There’s a lot to consider when it comes to learning the art of surrender. That’s why it is often referred to as an art. In this article I’m going to share a 4 Step Process so that you can begin practicing successfully in your own life.
The 4 Steps To Surrender Are:
- Recognizing resistance
- Questioning feelings and thoughts
- Release from Identification with feelings and thoughts
- Becoming aware of Awareness
These 4 steps aren’t necessarily linear. They don’t always go in order although recognizing resistance is most often the first step taken.
It seems that recognizing resistance is the first step in the art of surrender. However, this recognition actually comes from an expanded awareness. In a sense, being aware of awareness is the first and last step to freedom.
However, for most of us mere mortals, it helps to have a process. Especially when the rubber hits the road and we’re being challenged in some way.
There’s a lot to unpack in this article, so let’s get to it! But before we do, I use some terms to describe the Unknowable such as: The Absolute, Awareness, Presence, Beingness, Divine Intelligence, Intelligence-Energy, God. They all point to “That Which Is” and are interchangeable.
But First…Let’s Define Surrender
The question of how to surrender to a higher intelligence comes up a lot in my work through my Inner Alchemy sessions and tarot readings. Especially with readings, people often call when they feel stuck in life. Often this is because there’s something they are resisting or not seeing.
To the everyday mind, it seems that “allowing” means to be a doormat. The idea that any higher will or Intelligence exists is completely out the window. At best, people “trust” or “have faith.” But even this is usually rooted in psychological fear.
We usually believe that we are 100% in charge and that we need to constantly be vigilant in order for anything good to happen. Or, bad not to happen. We resist the natural flow of life because of this.
We believe that we are an independent “me” separate from The All. “I’m Dave. I’m a Canadian male of Celtic and Nordic heritage. I’m a spiritual teacher, tarot reader and I’m also a musician. I enjoy reading, fitness and hanging out with my wife Mary and our 2 cats…”
But if you really look at what IS, are you actually separate from the Totality? Could being separate from Life even be possible? And what if non-resistance is your true nature?
There’s a tarot card called The Magician which perfectly illustrates the ability to manifest reality by aligning with Higher Will and getting out of the way.
The image I’m thinking of originally comes from the iconic Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck first published in 1909. The one in the photo here is a favourite of mine that’s based on the original RWS, but in it’s own unique artistic style. It’s from the Gilded Royale tarot deck by Ciro Marchetti.
The Archetype (or “Mother” as Goethe refers to it) has his hands in an gesture of allowing. He’s allowing Divine energy to organize chaos through the instrument of his mind-body. Note the confidence in his meditative gaze - this confidence does not come from ego. There’s a lemniscate (infinite symbol) above his head. Symbols of the 4 elements are before him - wand/fire, chalice/water, sword/air, pentacle/earth.
Everything in this article on the art of surrender could be summed up and expressed in this image.
Recognizing Resistance Is Key To Surrendering
Resisting “what is” and wanting to change it comes from the conditioned human mind. This is the root issue of all discord on this planet as well as our own personal misery.
I’m not saying challenging and unexpected things don’t happen (can anyone say pandemic?). We know that they do! But when they do, we usually layer even more negativity on top of it! These layers are our own filters and tendencies, likes and dislikes, defences, etc.
These extra layers of resistance make something that was challenging to begin with even worse!
Not only that, this resistance creates a form of tunnel vision and we lose perspective. These “blinders” block us from seeing alternative options that can lead to solutions.
There are countless testimonies throughout the ages of problems being smoothed over and circumstances improving when someone has surrendered.
This is certainly true in my own experience. Experiment with surrendering in your own life situations. Because our minds will try to minimize anything that’s out of the ordinary, it’s a good idea to write things down. Doesn’t have to be a long drawn out piece. Just a note to document it.
It’s important to realize that this does not mean that “you” (the mind made sense of self aka the ego) can get whatever “you” want! What you want may not even be in your highest interest!
This is how learning the art of surrender can save you from overthinking and stressing whether you’re getting things “right.” When you’ve let go of how you think things should be and are at least willing to be open to what is, you are actually far more intelligent.
And until you’ve untangled yourself from your upbringing, what you want is quite often only to gain approval or avoid disapproval from others. In other words, it’s not authentically you.
The Irony of Resistance
Frustratingly, resistance is one of the ironies of having goals or wanting to improve circumstances. Check this for yourself in your own life. Notice that as soon as you want to do something, resistance appears. This phenomenon occurs whether it’s an important goal such as losing weight and exercising, or a simple task such as doing the dishes.
Many of us have learned to push through resistance and we don’t even notice it’s there. But imagine the wear and tear on our nervous system! We could simply notice the resistance and let it go instead. Especially since we know we’re going to wash the dishes or do laundry anyways. Why resist what you need to do?
There’s a lot of talk about procrastination. But it’s the symptom not the cause. The cause is resistance in the mind-body.
Questioning Feelings and Thoughts In Order To Let Them Go
This is the 2nd step in the 4 step process of the art of surrender. Remember though, that it’s not necessarily a linear process.
When you surrender, you let go of believing in the assumptions and negative tendencies of your mind. The inner monologue may still be making noise, but you are no longer buying in to it - at least not without questioning it.
A classic and very powerful question I ask myself when I notice negativity in any form is, “without going into memory or projecting into an imagined future, what is actually here, now?” I then pause briefly and allow the answer to reveal itself. Hint: The answer is silent - but very alert and alive.
This question will slice and dice through any noise and confusion and your mind will instantly begin to quiet down. A sense of ease will begin to infuse your experience along with feelings of gratitude and creative possibility.
It’s almost as if a higher frequency energy wave comes along and lifts you up and supports you.
Letting Go of Resistance is Key to the Art of Surrender
You could also recognize that since you’re going to do whatever it is that you’re resisting, you could simply choose to let that resistance go. Ask yourself “what would it be like if the resistance wasn’t here?”
If the resistance still persists, do your best to accept that for now. Start watching it without judgement. Just see how it operates. Welcome it into awareness. If you’re able to do this, it will spontaneously dissolve without any effort on your part.
Placing your attention on the breath along with the tactics above is also a supportive aid in not getting swept away by thought streams in the mind.
Recognizing resistance and negativity is the first step to surrendering and aligning with higher will.
It’s a choice. The part of you that’s identified with your mind (thoughts/feelings) will not want to drop the negativity. See if you can notice that happening the next time you’re triggered by something.
Experiment with allowing yourself to hold on as much as you want. Observe what’s happens.
With practice, your ability to choose freedom over resistance will get stronger. It will get easier to just simply drop it.
Release From Identification With Feelings and Thought: Make Time To Look Within.
Understanding this stuff intellectually is fine but without practice it doesn’t really mean much. It won’t support you in actually surrendering to Life when your mind has completely hijacked you.
I’m not going to tell you how to meditate or even that your should meditate. It’s like diet and nutrition. Everyone is wired a bit differently.
However, I will say that it’s crucial to make time to look within. Contemplate. Reflect. Observe. You don’t necessarily have to jump on the Vipassana bandwagon, go on long retreats, or try to meditate and be mindful for hours.
For the record, I’m not saying any of these things can’t be helpful. They certainly can be! I’m simply saying that ultimately, it’s up to you. You have to want to get free of the conditioned mind and it’s automatic reactions.
I don’t personally believe that hours of daily formal meditation is what we’re here on this planet to do. Sure, there may be a small band of outliers who are called to do that - and that’s wonderful. But it’s not necessary in order for you to align with higher will and uncover the truth of your formless and infinite being.
Each one of us is an outlet to The infinite Mind and an inlet to The Infinite Mind. - Ernest Holmes
Note: Ernest Holmes used the word God to point to the Absolute. I used Infinite Mind here because some people have issues with the word God.
More Paradox To Be Aware Of...
When you want to meditate or improve, the original impulse comes from deeper and higher dimensions of your being. However, the part of you that thinks it’s a program that you must follow in a certain way and that there are degrees of success like in martial arts or something is actually ego. Ego thinks it can “get” something - like status - from formal meditation.
This is unhealthy competition (the approval trap) coming in as a sneak attack.
The truth is the other way around. Meditation occurs when thought stops. Or at least identifying with thinking stops. That’s when you recognize that you don’t need thought in order to be. And not only that, who you truly are was already there all along.
Although formal meditation is extremely supportive for most people, it’s not an absolute prerequisite to recognizing the truth of your formless and immortal nature.
Not only that, but there are so many formal meditation methods designed for different people! Some are excellent, some good, some not so good. Just like there are different workout programs that work for different people, if you think formal meditation is something you’d like to practice, you need to find what works for you. You also need a good teacher. Although there are also apps that can be helpful depending upon your personality, they won't work for everyone. Most people need a good teacher.
Here, at this website, we uncover freedom mostly through self-inquiry and observing our minds. I do also highly recommend some formal meditation — but in a few short (5 to 15 minutes) bursts throughout the day. This is much more helpful for our approach than one or two longer sessions.
But find what works for you. And that may change at different times in your life. The mind can sometimes grow a sort of protective armour. A practice that was once effective may no longer be.
Simple Ways To Look Within That Support Your Ability to Surrender
Start with 5 minutes. That’s all you need! Relax your body. Start with scanning your face, neck and shoulders. Just a gentle relaxing and focusing of attention within.
Notice the sensations in your body including your breathing. Release any unnecessary tension when you notice it.
Keeping some awareness on your breathing, begin to place some attention on your thoughts.
Bring something to mind that stirs up resistance. Something that you want to fix or change. Probably best to start with something on a small scale for now.
This will bring up feelings that may have been dormant or just below your level of conscious awareness.
Now check to see what’s actually true for you in your experience by asking “am I these feelings and thoughts that are disturbed? Or, am I the spacious awareness upon which these uncomfortable feelings are appearing?”
Note: This inquiry can be said silently, out loud or simply recognized as an intention to guide your exploration.
Just look to see what’s true for you.
This question is a very simple but powerful pointer toward the experience of surrender.
If you’re still resisting, that’s perfectly ok. Try asking the above question a few times.
Each time, a new layer of resistance might be brought to the surface in order to dissolve.
Just by being willing to examine whether those thoughts and feelings are true is already raising your vibration into higher frequencies. You’re rising above any fear. You are learning the art of surrender and how to get out of the way.
Once you can do this with small things, your mind will begin to see that surrender is in fact more helpful than trying to control everything through resistance.
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Becoming Aware of Awareness. What Are We Surrendering To?
If you’ve tried the exercise outlined above in “simple ways to look within” and noticed that you are the Aware “space” and not the content, you are getting closer to touching Eternity.
Note: It’s not truly space, because Awareness or Consciousness has no form — but the image of space can sometimes be helpful in the beginning.
This is Awareness becoming aware of Itself. Awareness is always present no matter what. It’s the same awareness that was there when you were 5 years old, 15 years old, 25 years old, 45 years old.
Notice how that awareness just simply is? It doesn’t need to make any effort in order to be?
That Awareness - or Presence - is exactly the same Awareness that is present in any other person. It’s even the same Awareness that is in a cat or dog or any living thing.
Even inanimate objects — what do you suppose holds the energy vibrating the atoms in that particular shape and form? That’s why it is said that God-All-That-Is is omnipresent (everywhere), omniscient (all-knowing), etc. But humans have a unique perspective because of our nervous system, brain, etc.
Important: I’m definitely NOT saying that Consciousness comes from our brain.
I’m saying that with our brain and nervous system, we have the ability to be aware of being aware. This allows us to access That which is beyond time and space. Beyond the 3D experience that we seem to be completely immersed in.
Many ancient wisdom teachings say that humans are a microcosmic expression of the macrocosmic Totality. The Absolute Being.
What Are We Surrendering? Is It A Sacrifice?
In order to embrace the art of surrender, we need to let go of who we think we are. This includes roles we play, memories, thoughts, feelings, sensations, images, etc. Even our identification with our physical bodies.
So the only things we're "sacrificing" are the things which are not real to begin with.
Wait, am I saying that your physical body is not real?! Of course it’s real. What I mean is that it has no inherent reality without the Formless Intelligence-Energy that brings it to life.
Also note that your body is always changing. Ever since you can remember, the form of your body is changing. So while it’s real, it’s not ultimately real. It’s relatively real. It’s an expression in form of That Which Is Real.
This doesn't mean that when we surrender we become blank slates devoid of colour! I like to say to people that it’s not about becoming Mr. Spock from Star Trek. On the contrary. We become more spontaneous and less self conscious.
Important: This also does NOT mean you shouldn’t take care of your physical body while you have one. Please do your best to nourish it with good food, water, sleep and exercise of some kind.
Do You Exist?
Of course you do! Even if you were to answer "no," you would have to exist in order to validate your (incorrect) answer.
“Here we are living in this world with almost no knowldedge of what we are, and yet, to deny our existence would be utter absurdity.” -Ernest Holmes
Let’s try it this way: “Are you?” Do you exist?
You may have noticed that you paused to look. And you were able to realize that you do indeed exist. When you did this, there was no thought required. The answer was self-evident.
Thoughts have no life in and of themselves. They require Awareness to give them life.
You came back to thought and words when you answered. But when you looked, you were simply being aware of the Awareness. That was a state of surrender.
This Awareness is not coloured by anything personal. No likes, dislikes, preferences or background story. Like I said above, notice how it felt exactly the same at many times during your life. Even though your mind has changed and your body has changed, the Awareness is the same.
This Awareness is non-local. In other words it’s the same Awareness that gives Light and Life to everything.
Next time you interact with another human being, see if you can become aware of the Awareness that they are — and allow yourself to recall that it is this same Awareness that is aware of you.
If you do this, even a mundane interaction can be experienced as sacred and holy.
This is the art of surrender. Surrendering or letting go of that which you are not. Desired outcomes, fears, attachments, aversions, etc. Being aware of Awareness is surrender.
Is Surrender Even Practical?
Short answer: Yes!
If you have a goal, understanding the art of surrender can free you up in so many ways. For those of you who have played sports or music, think of those times where your performance was really great.
Notice how it was those times that you were loose and confident? Not the kind of "confidence" where you were pumping yourself up. It was more a situation where you wanted to “win” or perform well, but you weren’t gripping the outcome so tightly. That was the art of surrender in action.
The same principle holds true with “beginner’s luck.” A beginner will often do well at something the first time because they aren’t attached to the outcome. Their sense of self isn’t dependent upon how well they do.
Same with anything in life. If you have a business goal and you can surrender the outcome, you’ll have more energy to take appropriate action. Remember — surrendering doesn’t mean you feel hopeless! It means that you are ok if you win or lose. Of course you want to win - but if you don’t, it doesn’t stop you in your tracks.
This puts you in that “loosey-goosey” state where optimal performance happens. This is also known in psychology as "flow." You've let go of trying to control the outcome.
This is also true if you want to be in a mutually supportive and healthy, loving relationship. I’m not going to go into it here, I will have other articles on this, but if you are looking to GET happiness from a relationship, you’re already in trouble.
But if you are surrendered to the outcome, it means you are more aligned with wanting a relationship as a way to express the joy and love you feel inside. You realize you have the ability to BRING love and happiness to the relationship.
This energy is also felt by other people. They feel safer and more relaxed around you as a result.
Learning the art of surrender is a powerful practice. The wonderful thing about it is that you can practice it best while engaging with the world. You don’t have to go live in a monastery or a cave. You can surrender in the midst of your busy life.
As a matter of fact, your life will give you just what you need in order to get better at surrendering!
More Ways In Which Surrender Is Practical
It goes without saying that the quality of our relationships have a huge impact on our lives and our happiness.
These relationships include our family of origin and childhood environment including school and teachers, spouses, children, lovers, friends, co-workers, neighbors, our family doctor, etc.
Have you ever noticed how you want to change people’s behaviour so that it’s more in line with your preferences? Have you ever considered that this is so you can then “love” them? But then if they don’t behave in those ways, you withhold your “love?”
I don't know about you, but in my experience, withholding love from someone we care deeply about is a surefire recipe for suffering. Our pride wants to be right. But who does the pride truly even belong to? When we look with the eyes of Love we see through the illusion of pride.
Forgiveness and the art of surrender are essentially the same thing. It’s not you (your mind made sense of self) who forgives. Love forgives through you. Love surrenders through you. If you do anything at all, it’s allowing yourself to get out of the way.
This is also why pride is the stickiest part of ego and can be the hardest to overcome.
Surrendering Seems Like Death From the Point of View of the Limited Ego
In tarot, the Death card doesn't represent physical death. It symbolized endings, transformation and new beginnings. Clearing away the old to make way for the new. Many traditional decks have Death with a scythe for this reason.
Why are we afraid to look at “what is?” We forget the moments when our ego subsides and our True Nature shines through - because these moments happen in the gaps between thoughts. We overlook them. It’s just too simple, so it can’t be “it.”
Then, once we’re back in our habitual mode, we identify with our thought based sense of self. Because this self is made up of memories and tendencies from the past, it cannot touch That which is Real. Because That which is Real is beyond time and is eternal.
The mind tries to figure Life out but ends up feeling overwhelmed and even more confused.
Or, it latches on to a belief system.
Belief Systems Are Ok But They Are Not Surrender
There’s nothing wrong with beliefs systems if they support you in your understanding of Life. And your baseline of happiness and inner peace. As long as you don’t mistake the belief or system for the Thing Itself. In that case, belief systems can have a positive effect on your life.
Belief systems can be helpful as an aid to help pull you up higher if you're temporarily in a dark place. Then faith can pull you even a bit further. But at some point you need the direct experience. You need to know for your yourself.
For example, atheists are believers just as much as “believers” are. They are simply 2 sides of the same coin.
Everyone is expressing Intelligence-Energy in their own way regardless of their beliefs. Life is pushing forth as infinite expression in all forms of life.
What we are discussing here is an inner transformation. Even putting it into words like I am here is a distortion of Truth. The Truth of Life is unlimited and words are limited.
Summary of the Art of Surrender
Although I broke the art of surrender down into a 4 step process, I’m sure you can see how it’s actually like a tennis stroke, running stride or golf swing. It’s an integrated whole.
1. The key is to become more aware of any resistance to Life. This resistance can stir up feelings such as anger, lust, frustration, sadness, apathy or pride. Watch especially for pride. It’s like the superglue that holds resistance in place!
By the way, when I use the term lust, I don’t mean just sexual lust. I mean when you crave something that you don’t currently have. It could be as basic as a craving for more attention on social media. It’s not that lust is “wrong.” It’s just important to recognize that it’s a bottomless pit and as long as it is running your mind, you can never be satisfied.
Simply noticing the thoughts and feelings that are being stirred up in the moment will lead to a stronger connection with the changeless awareness that is always in the background.
2. Take a few minutes several times a day to drop whatever you are engaged with — including thoughts and stories — and just BE.
This will support you when you’re acting in the world and facing challenges in real time because it’s easier to access Awareness/Presence when you are alone.
3. When you DO face challenges in real time, do your best to remind yourself that these are thoughts and feelings appearing in awareness. Place some attention on your breathing and do your best to allow what is to be the way that it is.
There will probably still be some resistance — and in fact, it can be very intense — but if you can remember to stay aware and allow the resistant thoughts and feelings to be, you will find that they start to lose their hold on you.
If it’s an intense encounter with someone, you’ll be able to respond with more intelligence and less defensiveness.
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