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Surrender and Submission are not the Same Thing

When I meditate I like to ask questions, because I usually get answers back. I'm not a religious person exactly, but I do believe it's divine guidance. Some would call it God, others the Universe, others Love, others my Higher Self. Regardless of who or what it is, the answers never lead me astray. It guided me to move to California. It guided me to go out the night I met my husband. It guided me to start coaching. So far its track record is a 10/10, so when it speaks, I listen.

Something I've been working on healing recently is my desire for control, so I asked "was it safe to surrender control when I was a child?" The answer I heard back was "no." When I asked "is it safe to surrender now?" I heard "it's the only thing that's safe." That hit me like a ton of bricks. In a good way.

Feeling safe enough to surrender and let go of control has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. To quote David Foster Wallace, "everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it." It's been a way to protect myself, and with a past like mine, it makes sense that I've wanted to do that.

The more we've had our mental/emotional/physical boundaries violated, the more difficult it becomes to surrender. It feels like submission, and there's a good reason for that. At one point in time it was.

Many of us have had to fight really hard to overcome oppression, whether that be at home, at work, in our relationships or in society at large. Many of us have been abused or assaulted. Many of us have been bullied or pressured. It makes a lot of sense to resist and fight against those things--it's a way to regain control and power when we feel powerless.

Here's where the problem lies: when we're used to fighting and resisting, it's easy to find something to fight/resist against. To a hammer everything is a nail. It is my deep belief that there is a divine presence in our lives--I've felt it since I was a child. I also believe that surrendering control to this mysterious divine force is our best shot at living a purpose-full and connected life.

Left to our own devices humans can only strive and contrive. When we're surrendered to the divine, we're able to transcend our limitations and create truly beautiful things. Most great artists, musicians, and even many scientists will tell you that their greatest work wasn't theirs--that it was divined (emphasis on divine), rather than created. They simply got out of the way, and let it come through. Surrender is the source of true genius. If, on the other hand, we refuse to let go of control, this divine presence has no room to work through us. It can only work in places we've made space for it. We must make space in our hearts, and the way to make space is to surrender control.

So how in the heck do we surrender, when all we know is control?

Truthfully I'm still in the discovery process and perhaps always will be, but I can share with you what I've found. The most helpful thing--by far--is to ask for help. When I notice myself trying to control/hedge/resist, I stop and ask for help. Sometimes I pray and ask God and the Universe for the courage to let go, and sometimes I ask a person to help me with a task. The important thing is that I stop trying to do it all myself.

If I'm really struggling, it's very helpful to orient myself in present time. That probably sounds random, so let me explain:

To put it simply, our desire to control is, at least in part, a desire to calm our stress-response systems and feel safe.

We all have a stress-response system. You've probably heard it described as the fight/flight/freeze response. It is our body's factory-installed survival system, and it is what helped humans avoid getting eaten by tigers and bears for many thousands of years.

The sensitivity of our stress-response systems get set in childhood, so if we had a lot of stress, trauma or dis-ease in our childhood, our stress-response systems became hyperactive to help keep us safe. We get stuck in fight, flight or freeze, and when we're stuck in those states, almost anything can be seen as a threat.

In order to calm down my system (which is stuck in the past), I focus on my senses. Our senses are always tied to the present moment. To do this, I ask myself the following questions: Where am I? What do I see? What do I smell? What can I touch? What do I hear? Chances are I am safe in the moment. When I've actually verified that, my stress-response calms down. Once I'm calm, I'm able to ask for guidance and help again.

I will continue sharing more tools as I find them, but for now I hope this will serve you well.