Resist Or Surrender
This summer has been filled with a number of transitions for me. Finding new office space. Adding new relatives. Attempting to engage in some wise financial planning for the future. Each venture has illustrated the difference between flow versus holding. I am guessing each of you has had the experience of something unfolding easily, with a kind of effortlessness, and in contrast, the experience of running into barrier after barrier, all while trying to get something to turn out a particular way.
Our culture does not promote the notion of surrender, viewing the concept as giving up or giving in without trying hard enough. We place a high value on giving it our all and doing whatever is necessary to be successful. I want to offer a new approach to the idea of surrender that I believe offers a gentle path for moving toward desired outcomes.
I have long been a devotee of Marsha Linehan, the originator of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), a practice that encourages equanimity and teaches the skills to achieve this state. Among her brilliant concepts, Linehan teaches an extended approach to mindfulness which she calls, “radical acceptance.”
While most approaches to mind wellness focus on changing distressing events and circumstances, Linehan pays attention to accepting, finding meaning, tolerating distress, and learning to bear pain or challenge skillfully. I call this the art of surrender vs. resistance.
Our ability to manage distress is enhanced when our mindfulness skills are deeply practiced and broadly developed. These skills include the ability to accept, in a non-evaluative and non-judgmental fashion, both oneself and the current situation. Although the stance we are talking about is a non-judgmental one, this does not mean that it is one of approval: acceptance of reality does not require approval of reality.
Distress tolerance behaviors are concerned with tolerating and surviving circumstances, as well as crises, and with accepting life as it is in the moment. Linehan teaches four sets of crisis survival strategies: distracting, self-soothing, improving the moment, and thinking of pros and cons. So with radical acceptance, or surrender as I call it, we turn our minds toward acceptance and surrender, toward willingness versus willfulness or resistance.
I encourage you to look at a transition or challenge currently facing you in your life. Rather than trying to force an outcome, bring these questions to your approach:
Regardless of the outcome, how do I feel when I release my hold on things turning out a certain way?
When I think about the reality that things can turn out in a variety of ways and they are all essentially ok, can I feel my resistance melt?
As I release my willfulness, can I allow myself to experience the ease that comes with surrender?
My personal experiences this summer offer a great reminder that if I let things unfold just as they are meant to unfold, I can be happily surprised by the outcome, whether or not it turns out to be the exact one that I had in mind! I look forward to hearing your experiences, too!
To schedule a mind wellness retreat/experience, contact Laurie Morgan Silver.