no good or bad to life. It’s just life: ever-changing and surprising. By trusting life, you calm the storyteller, who’s determined to see right and wrong in everything. By putting faith in the truth, you forfeit unnecessary emotional pain and anxiety. Challenge yourself to see, to hear, to comprehend what is. Apply some doubt to your favorite theories, allowing them to break and crumble. So what if you’re suddenly not so sure of everything? So what if you lose a few certainties? You’ve won a battle in your own private war. You’ve defeated the untruths you tell yourself on a daily basis. You’ve achieved more awareness and a broader view of the human dream. 

And…you’ve turned the old idea of surrender into a victory. You’ve won your personal freedom.

Barbara Emrys 

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