In the Power of Now, author Eckhart Tolle has a chapter devoted to the topic of surrender. I think there were many misconceptions with this topic. Surrender isn’t about holding up a white flag and giving up in life. It’s not about doing nothing and coming from a place of nihilism. It’s not about giving up on making changes externally, it’s about surrendering internally to our life circumstances.
What Eckhart and many spiritual teachers are trying to convey is that any inner resistance to whatever happens is not only futile but pointless. Without accepting the present moment as it is, we will experience a lot of inner friction which just makes the situation worse, or at least we perceive it to be worst… which will bring about the same painful feelings.
I can back up the power of internal surrender from my own personal experience when I was going through anxiety. I still had to change my behaviours that meant I had to change what I did externally. But every time I internally resisted, I just made matters worse. When I learnt to internally allow every single thought, emotion and uncomfortable sensation that comes with anxiety to be without fighting it and also making the external change in behaviour, I overcame my anxiety much easier.
Before I internally surrendered, I didn’t make no way near as much progress. So to expand on the point I’m trying to make… This doesn’t mean we can’t take action to change the external situation, far from it. Surrender only applies to the internal world of our thoughts and feelings.
“You can’t argue with what is. Well, you can, but if you do, you suffer.” – Eckhart Tolle
So we accept the reality that we have a broken leg and we focus on what we can do to get better. We can work out what we are going to do whilst we have to be limited to a chair or a bed. We could focus on making a list of things we can do to use our time wisely whilst we allow our broken leg to recover.
Apart from this there really isn’t much we can do but wait for time and our bodies own ability to heal itself. Any inner resistance to this unfortunate situation really is a waste of time and energy.
After all, what the heck can we do apart from internal surrender and focusing on what we can do to make the experience a little bit more easier?
Here is another example where we can apply internal surrender in our lives. We are out driving in our car when suddenly the car breaks down. Now obviously this isn’t a situation where we are going to be cool about it but what’s the point burning up inside with annoyance? The fact is that our car has just broken
What are we going to do about it, sit and complain?
Can we completely (internally) surrender to the fact that the car has broken down in this current moment?
If this is something that we really want to get a grip on, learning to respond in a way that doesn’t create internal suffering then this is the best thing to do. We internally surrender to the reality of that moment and we focus on what we can do externally to bring about the change we want. Always allowing the present moment to be exactly as it is and always focusing on what we can do to bring about positive change.
Internal surrender, not external surrender is true empowerment. We don’t have to allow ourselves to be in a bad external situation, we always focus on what we can do to either get out of it or change it to suit our needs. But internally allowing the present situation to be as it is, is a must if we want to keep our power.
“Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.” – Eckhart Tolle
When I first read about surrender, I thought it was about giving up and doing nothing. But it really isn’t about doing nothing. There are always going to be difficult situations in our lives where we have to remove ourselves from for our own health and well-being. Not doing anything in these situations would be disempowering.
So how do we still take action externally whilst internally surrendering?
Like I mentioned before, we have to accept the fact that this moment is as it is because it cannot be otherwise and by applying this we save ourselves from a lot of inner turmoil. It’s when we believe that the present moment should exist in a different way where we experience the most frustration and negativity.
Whatever is happening in this present moment, can we accept it and allow it to be internally? Of course we are going to do all we can to bring about positive change or remove ourselves from it because that’s just how we work.
This approach is a very healthy way to make the painful situation less painful.
“We cannot control what happens in the world. other people, blizzards, cars breaking down, our bosses. But we can control our reactions to it and the easiest way to get there is to surrender in the moment. To let go of the narratives that tell you this is wrong, it shouldn’t be, that you’re angry, resentful, that you find yourself in this predicament. All of that is true but it doesn’t change the fact that it is happening. Allowing simultaneously to take action and at the same time recognising that this moment is in the place that it’s in.” – Laura Coe.
This article was inspired by a podcast episode called Feel Empowered in Every Moment from The Art of Authenticity by Laura Coe.