Day three of my solo retreat: 3 hours of meditation, a hike, a swim and healthy food. I just came back from the restaurant. Everybody warns you about things that could involve tap water but by now I have found out that salads, ice coffees and fruit shakes are fine. Yes, sometimes being a warrior means you daringly try the salad in India even though the Lonely Planet tells you not to. The outcome was a relief. I ask the waiter to leave out the French fries and to double the veggies. Now I am happy.
It is interesting to see the influence of sunlight, healthy food, nature and peace and quiet on my system. Obviously, it is very good for me. Also, all these cliché thoughts come up. Like: we don’t need much or all that running around in the city is senseless. I catch myself fantasizing about which paradise island has decent Internet. With the help of Skype and PayPal I can sustain myself and be of service to others simultaneously. Why work from a rainy and chilly place if the reception is good under the coconut palms? I will roam the planet until I find the perfect place for my retreat center, all sustainable and eco-friendly of course.
Yesterday I received a question from a reader that is also kind of relevant to myself and I promised to try to answer it. In an email exchange around the break-up of my relationship I made a remark. I said: “for now, I surrender”. She questioned my surrender. Is it real surrender when it is temporarily, just for now? The questions that came up for her are relevant to her own situation and how she deals with surrender.
First interesting thing is the projection that is happening. She questioned my surrender and expressed doubt if my surrender was true surrender. This didn’t feel very comfortable for me. I had expressed my feelings related to a situation in my life and she gave me the idea my feelings were ‘wrong’. But when I gave her room to explain herself it turned out that behind her doubt was her own story. She was judging my surrender by the standards she judges herself. She was not really questioning me, he was questioning herself through me.
Surrender can be translated as letting go of protection mechanisms. It can also mean that I accept what I find hard to accept. Refusing to accept the truth is also a protection mechanism.
First my side of the story. When I said “for now, I surrender” it was because I could see that the wise and compassionate thing to do first is to accept the painful fact that breaking up with me was the best thing my girlfriend could do. There is an involuntary aspect: it was not my choice to break up this way and I also didn’t share her feelings. But I trust her and I trust life. I am on a journey and many things can happen. Actually, we are all on a journey and everything can happen. So I am letting it go and will not try to change the situation. That doesn’t mean I don’t love her or that I have started to love her less. If I still feel the same when I see her again I might pull some Don Juan tricks. But I take into account that everything can change. She might not be available anymore or I could fall in love with somebody else. By saying “ for now, I surrender” I consciously gave up the idea of control first: I stepped into not-knowing. I will take it from there.
But my dear reader has identified something else in herself. Being unable to let her guards down for her whole life she has now seen that surrender is the way to her heart. This is of course a struggle. The ego won’t let go just because we read somewhere that it is good for us. She can see how her ego is deluding her, sometimes pretending to let go by surrendering temporarily. And she is wondering: am I getting any closer to the truth or am I just fooling myself? How do I identify real change in myself?
My teacher Genpo Merzel once said to me: “you can’t see the grass grow but at some point you realize it needs to be cut”. It took me a couple of years of growing my grass before I realized he was right. Although I can still feel lost, sad or abandoned there is a huge difference between how I feel and deal with situations now and how I felt and acted in similar situations 10, 8, 5 or even 3 years ago. I can imagine that my reader will go through a similar process.
The spiritual path is not a linear process. Very often we feel that we are back at square one. The ego and its defense mechanisms want to survive and they are very cunning in deluding us. It is perhaps difficult to go into a state of permanent and complete surrender. It probably exists but it is not where I am at. But I feel we can have an intention to surrender over and over again. It is not so important if the surrender is the true surrender. Probably it isn’t always. But there is always bits of truth and integrity in every surrender, big or small.
When you notice that the ego is trying to delude you with a fake, inauthentic or temporal surrender just play along. Let him think he is tricking you; meanwhile you practice surrender. And if you have surrendered 100 of 1000 times you can be sure that the grass has grown significantly.