Surrender – what an amazingly powerful world. It often engenders the thought of weakness and cowardice. In my case, it required all the strength I had to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown.– Michael A. Singer
I had forgotten my words. I had forgotten the sound of a regular heartbeat when I woke up and realized the worst of the storms of change had passed. It was a new season and the winds of change had blown chaos, loss, destruction, confusion, and pain into what I knew as my life. When I woke up though, and the worst was indeed through.
It’s a strange thing waking up on the other side of a hard season in your life. Just like watching the residual rain and thunder abate after a terrifying storm. I was no longer assaulted by volleys of dizzying, nauseating anxiety each morning. I could breathe and welcome a new day in neutral tranquillity. No barrage of thoughts assaulting my mind, reminding me that I live to keep fanning the flames of my own destruction. I woke up after months of living in utter darkness to find rays of hope streaming in, illuminating the promise of a different reality.
I had survived one of the most challenging seasons in my life where I lost everything: a place to stay, my job, an opportunity to go overseas and start a new life, and even a sense of connection to the world. I was lost in a turbulent sea of tears, debt, pain, poverty, and profound aloneness. Until I wasn’t. Here’s how surrender helped me find my way home.
The invitation to surrender.
When I realized I couldn’t live life as I was any longer, my primal instinct to fight my reality kicked in unbidden. Not that I could control it – my life at the time was characterized by a series of unconscious habits, reactions, and trauma responses seemly etched to my very genes.
So I fought to ‘fix’ my life, somehow. I figured finding a new job in another country far away from home could help me evade my pain. And I fought hard to make it work, amidst a pandemic while the entire world was recalibrating. I didn’t care about the real obstacles a global shutdown brought along my path, I just wanted to feel safe somewhere in this world. Interestingly enough, that was anywhere but wherever I could be with myself fully.
Like trying to gain distance by running on a treadmill, I knew my evasiveness was useless. But I ran harder, going nowhere slowly. As with all seasons, the utter collapse of a plan to move overseas I had worked on for two years catapulted me into a new rock bottom. And terrible as it was to lose an opportunity I had worked tirelessly for, I was actually getting an important invitation back home. To surrender. But the road wasn’t promised to be easy. And on the journey, I came upon challenges that made even my recovery from cancer when I was a teenager seem an easier cross to bear.
The walk home.
One day I had a job, my own place to stay, a healthy cushion of savings to help me move overseas, all my necessities and wants catered for. I was well on my way to finally getting what I wanted. I was finally going to free myself from all the trauma, pain, and poverty that had been following me like an imaginary monster from childhood that had long overstayed its welcome in my adult life.
And then, months later, I woke up one day and I had nothing. No job prospects. Nowhere to stay. Unemployed and in debt. At some point, I couldn’t afford a meal let alone a way to make a phone call.
I would wake up some days, stuck in the one place I dreaded most: the house I grew up in. And wonder “What if it’s all just one long nightmare that I’m never going to wake up from?”
I had no idea in those first few months when I was in such darkness I could hardly feel my own soul, that there was a sun about to rise in my life.
I fought for months. I tried applying for jobs, seeking spiritual clarity, distracting myself with meaningless connections with random men, spending endless days binging on food, technology, books, neverending conversations – all just to keep the noise up so I wouldn’t be able to hear my soul’s truth.
Then, after a particularly harrowing day, my soul broke. I finally surrendered and allowed myself to set lifelong burdens down. It was simple: life was inviting me to surrender control, relinquish my old story and begin a new one. At first, I kicked and screamed against a deep knowing in my soul that told me that I had nowhere else to run, nowhere to hide from the truth that I couldn’t keep carrying my story the way I was.
I remember the day my soul seemingly cracked open. I was a crying mess. I spent a long time on the concrete floor, praying and begging God to take the pain away. I cried like I hadn’t in decades, maybe. I cried until my inner child finally felt heard, seen, acknowledged. Then my soul began to speak, inviting me to lay down who I thought I was. To give up my anchor and cast the chains of my story aside. I had been doing healing work for the past three years, but for the first time that day it all coalesced into one single message: surrender and give in.
I heard the call and I accepted the invitation. It scared me, sacrificing an identity I had so carefully convinced myself was who I am for so many years. It terrified me to look at my tear-streaked face in the mirror and be filled with a fierce love for the first time. I knew then that something had shifted, I had arrived at a new door.
It was the first ray breaking through the darkness, but it would take a lot more than opening a door to finally walk in the light.
Arrival at ground zero.
I opened the door to a new sense of self and found the courage to walk through it. I slept many nights thereafter thinking all my problems had been solved, that I had discovered the answer to my life’s trickiest riddle.
I had no idea that opening a door, accepting an invitation, was far more than a flash in the pan moment. Life would keep inviting me to surrender every day for the rest of my life. Every day I live on this blue planet and God would ask for my consent to show me what life could be if I let it.
And I’d love to say I surrendered gracefully, willing to live in a perpetual state of the unknown with bewildering trust that everything happening really is happening for my good. But I would be lying. Instincts, and nurture (no matter how toxic it may be), don’t just go away overnight. The invitation wasn’t a one-time ticket to nirvana. It was a choice I would have to make every day.
And when the choices showed up every day – surrender to life’s flow or succumb to old patterns riddled with pain. I resisted for another few months, unwilling to make a choice, wondering why I was cursed with such understanding of the challenging times in my life. “Surely I’m cursed, and insane, to want to see the goodness of this moment and how it can help me surrender?” I thought to myself the morning I got mugged while walking back from a clinic appointment. I believed I was deranged. But still, I surrendered because I knew it was the invitation.
After the mugging, I was left with absolutely nothing. And that’s when it hit me: I had nothing left to lose, so why not surrender anyway? I started accepting the invitation in small ways. During an unnecessary disagreement, I would surrender my ego’s need to be right. When I felt resentment, pain, anxiety, discomfort emotionally I would surrender to the feelings, honor them. When I felt calm, neutrality and peace, I would surrender to have the feelings stay as long as needed, without wanting to hold onto how good it felt. I surrendered and accepted that invitation consciously as many times as I could in a day.
And I lost more. I shed my anxiety slowly, the perpetual knot of pain in my chest I had known since childhood began to untangle and dissipate. Recurring negative thought patterns and beliefs doing reruns in my mind would be caught sooner and replaced with seeds of flowering thoughts instead. I was being made anew and that is when I knew I had arrived home, finally.
And now I am here, settling into being unashamedly myself. Choosing every day to accept the invitation with as much grace as I can muster, and forgiving myself for moments when I decline because I am still learning how to sustain my courage.
You’re probably wondering if I’m still living in pain, debt, and abject loss. For the most part, not anymore. As soon as I moved into being at home with myself, just as I am, life seemingly began working with me to create small miracles each day. And they are also invitations in themselves – to watch, surrender and be grateful for everything in and around me.
It’s still challenging, I still trip and fall over the unfamiliar territory, but I’m learning to surrender to being a lifelong beginner at the start of each day. And every day I still choose to the best of my ability to surrender.
The invitation is calling in your life, relationship, job, or heart. Will you accept it and walk the path to surrender?
I am so grateful that surrender had taught me to willingly participate in life’s dance with a quiet mind and an open heart.– Michael A. Singer