Finding Peace in Chaos: The Power of Surrender
by Gary Stamper
There is a war going on and you may or may not know about it. It is being fought on the internal and external planes of our existence. It is the war for our consciousness and the stakes could not be higher.
As we approach the third decade of the 21st century, more and more of us are becoming increasingly aware of how difficult these times are. We can see the changes all around us and they are not all good. For the first time in our history of this version of humankind, we stand on the precipices of extinction or totalitarianism. It is easy to see our situation as hopeless and for us to feel powerless in the face of the problems before us.
But we also stand on the edge of the greatest awakening humankind is ever seen.
It is the 21st-century version of the oldest battle on the planet: the battle between “good”’ and “evil.” Only now, with our new awareness arising, many of us realize that it’s much more complex than that.
We are now beginning to realize that there is no “they,” that we are they, and they are us. We’re the ones who have brought us to these sharp-edged precipices, and there is only ourselves to blame. We are complicit through our lack of responsibility, our laziness, and our willingness to be bought off by material things and unnecessary comforts. We have allowed ourselves to become divided, to believe we are separate, not one, and we have largely lost our humanity, our connection to each other.
We are taught, and we have accepted, to blame others for our situation. It’s the international bankers, it’s the government, it’s the corporations, it’s the blacks, it’s the whites, it’s the other religion, it’s the money system, it’s the industrial-military complex. Actually, all of these things are just different versions of control that is interconnected. The control is very deep and goes back thousands of years. It is ingrained in our psyches, and we allow it to exist by our lack of awareness and our willingness to be controlled.
How Do We Free Ourselves?
First, we need to free ourselves from the beliefs that we will win this battle or the belief that the battle can’t be won. Ultimately, it is not winning or losing that matters. It is the struggle that matters. By surrendering to whatever emerges. Surrender is not the same thing as quitting.
Osho, the Indian mystic, guru and spiritual teacher, told a story about surrender in The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol. 4, chapter 4: Let Go of the Branch:
The man was so surprise, he almost lost his grip on the branch. “Please God, you are wrong, I really mean it; I will believe.”
“Oh no, you won’t. That’s what they all say.”
The man pleaded and argued. Finally God said, ”Alright, I will save you. Let go of the branch.“
“Let go the branch?” The man exclaimed. “Do you think I am crazy?”
Osho explained, even when we have nothing to lose we are afraid to surrender. The man says, “Let go of the branch? Do you think I am crazy?” Hanging onto this branch in the cold wind, and his grip every moment becoming weaker and weaker and still he is not ready to surrender.
The problem is not somewhere outside; the problem is within us. We have to be saved from ourselves. In surrender, we drop the enemy that is us. In that very dropping, the inner darkness disappears. When we surrender, in that very surrender something happens and our inner light starts burning, our inner light starts becoming clear. Clouds disappear.
We want to change the world, we want things to be how we think they should be, while in reality, one of the great secrets is that we are the only thing we can change. Our desire to change the world, and how we go about it, is often situated in our need to be control freaks.
In an article called Let Go of Control: How to Learn the Art of Surrender, by Dr. Amy Johnson, on the blog tiny buddha, she says there are three things she knows about trying to control things:
We try to control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t. In other words, control is rooted in fear.
To control is also a result of being attached to a specific outcome – an outcome we're sure is best for us, as if we always know what’s best. When we trust that we’re okay no matter what circumstances come our way, we don’t need to micromanage the universe. We let go. And we often open ourselves all sorts of wonderful possibilities that aren’t there when read attached to one “right” path.
The energy of surrender accomplishes much more than the energy of control. I suspect it’s slightly different for everyone, but here’s what control mode looks and feels like for me. My vision gets very narrow and focused, my breath is shallow, adrenaline is pumping and my heart rate increases. My mind shifts from topic to topic and from past to future very quickly, and I have little concentration, poor memory, and almost no present-moment awareness.
She goes on to say, “so the great irony is that attempting to control things actually feels less in control. When I’m micro-managing and obsessing over details, I know I’m in my own way.
The Practice of Surrender
Like most of the major changes in our lives, surrender is not something we can usually just decide to do on the spur of the moment. Just as the man on the limb in the story above could not let go, even though he realized he would eventually not be able to hold on any longer, there are too many obstacles in our way for us to suddenly just decide to do it. There is cultural conditioning, fear, ego, as was also pointed out above, there are the control issues we all find within ourselves. We use controlling thoughts negatively in relationships, within the “what if” situations, with our health, in love, and in all aspects of our lives including immediate threats like climate change that seem totally out of our control.
It’s no wonder we cannot learn to surrender. We have come to believe that we can control anything outside of ourselves, and it is an illusion. We do, however, have the ability to choose our thoughts and responses to everything.
So let me suggest a couple of ways we can begin to learn how to surrender:
Using the words I surrender as a mantra, we can create a simple shift in our thought patterns that have the possibility of letting go of the session and move into the natural flow of whatever momentary thought pattern we find ourselves in.
We can also use I surrender as an affirmation about a particular situation. Simply apply it to solve your challenges, and say it as if it is already true.
Pay attention when you find yourself in a stressful situation that you cannot change, and consciously allow yourself to surrender.
No matter how you surrender, whether it’s “let go and let God,” by creating affirmations and mantras, there is a certain peace that comes with complete helplessness.
Here’s the difference between surrendering and giving up:
Surrendering comes without drama, while giving up almost always feels like dramatic exasperation and putting the blame on others who must surely be at fault.
Surrendering is a decision that allows you to remain engaged. When we surrender we have chosen our role, and giving up is more like a way out.
Surrender brings a sense of peace even in a painful situation, where giving up feels like a loss, incompletion and unfulfilling.
Surrender isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of great strength, and the ability to surrender and drop the conflict around a particular situation can change your life.
And maybe even the world.
An excerpt from the poem “Surrender” – by Rumi
Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different.
Translation: Coleman Banks