As a tough, hard-working go-getter, I always thought of surrender as a bad thing. Surrender was when the loser of the battle raised the white flag. Surrender was what the weak did when they had no fight left. Surrender was the thing passive people hid behind, so they had an excuse to not excel. I was determined, no matter what it took – blood, sweat or tears – to never surrender.
There was a problem with this mentality however. Ever heard the saying, “What we resist, persists.” I was resisting surrender, big time.
I realized, many years ago, that meditation would probably be a good thing for me. Meditating is about surrendering to the present moment, after all. The funny thing about meditation is that those of us who probably need it the most, seem the most challenged by, and, dare I say, loathsome towards it. I remember listening to a teacher say to me once, “Just for twelve breathes, sit, and still your mind. Just think of nothing.” After about 4 seconds, I was over it. I was meditation’s biggest failure.
Years later, feeling stuck I found myself signing up for a yoga and meditation retreat. The scenery was beautiful and entirely relaxing. The weather was warm and inviting. We chanted, ate beautiful, organic food, practiced yoga, swam, hiked, and enjoyed the company of like-minded, supportive people. We created vision boards for our bright, lovable futures and danced under the stars. The whole weekend was magical and I felt recharged…until the meditation part.
The final task of the retreat was a meditation. We were told to find a quiet place on the retreat grounds – nestled in the beautiful desert of Joshua Tree – and spend one hour in silence, meditating, and connecting with nature. No music, no distractions, no cell phone…I was screwed.
Begrudgingly, I walked around the property. It was a stunning day, the desert sun already vibrant and hot, despite the early hour. I killed time for five minutes or so, wandering around aimlessly, and pretending I couldn’t find the “perfect meditation spot.” Finally, I gave up the fight and sat on the rocks near a small waterfall. It was about a foot high with a small stream trickling beneath it. I wasn’t allowed to bring my watch, or anything for that matter, so I had no idea how much time had passed, but it felt like time was standing still. The only thing not still was my mind.
I looked to the sky. Not knowing who or what I was speaking to, I asked for help. I asked for a sign or something to focus on or think about or something to do. I didn’t know if this was cheating or not, but I was hot and thirsty and bored. I waited…and I waited longer. Nothing happened.
I had completely given up on my ability to actually do this meditation, when I noticed that a bee had fallen onto the top of the waterfall. It began to cascade down the water and into the stream below, by my feet. Although caught in the water, this bee fought
hard against the current, managing to keep itself afloat and preventing the water from taking it any further downstream. Fighting for it’s life, it’s little wings flapped wildly. The current was strong and I thought that he was surely a goner. I wanted to help but, honestly, I was afraid of being stung. After an epic battle against the strong force of the water, the bee just stopped moving. The black and yellow body relaxed and it began to float downstream with the current, before being deposited right on top of a large rock. In a matter of seconds, he got his bearings and flew happily away.
When that little bee surrendered, the current took him right where he needed to go. Had he continued to fight, he would have surely drowned, but in his surrender, he landed right where he needed to. In that moment, I understood: surrender is not giving up. It is just letting go.
I was so resistant to meditation, and it was the very thing that offered me this insight. I was a classic A-type, hard working, perfectionist who loved to control every moment and every experience, but in doing so, I was fighting the current. I have so limited what could be, by dictating to my life what I want it to be.
If we desperately cling to a person or an idea, it is not that we are tougher or working harder for it than others, it is that we do not trust that it is our right to have it. We do not have faith. It is out of fear, not strength, that we are unwilling to let go of control. Those who choose to leap trust that the net will appear, not hope that one does.
They say, “God helps those who help themselves.” It is not enough to sit at home, wishing and hoping that all my dreams will come true, while I take no action towards them. Laziness is also not the same as surrender. At the same time, too much control of our chosen course limits any offering of help from something higher, something beyond us. It limits us opening to what we don’t yet know may be possible.
I have to constantly remind myself to be aware of the delicate balance between action and surrender. There is harmony in the balance between our action and our faith, our movement and our stillness, our “go get ‘em” and our “let ‘em go.” As my wise teacher, the bee, showed me: life does not need to be an uphill battle.