Even if we understand the value of letting go, giving in, and stopping the fight in the creative process, we often don’t know how to surrender.
“Every born Wayfinder goes through stages of self-realization:
loneliness, striving, disappointment, surrender, release,
and then the slow awakening to a world where magic is real
and miracles commonplace. The journey is worth it.”
Everything was chugging right along with my writing until about three weeks ago. I had been warned that writers will hit the wall at some point, and that I should steady myself for the curtain coming down on my creativity.
When that didn’t happen, I thought that I must be the winner of the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket of the book-writing journey. Guess what the Universe had to say about that?
Hitting a Creative Wall
My Creativity Funk started like a summer cold. One minute you are enjoying a day at the pool, and as you pack up to go home, you feel a little lightheaded. A noticeable scratch beginning in the back of your throat. A warm forehead even when in the shade. Tired.
I kept searching the metaphorical basket of ideas that had been at my feet…my faithful companion. It once had held dozens of Idea Yarn Skeins, bursting with color, texture, and variety. All I had to do was reach in and pull up some ends and get about knitting something.
The basket now held a few empty wrappers. Evidence that something had once been there, but now was gone.
At first, I did what any rationalizing entrepreneur or creator would do: deny the wall’s existence. Keep going. Head down against the force of the wind. Muscle and wriggle and try to shake off the Funk. Resist. Turn my back on creeping Fear and the inklings that something was off…wrong. Guess what the Universe had to say about that?
Two Saturdays ago, as I rounded a curve on my favorite hiking trail, just as the sun was rising up above the pines, I remembered Churchill’s famous quote: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Now I had some leverage on the ever-expanding Fear gripping my rib cage. Just enough of a fingerhold on the rock face that gave me courage to stop running from it and face it.
Out in the woods, with Sophie about twenty dog paces ahead of me, I started to talk it out.
“You’re missing something important,” my mind said back to me.
“OK, I give. What?”
“This, now. You’re missing it.”
The Gift of Giving Up
I stepped up onto my front porch, peeled off my muddy sneakers, and headed inside to my desk. Sophie curled up under my chair and started to nap. I followed her breathing and stared down at my laptop.
After 30 minutes or so of staring at the light play across my closed laptop, I said aloud, “OK, I give up!”
Sophie startled awake and got her paws under her.
I got halfway out of my chair when the first notes of synapses firing played inside my head. I sat back down and listened.
“You’ve got it. Give up.”
“I need more than that. I’m not following….”
“Surrender is a category!”
OHHHHHH! Now it was my turn to say: hahahahahahahahahaha
Months ago, I created some categories for my book’s content in order to build some scaffolding for the project. I quickly came up with about 8 or so categories, wrote them on sticky notes, and placed them on my kraft paper board on the wall. I knew at the time it was not complete, but I was satisfied to have the beginnings of a skeletal structure.
A glaring gap in my content outline was now evident. And how meta?! The drought had come roaring across the plains of my mind as a clever way to wake me. The missing content was not only the piece I needed to get to the other side—but also was the process on how to get there—where rain could fall on parched earth once more.
Ready now to snack on the challenge rather than suppress it down into my small intestine, out came the pens and journal. I started a rough mind map to dissect and study Surrender.
It may be the most left-brained comment ever…to say we can give structure to Surrender. But I know there is healing power when someone is able to give form to something that had previously been formless. Case in point: Martha Beck’s ingenious Four Squares of Change.
With Martha’s structure, we can know where in the change process we are…what we are leaving behind, and where we are headed. It remains for me one of the most centering, powerful tools when in the midst of change in any aspect of my life or business.
The Four Squares of Change help me understand the climate and conditions of the current square I am in, as well as the energy and focus I will need for the next one. Not unlike being well into the woods on a familiar mountain trail. Just before I arrive at the section of the trail where there is a half mile of steep switchbacks, I gear up, prepare.
When I am just about out of breath and energy, I can coax myself forward…knowing precisely how many more feet of strain it will take.
Ultimately, I think having a structure for how to Surrender gives us the key we have been searching for that unlocks the elusive, often maddening part of the whole Surrender business….
And that is this: HOW do we Surrender?
How to Surrender
At the end of 2019, I attended Dr. Joe Dispenza’s Week Long Advanced Retreat in Mexico. One of the challenge exercises required that we fall backward off a raised platform and into a net held by our fellow retreat mates. Sounds simple enough, right? Actually doing it pushed every single one of our Resistance buttons.
Each and every one of us had waves of panic and fear up on that platform. We absolutely did not want to Surrender. With patient, kind, and expert coaching, though, each of us, one by one, leaned backward into a free fall, landing into the net with a surprising release of emotion.
A glorious mix of elation, pride, relief, surprise, and love cemented into my muscles as I lay in the net.
As I think about it now, I realize how much Trust I put into my coach who was up on the platform with me, as well as the folks holding the net.
So that’s key number one: Trust. More specifically, Belief in the Benevolence of The Unknown. Let’s make that the center of Surrender’s Carbon Atom. The mantra for this essential center is “When I trust, I let go completely.”
I could just stop here, given the importance of this essential center. If we were only able to truly accomplish this, it would be enough. The reason for so much of our pain, anxiety, fear, and loathing is a direct result of not mastering a Belief in the Benevolence of The Unknown.
We can give it a casual nod any day or hour of the week, believing we are doing the work. If we promise ourselves to disallow such self-foolery, we can get back to center and drink in Peace in any moment. It begins and ends with Trust. Do not pass Go until you’ve embraced it.
How to Surrender: Now for the branches (Surrender Steps) that emanate from the center:
1. An Awareness of Resistance. Check in with yourself. What feels bad… and where? Describe it. Bring it to the surface. Notice how certain emotions transmute and hide out underneath others (for example, how Fear becomes Anger). What are you pushing back on? Where are you rationalizing or numbing out in an attempt to plow forward and skip all the business of feeling.
2. Awareness of Attachment to a certain outcome…even if you are not clear on what the precise outcome “should” be. This one fascinates me! I am a champion at clamping down and attaching to a certain outcome and then, of course, I experience wild disappointment when something doesn’t come together.
I have practiced this awareness enough now to watch and wait, knowing that what is happening at the moment is only part of the story. The thing/result/goal I thought I wanted? If it is not happening, I now know there is something uniquely powerful and better coming my way. (Remember that Belief in the Ultimate Benevolence of The Unknown?)
Once I had practiced this enough, I started moving through the disappointment phase quite rapidly. I now call out across the chasm and wait for the echo. Whatever comes back is for my greatest good. I have stopped wasting time, bemoaning echo answers I didn’t want or like. Now, I dig for the bigger gift. It is always there.
3. Become aware of your powerlessness/lack of control over X. So, for a control freak, this one remains a work in progress. If this is true for you as well, I can offer this salve: just focus on being aware of your white-knuckling desire to want to make something other than it is. Don’t try so hard to not feel it…work more on observing yourself when you are in the throes of it. Try to find some humor in it, too…and self compassion.
4. Go to neutral. When I am attaching, controlling, pushing, and fearful (and unable to get up on the surfboard to a more peaceful state), I’ll focus on simply getting to neutral. No wild swings of the emotional pendulum. Just a quiet, soft, barely undulating sine wave of experiencing now. From neutral, I can then get back to creating in concert with The Unknown.
5. Decide your Desired Future from new perspective with the understanding that we cannot create from the old energy of ourselves. I have noticed that each day, it feels like I have outgrown the old shell of the me from the day before. Each and every time I try to go back to the husk of yesterday and create from that energy, my efforts go nowhere.
I have to work with the new version of me, even if it is a toddler, stumbling around like a drunk sailor. We can steady ourselves and get balance if we keep letting ourselves fall down and get back up as the new energy of where we are now and focus on what it is we want (ignoring what it is we do not want).
6. Release Desired Future. Detach. Yield. Now that we know what it is we want and have it clearly in our sights, we release it. We do not cling to it like a koala bear. We let it light upon our outstretched finger like a resting butterfly…and let it fly off when it chooses. When we encounter obstacles, setbacks, and things that appear to be major disappointments, we can choose to yield and wait, knowing the lesson and/or the better version of what we said we wanted is on the way.
7. Recommit each morning. Stay awake. Aware. Like any practice (and daily self grooming/care), we gently get back up on the horse each day. Release the desire to “graduate,” and be done. It is a lifelong practice.
8. Reaffirm your belief in the ultimate benevolence of The Unknown. We arrive at where we started. Look for ways to remind yourself that this belief is true. Watch for how it shows up, over and over, like Magic.
Stopping the Fight
When a coach in a boxing match wants to stop the fight, he will throw a towel into the ring, signaling that his fighter has been defeated and surrenders.
Let’s use that imagery, but reframe it a bit so we are clear on what is Defeat vs. what is simply Stopping the Fight.
To someone else it may look like when you surrender that you are weak. Not tough enough. This is so ingrained in us, it takes a while to root it out. Have a look at the boy in the image above who has totally let go. Is our first inkling to label his experience as a negative?
Let’s stop fighting against ourselves and the benevolent Unknown. Let’s throw in the towel from our corner of the ring, and let the fighter in us fall back into the net.
And Trust that we will be caught.