There is a lot of talk in the self-help cosmos that’s focused on manifesting the life that you want through visualizations, and affirmations. I believe that these practices work – when done correctly. However, when overly simplified, the theory becomes misinterpreted into “if you focus on what you want for long enough, and hard enough, it will absolutely become a reality”. I believe in the benefits of visualizations, affirmations and “positive thinking”. However, when these concepts are taken out of context and coupled with the (particularly American) philosophy that success is achieved through mastery and control, we can end up creating situations that are more judgment than joy.
Some people may be able to achieve their goals through domination and sheer force of will. That seems more exhausting than exhilarating to me. For most of us, and certainly for me, the desire to control can leave us constantly battling with the twins of perfectionism and failure. Instead of cultivating contentment, we end up sowing the seeds of guilt, criticism, judgment and pain. I am learning that there is an alternative – surrender.
I don’t know about you, but just typing the word pushes my ego’s need for control to its limits. But if we’re completely honest, we all know that being in control is really just a fantasy. We have no control over other people; we have no control over the weather or the economy. We have no control over the many of the circumstances we find ourselves in. The only thing we ever have control over is ourselves and how we choose to think, act and react; our thoughts, feelings and actions. Everything else is truly beyond our ability to control.
You can apply for a job, but you can’t force someone to hire you. You can focus on being a loving partner but you can’t make someone else love you. You can eat well, sleep enough and exercise, but you will still die eventually. Those statements can seem terrifying without a willingness to surrender.
So, if we understand that we really have no control over anything outside of ourselves, why do we struggle with surrender? I think it’s because we confuse giving in with giving up. They are not the same thing.
Giving up is passive. Giving up is quitting. Giving up leads to a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and depression.
Giving in – surrender – is active. Surrendering is the opposite of giving up; the opposite of quitting. Surrendering requires perseverance and faith. Surrendering means that you don’t waste any energy on things that are beyond your control. Instead you focus all of your energy and attention on the things that are within your control – yourself. Surrendering leads to peace, empowerment, and joy.
Surrender keeps you connected and present. Even in painful situations, you can experience a calmness and sense of peace because you know that you are riding on the current of your experience rather than struggling against it. Surrender keeps you engaged in the reality of your circumstances.
Surrender is a decision. Acknowledging and embracing the reality of a situation allows you to choose your role in it. You maintain complete control over how you choose to act and react.
Surrender is drama free. It requires no fanfare. Giving up almost always requires blame, exasperation and a dramatic display.
Surrender is not weakness; it is not giving up; it does not mean that you are weak or didn’t try. It means that you have done everything that you can and are consciously choosing to acknowledge the limits of your control. Surrender is empowering!
Let me go back to visualization and manifestation for just a moment. I believe in these practices. I believe that they work – if done correctly. Practicing manifestation means that you decide what you want, acknowledge it, and then release it to the Universe. Yep, the process is contingent on surrender, not on control. You can’t manifest by obsessing over your desires or trying to coerce them into being. You manifest by getting a clear picture of the outcome you desire and then surrendering that outcome to the Universe.
When you don’t know what to do – stop. Do nothing. Breathe deeply and listen. I’m learning that there is a difference between perseverance and struggle. Giving in is not giving up. Surrender to the knowledge that a higher power is working. You may be fighting the very thing that is working in your favor.
Relax into the flow of your current circumstances and the guidance you desire will arrive – and it probably won’t look the way you expected. That’s the true measure of faith, isn’t it? To float upon the waves even when they’re frightening, to trust that the current is taking you to shore even when you can’t see it?
Trust. Believe. Surrender. There is a greater force at work.