Learning to Surrender
It's interesting the way a series of events and a collection of seemingly unrelated bits of data somehow come into form, or meaning, or understanding in our brains, or in our bodies, or in our consciousness. Something shifts. Insight descends, god only knows how. What causes or leads to an epiphany, we have to wonder. At the lowest level, it's a mash-up of data, isn't it? Seemingly random and unconnected bits of experience come together and bond into a new form, like when new elements formed out of the Big Bang. There's suddenly a new "thing" in the manifest world, a new level of complexity and understanding, a clarity about something. Sometimes we are totally clueless about the components of the mash-up that results in epiphany. But at other times, we can actually re-trace our steps, or our thinking, and begin to recognize a pattern forming long before we knew what was going on.
This happened to me Saturday morning, while I was waiting for my car to be serviced at the VW dealership. I was sitting in the waiting room, drinking the luke-warm coffee from the thermos, enduring the endless sports reports that played on the ginormous flat screen TV that dominates the room.
I was reading Stoner by John Williams. Totally immersed in it, in fact. Then something caused me to pause—undoubtedly Williams’ stunning prose style, each sentence a deep dive into the glories of syntactic alchemy. I had to stop reading, hold yet another beautiful sentence a moment longer. I looked up and out the window at the traffic speeding by on Lee Road. There were balloons hovering above every table in the show room, making the scene seem buoyant and colorful, but garish too. Traffic blurred out the window, and it seemed odd that people were speeding around at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, trying desperately to get to their weekend.
And seemingly out of the blue (though we know otherwise), I had an epiphany. I knew like I had never known before that I was being asked to surrender. It was an actual sentence that formed in my mind: surrender everything to Spirit. I thought of a line shared with me by Karen Blumenthal, who was quoting therapist Carolyn Bender: "The word 'surrender' doesn't begin to cover what you have to do to work with God." The statement shot through my solar plexus and pain radiated into my arms, hands, and fingers. I felt hot. I might have thought heart attack, but I knew otherwise. This was the ancient piercing of realization. I was receiving something I've resisted for years, and such receiving is often painful, as well as transformative.
I have to back track a bit. A few weeks ago, I visited an energetic intuitive, one of the most profound experiences I've had. It's still too early for me to really talk intelligently about what happened in that tiny room as I sat in a straight-back chair, knee-to-knee with a small, common-looking woman who seemed to absorb my energy, stir it around in her consciousness, describe it to me, and then miraculously release it from my body. This experience was not linear, cognitive, intellectual, not even physical. It was my first experience feeling the energetic body and understanding a tiny bit of its presence, and its power.
Her efforts on my behalf (which were subtle from my vantage point, and not a little disconcerting) led to a purging of what she called dark and sticky energy in my gut, the second chakra. This energy, she said, was made of old patterns, old fears, old ways that no longer serve my life work. "You are being called to drop the old way of doing business (and life), and asked to work in a new way."
But what does that mean? I asked. Like a child playing with a Ouija board, I wanted a “yes or a no,” a “do this or a do that” solution. I was willing to do things differently, even eager to do things differently, but I really wanted her to tell me what to do. "What does ‘doing things differently’ mean?" I asked. "How do I do that?"
She laughed and said that was my job to figure out. You're a writer, she said. (I had told her nothing of my life.) You must write about this and you will figure out what to do.
That was June 25, in Rhinebeck, NY, while I was on a yoga retreat at the Omega Institute. For the last six weeks, I've tried to figure out what "doing things differently" would look like in my life. I've brought all my skills of mind to bear on this question. I've thought, I've analyzed, I've written, I've made charts, I’ve created schedules, I've made intentions, I've prayed and meditated on the topic.
But of course, all that is the "old way" of doing things for Lezlie: Figure it out! Get it straight. Make a plan. Take action steps. It didn't occur to me that these were the very approaches that I was being asked to drop, or at least stop privileging. It took my good friend and therapist Becky Nickol telling me that coming up with a new time-management system on my calendar was not going to get at the core of this issue. "This is not a time-management problem, Lezlie. There's a deeper issue here that you have to address." Of course.
I was focusing on the word "doing" and, being an expert at "doing," I put all my efforts into creating new action. When just the opposite was being asked of me. Stop acting, and instead, simply surrender. Turn it ALL over. That's it, Lezlie. Over and over again. Minute by minute. Because a minute is just about as long as my puny brain can actually hold on to the outrageous act of surrender, so programmed am I to be in charge. So deluded am I to think it's possible to be in charge. So hard wired am I to try to fix, organize, plan, implement, follow-through, envision, and carry on.
This is my lesson. This has always been my lesson, and I've been learning it in tiny bits most of my life. I've been taking in the lesson in the small ways that I've been capable of taking it in. But somehow, some way, by grace or by accident, something different happened Saturday morning allowing me to experience "surrender" at the cellular level. At the soul level.
So now what? That’s the question the old Lezlie would ask. Now what do I do?
Here’s an option: Learn to sit in this space, this openness, this tentativeness. Learn to postpone the call to action. Accept the discomfort of not knowing. Remember that in this space of surrender brilliance emerges. Do I have the stamina, the resilience, the heart to hold this space? I pray so.