As a kid, I dreaded having to say, "uncle." Red-faced and sweating, I would struggle with all my strength to avoid getting pinned on the playground. Capitulation was shame. I fought against it with blind fury.
But mindful surrender isn't giving up, it's opening up. And opening up takes guts.
Of course, I didn't know it as a kid, but courageous, indomitable people don't need to "win" by subjugating someone else. They reject the idea of one-up/one-down. They never judge, blame or shame. They surrender judgment because they choose compassion.
And compassion, which is equal parts attention and love, begins with acceptance. Acceptance of what is.
READY TO SURRENDER?
We can start by being aware -- non-judgmentally -- of our bodies, our senses and our emotions as well as our thoughts.
We can start by acknowledging all the mental detours we make from "what is" into "what was" or "what might be" -- detours to bitterness, anger, fear, anxiety, regret, denigration, exaggeration, despair. Then we can let them all go.
We can start by making space for what's happening right now -- inside us and around us. This space is fertile -- the moment we open to it, we start to change, to learn, to grow.
Think of it as inhabiting truth moment by moment. Think of it as mindfulness. Think of it as heartfulness or even kindfulness.
Just remember, it takes courage to accept first and judge never.
WE ARE THE CENTER
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."
-- W.B Yeats (from "The Second Coming")
Mindful surrender is especially important when it comes to community.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a program offered in more than 700 centers around the world. But for him, mindfulness is a gateway to more than personal health and well-being.
"If it's not about social justice," he told the Wisdom 2.0 conference in February, "we all might as well go home."
You see, Yeats was wrong. The center can hold. We can make it hold because we define it through our attention, our awareness, our presence. We can choose to hear the falconer because she calls to us from inside ourselves -- through the truth of our own experience, through our own being.
Of course, to hold the center is not easy. We must teach ourselves to listen. To our breath. To a stranger. To the night sky. To everything.
We must attend to silence without and stillness within -- as Eckhart Tolle writes. We must be witnesses and participants in the wonder of our lives. We must welcome what is -- on the surface and deep inside.
That's the way the revolution starts. Not with a bang, but surrender.
ALL MUST FLOWER
We often look outside for belonging and community. Yet the best connection to others grows through our own compassion, and that begins within.
There is a beautiful irony here. We embrace compassion first by acknowledging of our own judging. Once acknowledged, this judging may be surrendered -- willingly, with courage, with joy. A new sense of kinship arises with everyone and everything. In this way, compassion unites us, leads us to love, and improves all dimensions of being.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, speaking at this year's Wisdom 2.0 conference, described the wonderful combination of agility and authenticity that awareness brings to relationships -- the heart and soul and muscle and bone of our communities.
"Mindfulness is all about 'relationality.' As soon as we understand we can rotate in relationship to the mind, the body, the breath, technology, your spouse or partner, your children, your parents, the planet, global warming -- action emerges, passion emerges, compassion emerges."
Such "relationality," as he puts it, can liberate us from suffering.
"Just pour energy into the present moment and into the body and into your attention and that will transform your relationship to the unwanted -- stress, pain, illness -- to say nothing of greed, hatred and delusion."
In essence, he says we can transform the world by being mindful.
"There's a new field in medicine, health care and neuroscience ... and now business and the tech world. Something is not only emerging, it's in some sense exploding. I think it's a manifestation of hunger, longing, starvation. I think we are actually as a species starving or thirsting for some kind of authentic experience that ... we have realized is not going to come from the outside or [the] acquisition of material possessions or any other thing you want to identify and pursue ... that there's something that's more inward that's actually more distributive. It's in all of us ... It's something that when it's cultivated inwardly and shared outwardly in community, we come into ourselves ... This is a global phenomenon that, if it's going to be truly healing and transformative, will require every single one of us to flower fully in this lifetime."
THE GREAT ADVENTURE
When we accept what is, we accept ourselves. As is. Not achieving or failing, flawed or superior, above or below average. Just being.
This doesn't preclude change. It empowers it.
Establishing a spiritual GPS and tracking it in real-time is the ad-lib itinerary of any deep personal journey. Here, mindful surrender is exploration. The opportunity to discover yourself as you encounter everyone and everything in your life -- no matter how the journey unfolds.
This is the great human adventure. Available to us all for free. The chance to live out T.S. Eliot's famous lines from "Little Gidding," the last of his Four Quartets:
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
When do you begin your journey of discovery?
A TALL TALE
One of the most delightful demonstrations of surrender is a smile spontaneously dawning on someone's face.
Please think of the following story as an invitation to smile.
God bless you.