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 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? What if surrender 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?
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 surrender and peace or joy.
What if that fundamental attitude of “I am happy to be here” is all that is required for 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 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.
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 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 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 on top of whatever else is happening?
Surrender and happiness could be much simpler than we have believed. Instead of 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, surrender 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. 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 surrender to the mix.
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.”