Our Very Own Surrender Experiment
Rev. Carolyne Mathlin
When The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer came out two years ago, many of you read it and told me how much you loved it. I purchased the book fully intending to start reading immediately. After almost two years of it sitting on my shelf, I recently picked it up. I had been searching for a book that would help me (and you) through these times of great change and uncertainty. Whether it is in your personal life or you are sensing into the world events, there is much to hold in prayer. I wanted a teaching and teacher who was deeply committed to consciousness and spiritual practice first, but who also knows how to walk in the world with brilliance. I found what I was looking for in The Surrender Experiment and I hope you will too.
The book is a personal story about what it has meant in Singer’s life to live with a basic question:
What would happen if we respected the flow of life and used our free will to participate in what’s unfolding, instead of fighting it?
That question sparked a life-long surrender experiment that takes him on some fascinating journeys. All through surrender.
Whenever I talk about surrender, and it feels like I have been for quite a while now, I get a familiar objection. The objection is something to the effect of, if I surrender then I will let people walk all over me and I’ll not be able to get anything I want or need. This is like thinking of surrender in military terms. From that perspective, surrender means the weaker side loses a battle. The victor has all the power and the loser has none. From an egoic perspective, this would of course be the last thing you would want to do – surrender.
To think in military terms when it comes to surrender means to think of life in terms of one big battle. It’s a perspective rooted in the world with very little Self-awareness. There is a mentality of “you win some, you lose some, who do we play tomorrow?” It’s a perpetual game with no ultimate winners. The more Self-awareness dawns, the more you can start to hear the thoughts and see the patterns that bolster up this limited understanding of how the universe works and your interpretations of it. Having a sense of who you are, including your preferences, is important. But it is not the end of our work. It is the beginning. Once you start to see your preferences, what you believe, how you act, etc. shape your world, you can start to question how important those preferences are in light of Reality.
For example, when I was in college I dated someone I liked very much. The relationship ended and I was heart-broken. One night, recently after the breakup, we ended up at the same party. Also at the party was another guy I had met earlier that summer. We were talking a lot and I’m assuming my ex saw. A friend at the time saw what was happening and made the comment to me that revenge dating is the best. Her statement was a helpful and clear wake up call. I had enough Self-awareness to know that going down that path would not serve anyone. In fact, it would actually create more of a mess.
Awareness is the first step. What we choose to do next is entirely up to our personal will. We must use our personal will to be in alignment with what is real. At the time of my break-up, what was real was that my heart was broken. Jumping into another relationship, especially based on brokenness and revenge would hurt me even more. It would be denying my current state and entangling others in it too.
Which brings us back to surrender. In my example, I didn’t surrender to the obvious situation unfolding in front of me. I didn’t take what was happening as a sign that it was ok to act out unconsciously and enter a new relationship. Instead, I surrendered to my inner resistance to not being in a relationship. The truth was I wasn’t ready for another relationship.
Surrender isn’t about giving in or conforming to outer conditions. Surrender is about letting go of our inner resistance to outer conditions. My inner resistance could have forced me to deny my broken heart. Instead, in that moment of clarity, I let go of my inner resistance and preference to get back at my ex.
The more we can pay attention to the voice that is constantly commenting on everything the more we can begin to witness the madness it often creates. Believing our thoughts at the expense of experiencing reality is one of the most unloving things we can do to ourselves. Our thoughts are based on half-truths at best that are designed to keep us safe but actually end up keeping us stuck. Releasing our thoughts’ hold on our view of reality is one of the forms of liberation the masters talk about.
It also promotes an experience of what one of my favorite spiritual teachers, A.H. Almaas call basic trust. Basic trust is not a trust in something, a person or situation and it cannot be diminished by life circumstances. Basic trust is an unspoken, implicit trust that whatever happens will ultimately be fine. There is a confidence that nature, the universe, and all that exists, are ultimately good and trustworthy. With this basic trust there is a sense of unquestioned safety and security that is intrinsic to the way you act and live. There is also a capacity to let go, to jump into the unknown.
For many of us, this is a momentous leap into a new paradigm. For others of us, it sounds more natural. One of the ways Michael Singer looks at this approach to life is to ask the following question:
Am I better off making up an alternate reality in my mind and then fighting with reality to make it be my way, or am I better off letting go of what I want and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around me?
The more our own experience of basic trust is present, the more the process of realization and transformation can proceed smoothly. To cultivate basic trust in all areas of our life, I invite you to join me in our very own surrender experiment.
For this quarter I’m going to invite you to go deeper into the material. Not only do I suggest getting your own copy of The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer, but I also invite you to take on your own experiment based on the question “what would happen if I respected the flow of life and used my free will to participate in what’s unfolding, instead of fighting it?”
Each week we will explore practices and tools to experiment with surrender in your own life. On Sundays we’ll have an opportunity to add a glass stone to our surrender chalice as an outer sign of our inner work. Please also share your stories of surrender with me via email.
Each new experience of true surrender can deepen the soul’s contact with basic trust. It is a profound way to live. While the outer circumstances of Michael Singer’s life will not be yours, that isn’t the point of his book. His invitation, and mine, is to let the consciousness of devotion to Reality, the Universe, be more powerful than any preference or belief you hold. See what unfolds. It’s an experiment. How will you know what surrender is really like if you don’t at least experiment?