There is nothing underneath you now except the mystery. That convenient assemblage of fragile assumptions that guided your life now lie in ruin. The delusion of stability, permanence, and constancy is replaced by a fierce reality. The familiar routines that once grounded you are now infested with feelings of irrelevance. Anxiety screams at you to maintain the routine, while the shadow, those abandoned parts of your true identity, mercilessly hacks away at the encrusted veneer of your frightened ego. The repertoire of masks you hide behind has become completely transparent. You stare at the assemblage of roles you cling to and then, in an unexpected act of grace, you simply let go. And, finally, exhausted from trying to hold on to the familiar at all costs, you surrender to the life that is waiting for you just outside the realm of your comprehension.
Surrender is an act of courage in the midst of deep apprehension and vulnerability. To surrender may require letting go of a career that we have spent years building, a long-term relationship that has lost its vitality, or a pattern of being that makes us feel miserable. Or it may be a way to lean into the experience of aging in order to find a way to make peace with the requirements of growing older.
Sometimes, in the midst of our effort to surrender, the ego clings to the old ways merely because they are familiar. Simultaneously, our soul advises that the familiar ways are unfulfilling and empty, as if our life narrative has become mired in a bog of existential irrelevance. This profound and remarkably painful tension generated between clinging to the familiar and finding the courage to release ourselves into a soulful uncertainty is the essence of surrender.
Surrendering to the deeper, intuitive calling of the soul can be a frightening experience. By “soul” I mean true identity, our authentic place in the world, and the elements deep within our being that can never be taken away from us. The soul is the origin of our vocation in life, that relentless calling every human life experiences toward a deep experience of being alive that is your true source of belonging, connection, and inspiration.
The soul can become a source of great suffering when we continually refuse its calling; it can destabilize our superficial ways of life and brutally expose the barren terrain of our own misguided narratives. The ego, that part of us that remains terrified by challenges of true creative growth, seeks to oppose new potential while maintaining a firm grip on the familiar. The soul, however, remains relentless in its pursuit, and we intuitively know that failure to listen will ensure a life of regret – a buried life.
The primacy of the human ego, that frail assemblage of assumptions, habits, and routines, has fostered a malevolent illusion of separateness. That is to say, the ego, in an act of remarkable conceit and hubris, often tries to persuade us that we are separate, unique, and superior to all other forms of life.
The soul, however, relentlessly reminds us of the ecological truth of our existence. To feel soulful is to be permeated with feelings of interbeing, interconnection, and belonging. We are all irrevocably part of a single unified community of life that has its origins in a deep ecological perspective – a spiritual ecology of being. The human soul is inseparable from the anima mundi, the soul of the Earth.
Surrender is a way of finding release from the fears and anxieties perpetuated by the ego. What we are required to let go of is a form of identity and a sense of purpose that has become too abstract and irrelevant for us to inhabit.
Letting go of the familiar is difficult precisely because it requires us to become the pilgrims of our own identity. When we leave behind the familiar and let go of that which binds we will become wounded. As the parts of our identity that no longer serve are shriven away we feel the potent discomfort of an inner trauma that is also the precise location of new possibility and potential. In surrendering we come face to face with the parts of our identity that must inevitably die.
As we loosen our grip on the old ways of being, all of the usual addictions, routine assumptions, and ingrained habits remain relentless in their attempt to hold us back, as if to say that the current way of life is better merely because it is familiar. And still, even in the midst of our angst, our soul inspires the grace to recognize the absolute necessity of surrendering and letting go of the old ways that no longer serve.
Once we have let go so that there is no possibility of turning back, we have ventured past a point of no return. We feel a sense of free-falling into the mystery and we enter into a period of creative growth that requires a high tolerance for ambiguity; true creativity is always a very humbling experience.
The act of surrender, of letting go of the ties that bind, forces an awakening deep within. Inspired by the fear of falling toward an unseen life, we also begin to feel more connected, awake, of the ecology of our own existence. While our comprehension of what is happening may lag far behind, the felt-meaning of surrendering, letting go, and finally falling revitalizes and invigorates the feeling of being reconnected to something too large for our imagination to grasp.
A life worth living is, at least in part, about learning the difficult art of surrender; that is, the necessity of letting go of our false conveniences and superficial assumptions in order to become a better and more fully alive human being. Often the act of surrender, even when it wounds us, is precisely what we need to embrace a more imaginative way of life.
In the end, the act of surrender may help us to finally discover the person we have always been.