Learning to Let Go
One of my biggest lessons lately is allowing myself to surrender.
I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago (and yes, of course, it was another Super Soul Conversations podcast) in which Gabby Bernstein offers up five steps to spiritual surrender. You can watch the video here.
Even that word … surrender. It makes me super uncomfortable.
I guess I'm a bit of a control freak, although I'd like to rebrand that phrase to something a little kinder. Recovering control addict, perhaps? Surrenderer in-training?
I know I’m not alone out there. So many people suffer from this same struggle—the feeling they have to be in total, complete control over every detail of their lives 100% of the time.
it’s really easy to get frustrated with ourselves or with the the people in our lives who are constantly fighting for this control. Which is why it’s important, I think, to acknowledge the deep-seated fear behind it all, because that’s really what a need for control is—it's a coping mechanism for fear.
Instead of looking fear in the eye and trying to understand it, we try to control every variable it presents so that things don’t feel uncertain or chaotic. For me, personally, I tend to feel like if I don't keep everything in my life under control, it will fall apart. I get afraid that if I don't hold a tight grip on all the different goals I'm trying to achieve, that I'll fail miserably and then everyone will know I'm an imposter. I'm afraid that if I don't control my every minute of every day, that I'll never become the person I want to be.
The ironic thing about that is that all of this obsession and white-hot fixation on control? It's actually keeping me from being who I already am.
So ... (deep sigh) ... I knew this Gabby Bernstein podcast would probably be a good talk for me to listen to and think about. If I've learned anything from my yoga practice, it's that usually the things we're resisting the hardest are the things we need the most.
Here are Gabby's five steps:
1. Take your hands off the steering wheel through prayer
Okay, I thought ... I can do that. I meditate, I do gratitude journals, I pray for my life every time I'm on a plane that's taking off or landing ... does that count?
2. Focus on what's working and thriving
Hmm ... now that's a fascinating concept. I don't think I'm alone in that I often focus on ... okay, I often obsess over what's NOT working in my life. I zero-in on all of the things I want to change and all of the things I need to fix and organize and get together and start and clean up and do before I can allow myself to feel okay.
The problem with this approach is that it completely robs me of any joy within my day-to-day life. Here's what Gabby says about it in a blog post:
"Remember, joy is the ultimate creator. When we vibrate at the frequency of joy, we attract everything we need."
Making space for this type of appreciation also makes space for not just joy, but enjoyment. If life is a journey, not a destination, then I'd like to try to enjoy the ride as best I can.
3. Recognize that obstacles are detours in the right direction
This one is hard to accept, isn't it? It is for me, at least. I feel like as kids, we're taught to push through challenge, work hard to overcome obstacles, and not let setbacks deter us from our goals. It's not that those sentiments are bad advice or even wrong, they're just leaving out the part about surrender and acceptance.
Pushing through obstacles blindly won't help us move any closer towards our highest selves ... acknowledging obstacles, thinking about what they might have to show us and realizing they might be a road sign pointing in another direction? That's where the magic happens.
4. Ask the universe for a sign
This one I wasn't so sure about. As much as I'm interested in manifestation and the law of attraction and all of that spiritual business, I am a skeptic at heart, after all. Questioning everything is kind of what I'm wired to do. On her blog, Gabby says, "Be in wonder of the guidance all around you!"
Okay. Be in wonder, I thought. Now that I can do.
Maybe it's not about asking or looking for a sign, as if that's the confirmation you need to proceed with your life. Maybe instead, it's about slowing down, taking time to be in wonder of the beauty all around you.
I've started to take more walks lately. I've started journaling outside on our porch, watching cardinals fly by and squirrels climb the trees. Being outside, for me, is when I feel most at wonder and incidentally, at peace.
5. When you think you've surrendered, surrender more
When she got to this one on the podcast, I think my jaw dropped. This step really spoke to me. It made me think about the difference between going through the motions and actually embodying what you say you're going to do. It made me think about the difference between trying to hurry up and surrender and actually living that intention day in and day out.
I knew in that moment that no amount of planning out when I was going to meditate, or writing down daily gratitude lists, or aimlessly asking for signs was going to help me relinquish my death grip on control. I realized then that maybe, learning to surrender is something that might not happen right away—like yoga, it's a practice.
Like anything worthwhile, it takes time. And that's okay.
So maybe the first step is letting go of that expectation: that as soon as I can just get my shit together and surrender, already! everything will fall into place.
Maybe the biggest lesson of all is not what happens after the surrender, but during.
At the end of her talk, Gabby shared her daily prayer. It comes from the spiritual text, A Course in Miracles, by Helen Schucman, and goes like this:
Where would you have me go?
What would you have me do?
What would you have me say? And to whom?
Since then, I've also adopted those words as my prayer. When I feel control taking over, when the idea of letting go and surrendering feel really far away, I turn back to those words.
Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that if I let go of my own timelines, outcomes, and expectations, that the universe will provide something much greater than I ever could have imagined. Instead of trying to force it, I'm trying to meet myself where I'm at. I look at it this way:
If I let go of my own timelines, outcomes, and expectations, I allow more space for creativity, serendipity, and enjoyment to enter.
That, for me, is just a little bit easier to digest and embody.
Because, really, without those three things, where's the fun in life, anyway?
And at the end of the day, learning to let go and surrender is about not taking yourself, or your life, so damn seriously.