I’m supposed to be fine-tuning a keynote address on body language but suddenly I find myself distracted by another concept – and as it’s all about surrender – about giving up resistance to what is and letting go of that which doesn’t serve us.
So I thought I would – surrender that is – to my need to get these words out first because they seem to be more important right now than being ready for a speech.
Of course – I am not the first person to write about this. I follow a long line of gurus, sages, spiritual leaders, grand elders and so on who all probably know a lot more about it. So this is me surrendering to the fact that I don’t know much but I still want to share just in case a few of my words touch a note in one of you and it helps.
Recently I spent a few weeks in Thailand on a cheap holiday special. In one of the nicer spots – a beach resort on the shabby-tropical-beautiful isle of Koh Samui – I found a Buddhist ‘bible’ in my hotel room. “Oh ho, “ I thought to myself. “that looks eminently collectible and also makes a nice change to the usual religious scripts left in hotel rooms for desperately bored or sincerely devout people. On another note – I always wondered if bibles in hotel rooms were sometimes put there hopefully, as a reminder to those unmentionables having crack orgies there to somehow shame them slightly in a ‘god is watching you’ way.
Although having met Buddhism before – and liking it – I felt I knew enough boredom overcame ego and I gave it a good read. For those of you now curious you can also, at (‘Without and Within’ available for download at www.bia.or.th). I found it easy to read and useful. The hotel wouldn’t let me keep it and although it had probably been given to them in the effort to reach more people, there were no spare copies – so sadly couldn’t keep it.
My book acquisition disorder aside – the page that caught my attention the most was the one about Resistance.
Now I Know Resistance is Futile – having watched enough Star Trek to get that. But this whole letting go – surrender – don’t resist concept had never sat well with me. I have a lot of fight in me – probably from my Irish ancestors – combined with a need to fight for what is right. Whatever that might be.
THE PAGE – clicked – in a fabulous AHA moment I suddenly realised all the things I fight and resist and battle and sweat and cry and gnash (a lot of gnashing which my dentist has cautioned against) and generally rail against are not in fact personal attacks on me.
Ego issues much?
I have never been able to simply accept the unfairness and sheer wrongness of it all.
Here is a list of things I like (have liked) to resist:
1. Traffic – of any kind – in front of me – as I what I am doing and where I am going is generally in a hurry, and also I haven’t learned to sit back and just enjoy the drive. I want instant teleportation, dammit, and believe scientists are keeping it from us because they’ve been bought off by the petrol companies.
2. The fact that my ex has opted out completely of the whole parenting chore for the last 10 + years (although really from the moment my first little zygote announced itself. Which wasn’t his fault really as he barely wanted pot plants let alone kids) In the process, I am left doing it all AND my children had to deal with abandonment issues. There are multiple and complex levels to this one which I doubt I need to elaborate on.
3. Laundry . . . never ending laundry (to the musical theme of Never Ending Story). Like the old adage goes – I am pretty sure there are people in my house, putting their clothes in my hampers, people who I have never met. How 3 people can make so much laundry does not compute.
4. Meanness – when people are unexpectedly or unreasonably horrible in act or manner. If it is, of course, reasonable, I don’t mind so much. But ‘out of the blue’ meanness is always so alarming and unnecessary – because it is.
5. Complexity when it could be simpler, quicker and easier – whatever that may be. This includes long-winded people, unnecessarily sesquipedalian in spoken or written words.
6. Very slow people – kinda related to number 5 as I always feel they are drawing out simple things like walking, talking, thinking or living in a pointed attempt to waste precious seconds of my life. This excludes small children, the injured and elderly because I’m only partly an egotistical, self-centered ass. I kind of half-ass being an ass really.
7. Doing things on other people’s time frames – this includes keeping office hours, school hours or any system requiring me to be unnaturally somewhere before I am mentally and emotionally ready. Yes I did write 5 & 6 – yes I am aware of the irony.
8. Doing things I don’t want to do . . . a no-brainer. Sometimes this means everything. Because doing nothing is a thing I am practicing and I believe it is good for the soul.
9. Spending time on things that aren’t important to me or to the people who are important to me – especially pointless things like family reunions with Uncle Bob you haven’t seen for 30 years and will never see again but have to spend 3 hours discussing empty nothings with. If Uncle Bob has something interesting to say – no 9 falls away.
10. When people don’t keep their promises and commitments
11. Lies – especially obvious ones because just how stupid do you think I am? (rhetorical, thanks)
14. Walter Matthau the actor – don’t ask me why but he’s passed away now so it’s moot.
15. Unfairness – especially when blatant wrongs happen to defenseless beings like animals and small children.
16. Being touched by people I don’t know – this just happened again – a random pat on the back by a strange man in a yellow shirt. . . space invaders! Pfaugh!
17. Being touched by people I DO know – when I haven’t invited them into my space.
18. Being spoken to at all in the morning before I am fully awake (around 2pm if I get up at 7am).
19. Wilful ignorance due to the inability to use google and snopes . . . and the spreading of wilful ignorance due to the same laziness. I once did this – about a horse I thought needing rehoming – I now know better.
Ok – look I can go on . . . and all I am doing is mostly revealing my many, many past (mostly past, I really hope – I am a work in progress) faults . . . it’s ok – I’m cool with that. I’m a faulty human like we all are.
I suppose it also highlights my middle-class problems are not as serious as those of a starving Biafran.
When any of the above LIST occurred, I would go into a lovely loop of “it shouldn’t be this way”, “how ridiculous”, “how very dare they”, “someone has to DO something – me, I will do it”, “I’ll show them they can’t behave that way – then they will learn”, “grrrrrrr” etc and then action would quickly follow. Cutting emails or if I was feeling sassy, even phone calls or direct face-to-face confrontation. Complaints, reasoning, an attempt to change how things were, to control my world so it obeyed my strict requirements and I could attain that Inner Peace thing I wanted. Generally there wasn’t much ‘learning’.
The point is that generally all the fight, all the right and all the stubbornness I threw at any of the above simply didn’t work. Not really. It escalated, it became unpleasant, people lost things, feelings and people were damaged, alcohol was drunk, inner peace was an impossible dream.
I’m not saying that some of my fights were necessarily wrong, per say.
But that isn’t the point either.
All of my fighting – all of my angst and rage – and especially the gnashing – even for the really important things – were a total waste of my time and instead of changing the world or improving anything just broke me and others down. Regardless of the rights and wrongs.
I get that now.
It’s not that I just give in weakly to everything and everyone now. I still protect and defend and try and plan, and draw the line, and in fact am quite big on boundaries.
Funnily enough the AA 12-step program includes surrender too – by surrendering to the fact you have pain and problems – by allowing them to be – you open up the path to healing – instead of fighting and denying and squashing them down with addictions.
But I have found a measure of inner peace I didn’t think possible.
It’s first and foremost in my head.
1. I SURRENDER – to me this means to stop the inner ‘pulling and pushing’, to stop the mental forcing. Every force being met with equal and opposite resistance/reaction even if it’s just in my head. This is Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. You can see this easily in any conflict situation – the more force you bring the more you will face. All this jostling around in your head and heart is EXHAUSTING – so I stopped. I think this is what they mean by ‘letting go’.
2. I began hunting down and killing ‘should and shouldn’ts’ – they are simply indications of what other people think or want – if you really stop to think of every sentence you put a should in – it’s probably not something YOU really want, is it?
3. I realised there are other ways to achieve what I want – other than fight and force . . . things like asking, exploring options, using honey rather than vinegar, walking away, leaning in, and so on – you’ve got this – keep going with your own examples. I don’t see why I ‘should’ do all the work
4. Having a goal – but not ATTACHING emotionally to it. So I would like that holiday in Italy, I will work towards saving for it, but if something else comes up that means it can’t happen in my time frame – or at all – I will shrug it off. My being – who I am and my value – is NOT ATTACHED to that thing. Some people call this ‘going with the flow’ or ‘it is what it is’. Do what you can, accept what you can’t do, make another plan.
5. Don’t make it personal – most things – surprisingly – including mean people being mean to you – have nothing to do with you. It’s all about their own pain, their own stuff they are figuring it out. Let them do them and you do you.
6. You are the reed, or water, or whatever bendy, flowy thing you want to be – you pick. Flow around the obstacle – so if traffic is a bitch – and there is no other route you can take – call ahead – listen to an audio book or the radio or hum or whatever – and chill the hell out . . . because really – all that energy spent in resistance – crying ‘lord, why is this happening to ME?’ is time and energy completely wasted. It achieves nothing.
7. It doesn’t matter! Whatever it is – in 5 or 10 years, or minutes, people will have moved on . . . so should you. This doesn’t apply to important ‘life or death’ or ‘causing others pain’ type things – these DO matter. But most of the rest is not as important as you think. Get some perspective – go watch the news about starving children in Ghana and then come tell me your broken shoe heel is a big deal.
8. Beneath the need to fight and control lies fear . . . surrendering that is rather brave not weak.
So your ego will pop up occasionally – and you will find yourself becoming angry and in resistance to WHAT IS. That’s ok – because now you are wise enough to recognise what is happening. Right?
But what to do?
The 3 Ws generally work for me – WAIT (a few minutes/hours/days) for the emotions to calm down – they will. WONDER what triggered me and why? If it’s something as silly as some rude ass in traffic PERSPECTIVE comes into it. Getting riled up about incidental frustrations you really have no control over is like a broken pencil – pointless. Lastly I ask WHAT would my higher self do? By that I mean what would a kind, loving thing be to do – what would a nice human do?
I would like to end this with an excerpt from my most recent AHA book – Without and Within. This does not mean I’m about to wind a long, white sheet around my torso and go sit on a hill – hills are exposed and windy and I’d make a terrible guru . . . but the way they explain it helped me, so maybe it will help you.
“The Buddha said that all of his teachings, traditionally numbered as 84,000, could be reduced to just two: dukkha and the end of dukkha. Suffering, in its sense of physical or mental distress, is only the coarsest expression of dukkha. Dukkha could also be translated as a chronic sense of lack, or a flaw or incompleteness of experience . . . [attachment] cannot provide lasting peace. Put most simply, dukkha might be expressed as a lack of true happiness”. Tanhā is the desire that arises from a basic misunderstanding of the way things are: perceiving permanence, happiness and self-hood where they do not exist. Desire for the pleasures to be had through getting, getting rid of and becoming is Tanhā. Tanhā leads to personal suffering and is the basis of almost all social ills. Chanda is the desire that arises from a correct understanding of the way things are. At its heart lies the aspiration for truth and goodness. Desire to do well, desire to act well, desire to act kindly, desire to act wisely – all desires based on an aspiration for the true and good lead to personal fulfilment and healthy communities. [We] constantly create suffering for ourselves by grasping onto the body and its senses, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, emotions as being “me” or “mine”. Learning how to abandon that habit is learning how to”let go”. . . Knowing that no effort we make exists in a vacuum, that it will always be affected to some degree by conditions over which we have no control, we let go of our demands and expectations for the future. We create the best possible conditions for reaching our goals, and then let go of the results”
So I am learning to surrender – I am not giving up, I am not giving in, but I am learning to let go, and flow . . . and it feels good! And the funny thing is – the more I am able to apply this – the easier life gets and the more often I seem to get what I need or achieve a useful outcome for all. Those things I thought I needed to fight for before are happening naturally without me forcing them. Maybe not always in the time frame I think I want – but they happen.
I have found such peace.
I am beginning to sound way too shiny and happy and zen – so all I can say is give it a bash. Test it out for yourself – then tell me I’m a fruit-loop and I will shrug and accept that.
But for me I know tomorrow will bring its frustrations and my resistance to them – but every day I get better and better at chilling the hell out. And once you GET this life hack you NEVER want to go back . . .