I recently heard a recording of Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, the president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, in her first address to IONS Shift in Action members. She spoke of the current projects of the Institute and their importance in today's world. Toward the end of the talk, she made a comment, almost in passing, about our need to "surrender to 'what is' so that it can change".
Surrender to "what is" so that it can change. As soon as I heard that statement, I turned off the recording to sit with that idea. I, and I think most people, think of surrender as having to do with me - what I must do so that I can move on, whatever that may mean in the moment. When I heard Marilyn Mandala Schlitz say those words, I realized that, of course, if I'm holding on to a belief, perspective, practice, or way of doing things, then through that act of holding on to energy, I'm not only preventing myself from moving on - I'm holding onto the "what is" or the situation as well. In some way, I am keeping it from changing, even if I wish it were different.
I was aware that some part of me knew this already, yet in that moment when I heard her speak those words, a voice inside of me said very loudly, "Listen to what she is saying. This is important. This is a critical paradigm shift for the world."
Surrender to "what is" so that it can change. Healing is ultimately about coming to wholeness. Beloved American spiritual teacher Ram Dass has been an important teacher for me on this topic. In his book, Still Here, he talks about healing as letting "what is" take you closer to God. Years ago when I first read that book, this idea further expanded my thinking about healing. At the time, I interpreted "what is" as something that will not change - something we must accept, make our peace with, and move on. After all, Ram Dass' "what is" when he wrote that book was that he had suffered a devastating stroke and his life would never be the same. There were some things he would simply never be able to do again.
Now, some years later, I hear Marilyn Mandala Schlitz talk about surrendering to what is so that it can change. Not me changing it, but it changing. This opens another door. What if the journey toward God also includes letting go of the world as we have known it to be so that it can find its next incarnation, its next level of evolution? What if the journey towards God isn't about "fixing" the world, but rather about surrendering to where the world is in its evolutionary process so that it can continue evolving? On a personal level, what if it means not trying to fix your life or situations, but rather to surrender to "what is" in your life so that your life can continue on its forward evolutionary path? If we accept that there is an Evolutionary Intelligence seeing a bigger picture and leading the way, whether you call that God or Consciousness or something else, then by design is our evolutionary path not trying to lead us toward our greatest potential?
This idea is not yet a part of our mass consciousness. We are conditioned to have an opinion, thought, or goal, and to keep a firm hold on the wheel to steer life in that direction. When things seem to be falling apart or some aspect of our life is threatened, we are conditioned to hold on even more tightly and steer it back on course or "fix it" as quickly as possible. Even if we "turn it over to God", often our way of doing that is to pray that it will all be right again. And usually "right" means back to the way it was or how we desperately want it to be. Surrender demands letting go. In the West we tend to think of surrender as "giving up". However the Eastern philosophies offer a much more expansive perspective, thinking of surrender as "giving over"- giving over your will to something larger, a greater force or power such as God, Spirit, Consciousness, or Evolutionary Intelligence. For me, surrender to "what is" has meant giving over my will, desire, or perceived need to the greater Consciousness and trusting that, if I paid attention and kept expanding my awareness, I would be led to the best choices, decisions, actions, and relationship to the situation. It has meant trusting that there is something bigger that wants to happen in this situation, and surrendering to that larger wave. Paying attention and constantly expanding awareness are critical to this process.
As I reflect on Ms. Schlitz's statement, I realize that by surrendering to the "what is", I not only free myself to shift to a higher awareness and action - I also set the situation free from my energetic holds on it so that it can shift, heal, and evolve. I open to the possibility that the situation is merely a sign that a greater energy is waiting to be unleashed. If I will pay attention and trust, it can show me the new path it wants to take, and in turn show me new perspectives and new actions that I can take to help steward that potential into reality. Now my surrender has become about much more than me.
Again, part of me says, "Well of course, Alan - that's just the laws of nature at work. When you hold on within yourself, you also hold on energetically to everything around you, restricting movement, growth, expansion, and evolution." I can observe that in others, yet in my personal situations, even with my sincere desire to find the best outcome or resolution for everyone involved, I can get caught up in fears, doubt, or resistance to change without realizing it. Even with our best intentions, it is easy to telescope in and only see the close-up picture with self at the center.
Surrender to "what is" so that it can change. We know that everything is energy. We know that energy cannot be created or destroyed - it can only be transformed. We also know that energy is not "local"-it is not restricted to a specific space and time. When we have a strong feeling, whether at its essence that feeling is love or fear, and that feeling takes over our lives, it then spills out from our energy field and into the energy fields all around us. Energy is in constant motion or vibration. The result is constant change. When we clamp down on that energy and try to hold it so that it doesn't change or try to force it in a certain direction, we keep that energy from its natural state of evolution. By doing this, in effect we are saying to the greater Consciousness that we do not trust the natural forward evolutionary process. We are saying that we have a better idea-that we know what needs to happen and we are going to ensure that it does! Meanwhile, there may be a much bigger shift trying to happen that we are unable to see-a shift that would serve the greater good of the situation and even of our world. Yet by holding on tightly, we keep that shift from happening. Or at least we slow it down.
Surrender to "what is" so that it can change. Perhaps this concept speaks so loudly to me right now because letting go seems to be a current theme in my life. My soul and the greater Consciousness seems to be asking me to let go everywhere I turn. My life and work is taking another big step forward, and the only way that can happen is if I am willing to surrender to the greater potential trying to unfold. This has, on the whole, been an incredibly liberating experience, although I admit that sometimes I catch myself meeting the initial invitation to let go with some old resistance! I'm getting better and better at recognizing the resistance as soon as it appears and asking it what it needs. After all, why do we hold on? And what is it that we are actually holding on to? On quick observation, we may identify something on the surface that doesn't feel right and therefore we react with resistance. Yet there is usually more to it than that. The fear, doubt or resistance is actually trying to be our friend to help us recognize some part of us deep inside that still needs to heal, to come into wholeness, or just to be heard.
So we hold on because there is an unresolved need within. And that need is usually grounded in a fear that our lives will change in some way and never be the same again.
Why do we resist change so much? In his book, Mastery, George Leonard addresses this question more clearly than anyone else I've read or heard. He says that the body is designed to maintain stasis on every level-heart rate, temperature, organ and system functions, and much more, including our emotional and feeling states. The body immediately goes on red alert whenever anything threatens that stasis because it perceives that its life is at risk. In response, all systems jump in to solve the problem as quickly as possible and return the body to stasis so as to avert a crisis.
Because our feelings and emotions are so tied to our physiology, any change, whether it is excitement or fear, can cause the body to react. We can perceive that reaction as a sign that something isn't right, and therefore pull back from the change or action we are about to undertake or the new thought or concept we are considering adapting. Our basic physical survival mechanism will resist anything that it perceives to be a threat.
When we can recognize what is going on-that the body is just doing its job of making sure that we survive-we can reassure the body that we are going to be alright, surrender to the liberating change that is trying to happen, and allow our own process of transformation and evolution. At the same time, we do our part to allow the transformation and evolution of our life situations and circumstances. In the even bigger picture, as we allow our lives and circumstances to transform and evolve, we do our part to allow the world to continue to evolve and transform, perhaps even accelerating the process.
Surrender to "what is" so that the "what is" can change. Our work, our relationships, our families, our homes-everything about our lives and our world, including our economic situation!-is energy in motion. Therefore, by nature, things will constantly change. If we want to fully participate in our own evolution and transformation and the evolution and transformation of our world, we must be willing to let go of attachments to forms as soon as they are created. As wonderful as something may be, we must be willing to let go of our need or attachment to a relationship staying the same, to our careers following a certain course, to a friend always being as we want them to be, to our habitual ways of doing things, to a belief never being challenged, to our world economic system always giving us what we want.
Transformation and evolution require death and new birth. When we hold on tightly to anything, we keep evolution and transformation from happening. We stifle our own growth. Surrender to "what is" so that it can change. What's a significant "what is" that is asking you to surrender? Where are you being asked to give over your will, practice, or approach to a greater potential? Where are you being asked to trust that a greater potential is waiting?
Consider surrender, even if just for a day. Surrender to "what is" and see what doors open, what new possibilities are revealed, and what is waiting to be liberated both within you and within the next great unfolding of your life and our world.