Nondual Zen Article:

The Surrender Experiment

nondual title

The Surrender Experiment
by Kathleen Sutherland

This past month I did my best to surrender to everything, to let go of any notion that things should be other than as they are right here and now. I found this quite transformative, more than expected. Daily life was more peaceful, and I learned much about patterns of resistance, how surrender looks in action and the rewards it brings.

During the first week, my grandmother died and my cat was injured in a fight. My initial reaction was that I had chosen a lousy month for surrender! But I saw through that, recognizing that any month would present its troubles. And if my purpose was to practice surrender, then I could hardly object to challenges. Nondual surrender means surrender to everything. “Even this? Especially this!” became a refrain.

I noticed that surrender cannot prevent all suffering. Negative feelings will still arise: grieving, physical pain, primal fears, shadow issues. But I could avoid compounding the discomfort with stories of what “should” be. I miss my grandmother. But I do not believe she shouldn’t have passed or that I shouldn’t miss her.

Although surrender on any given issue eventually brought a sense of peace, I found this was not always the case initially. The ego resists giving up the struggle: “Don’t I get any say in this?” No, not for this month. The ego’s contrary attitude is a defense mechanism. It creates the illusion of power and influence, a sense of engagement, although in truth a negative attitude turns nothing around.

Even after some practice, surrender didn’t always feel right. At times I felt I was cajoling myself, being a Pollyanna, or repressing legitimate feelings. But these reactions just revealed the magnitude of my predilection to judge certain arisings as “wrong.” In the past, I would have been persuaded and abandoned attempts to surrender, at least regarding the thornier issues. But this time I trusted that What Is is what I want, need and love. If I am devoted to remaining awake and clear, if I am a genuine lover of truth, then that means loving this truth, this experience, this here and now. There is no other place or time to surrender. If I have acceptance and love to give, then I must offer them here and now, to this present arising.

It helped to keep in mind that I was not being asked to surrender to any real problem or unpleasant circumstance – only to the experience of such. Experience is the full extent of reality. And all experience is informative and interesting; all of it is welcome. I am never in any real danger. There is no objective reality oppressing me – only the illusion of such. A dream cannot harm me. I am always safe: unborn, unbound and untouched.

An aspect of surrender is recognizing that everything happens right on time. Much of acceptance practice involves cultivating patience. At one point, anxious to receive an email response, I was tempted to inquire again, although this would have been premature. The response arrived the next day.

Remembering that everything happens when it should also curtailed my tendency to project into the future, near or far. Typically, when at the post office, I’d be thinking of my next stop at the grocery store; at the store, I’d be thinking of the tasks awaiting at home. Surrender reminded me to enjoy the present activity and its people.

I also learned that every occurrence is equally worthy of surrender, from the broken teacup to a death in the family. Sometimes it can be easier to surrender to the greater sorrows, but then rant about the little upsets. Everything is essential to the whole, a glittering stone in the mosaic. Rejecting the broken cup means rejecting all the blessings and complications and details not just of my life, but of this entire universe. It is all one interdependent arising; everything depends upon (and loves) everything else.

Although surrender most often involves acquiescing to what cannot be controlled (as that is what tends to occupy the mind), it also entails taking action when needed. I surrender to the need for exercise and moderate diet. I surrender to meeting responsibilities because I know the consequences of failing to do so.

Surrender gives rise to gratitude. By not objecting to anything, I set the bar for expectations on its lowest rung. There were no demands upon reality, no sense of entitlement, and so all the gifts that I did have became more apparent and cherished.

As the ego faded to the background (tired of not being seen or heard), it became clear that there is only one will. My will is always being done. This is true manifestation. As I come to agree ever more with What Is, the universe conforms ever more to My will. Ultimately, as Fred recently pointed out, there is no surrender, as there is no one to surrender. Life is simply happening through me, as Me.

Because I found this “surrender experiment” so illuminating, I’ve decided to continue with various themes each month. This next month I will practice forgiveness, which is really a form of surrender – surrender to love. Ultimately, there is no one to forgive and no one to be forgiven. But as with surrender, the practice will be a means of revealing this greater truth. There may be no one to engage in any of these spiritual exercises, but steady practice somehow magically makes that ever more apparent.