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  • Elyn Joy

To Surrender is To Be Free

Nature understands the idea of letting go, of accepting things as they are and surrendering to what is. A pine tree doesn’t say to itself, “I think I’d rather be an oak.” The stream doesn’t reverse its course and lumber up the mountain. Even the seasons accept their order and wear their changes gracefully.

Meanwhile, we cultivate an ill-fated love affair with control. We set up schedules, order our possessions, and believe that the people around us will fall in line with our plans. We like to think that everything will be perfect as long as we are in control. We measure our homes, our jobs, our bodies, and even our children against standards set by others, forgetting that we are already perfect just as we are! And we can control external circumstances no more than can the palm tree direct the hurricane. So we're much better off following Nature’s lead and learning how to just let go.

We can start by surrendering to those unexpected forces that turn our expectations into disappointments. You know them when they happen: plans fall through due to rain or late trains or illness. People change, friends move, and sometimes tragedy sends us reeling. It's all about how we react when life breaks and shakes our best-laid designs. In that small space between what we expect and what is, we are offered the opportunity to choose. We can fight against the course of life, or we can follow the example of Nature, whose song is one of continuous growth and change.

Water is a great teacher in this regard. It is both strong and gentle, constant and shifting, in one place yet linked to the entire world’s water cycle at the same moment. The river understands that to surrender to the flow does not mean to stop moving. It epitomizes the idea of “holding opposites,” a state of awareness that allows for dual, if not multiple, perspectives or possibilities in any situation. We can both make our plans and commit to accepting whatever may arise. We can desire change in our lives while simultaneously feeling contentment in things as they are. Like the water, we can use our breath as practice. Inhale, and the air flows in, filling us, and then out, emptying us. Fill and empty. Acquire and return. Strive and surrender. Hold and let go.

Of course, remembering all this may prove challenging when a pipe has burst and the basement is flooding, when someone rudely cuts us off in traffic, or when a loved one is suffering and we feel utterly helpless. In such times our sense of inner stability may teeter or fracture. Yet even the seed must crack open to bring forth life... and when it does, the light is just a push away.

Accepting our lives in the present moment opens us to a magical realm wherein all possibilities exist. Surrendering in this way does not render us as passive observers in our lives. Nor does it keep us from taking action, making plans, or working towards the fulfillment of our goals and dreams. Rather, it’s a subtle movement, an internal shift, a stepping out of our own way to bring the best in ourselves to every moment. It is the simple understanding of yielding to, rather than opposing, the flow of life.

We are part of a Universe that works through and with us, not despite us. Need proof? One Hubble Deep Field image shows 10,000 points of light against a deep black backdrop. These dots appear as stars—yet each is an entire galaxy harboring an average of a hundred billion suns. We can view them only as they appeared eons ago, since their light has taken billions of years to reach us. In witnessing these far-away worlds, we are time-travelers empowered by the vastness of our minds, infinitesimal as we may be.

How can we help but surrender our worldly annoyances when we fathom the grand perfection in which we play a part?

So take a breath. Be grateful. Ask for the lessons, and look for the blessings. And then, as the Beatles wisely put it, “Let it be.”

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