Honoring the active, empowered and empowering process of giving up the struggle of resisting what-is-so without forcing our selves to give up our feelings about what-is-so.
What you resist, persists…
Accepting and surrendering into "what-is" doesn't mean you have to love it…
You can feel sad, cranky or angry about it
and still surrender into it at the very same time!
I spent seven years through the end of my forties living an inward, hermit-like existence. Committed to healing both my life and the profound re-wounding from a recently ended relationship, I was living in the slow lane.
I'd spend two long days each week seeing clients. The next five I'd be mostly solitary, immersed in whatever was nurturing and healing for me at the time. I'd work a couple of hours each week with a creative arts therapist, essentially doing play therapy for grown-ups. I'd arrange for two hours of massage and/or other bodywork (Rolfing, energy work, Polarity work) every week.
Then, by my self, I'd play and explore using the tools I'd been gathering in the play therapy. I'd do authentic (spontaneous) movement, create child-like art and rhythm-band percussion music, journal with colored pens using my non-dominant hand, spend hours cuddling my teddy bear and listening to the Little Ones inside me. I'd go hiking or walking in the mountains and canyons of Ojai singing to my inner Little Ones the lullaby-chants that came to me from the Great Mother as I wandered.
Early on in that period, I became absorbed in an extensive project: relocating a huge volume of rocks, boulders and construction debris that had, till then, littered the neglected back and side yards around my rented cottage. As, over the months and years, I levered and rolled the boulders, moved or sometimes hurled the rocks, I created several beautiful rock-walled outdoor havens – sacred spaces for my self all around my house. Moving these mountains of debris, one rock at a time, was nourishing and comforting. It provided an education in slowness, patience and the process of transformation.
I occasionally spent small amounts of time with one of two or three friends. But, most of my people time was spent at four-times-a-year, five-day retreats, sitting in a lodge-circle with a small group of women in northern California. We had come together to explore and experiment with how women hold and share power. All of us were working as healing mentors while simultaneously engaged in our own inner work. Sitting with this circle, I got to practice being the fuller version of me that was emerging during my alone time.
Shortly after I turned 50, a very different chapter in my life opened. Little by little, I was being nudged back out into the world. It began with an invitation to speak at a Women's Council on Aging into Power organized by some of the women in that lodge-circle. As the time of the conference approached, I moved into a period of heightened creativity and synthesis.
First came the birth of the deck of Rememberings and Celebrations Cards. Then I resurrected all the cards, treasures and amulets I had, every winter solstice over past years, created for friends and clients. I reprinted and produced these in quantities that could be made available to people beyond my own usual circle. All of it went with me to the conference as give-away for the women who came to participate in that Council.
Over the next two years, I developed a small mail-order catalog/business to sell my creations. Every step along the way felt magical and perfectly timed. I never decided or figured anything out. Amazing possibilities and coincidences kept presenting themselves to me. An overflow of money came from my work as a therapist to fund all the stages of this budding enterprise.
Quite serendipitously, at an opportune moment, someone turned me on to a list of feminist women's bookstores around the country. Spirit/the Grandmothers nudged me once again, this time into doing a mailing, sending out 200 decks with letters inviting these stores to consider selling my work. (Several chose to do that.) An old friend in Key West, Florida created a Robyn Corner in her one-of-a-kind boutique and began selling lots of decks of cards. Another old friend who ran Overcoming Overeating workshops across the country began selling decks at OO conferences, seminars and centers. Those who bought the decks in these places frequently sent requests for the catalog of my other works.
It was a time filled with periods of intense activity, creativity and production. And, as more invitations and opportunities arrived for me to speak about my work, my life and what I was learning, there were seasons when I was constantly nudged out of my solitary refuge.
The out-in-the-world times were followed by long periods of my till-then-more-usual deep resting: reading and daydreaming in the hammock, in front of the wood stove or while wandering in the mountains and canyons. Despite the additions and changes that came in these times, it still felt as though I were living my familiar, slowed down life – if only more intermittently now.
Then, I was swept into an even higher gear out-in-the-world cycle. Everything I was doing continued to feel directed and pushed by the energies and guidance that came from Spirit/the Grandmothers. But now, I no longer felt I had any veto power in the proceedings.
This newer cycle began with the birth of designs using my images and words for imprinting T-shirts. Shortly after, I followed the promptings of Spirit/the Grandmothers arranging to have the T-shirts produced and then moving out into the world with them as an itinerate peddler.
On my non-work days I was buying or building portable components for displays, gathering inventory and filing applications to be a vendor at an ever-increasing number of Women's Festivals, Spirituality Festivals, Pride Festivals, and women's or professional conferences of one sort or another. Then, I started being on the road at least once a month in California and the Southwest.
At the various festivals and conferences, the Grandmothers' energies cajoled me into giving talks and workshops. When I'd do a talk or an experiential workshop, I'd feel inspired and guided. I did little preparation for the presentations. My job was simply to calm, center and clear my self; to get my mind out of the way so that I could come into the space available to speak whatever of my experiences and learning was appropriate to be spoken about with that particular audience.
Even though the talks and workshops were generally exciting opportunities to edge-walk/dance with Spirit, none of this was anything I wanted or would have chosen to do with my otherwise open, empty time. Often I'd be terminally cranky about all the planning, packing, schlepping, loading, setting up, tearing down, reloading, driving, unloading, and unpacking. I felt over the edge much of the time – as though I were spinning out of control, careening at impossible speeds into unknown territory.
I would have tantrums and rail at Spirit: "Whose life is this?" "I hate this!" "I want my real life back!" "Please, please just let me rest and stay at home!" I'd try to go on strike: I'd dig my heels in, refuse to travel anymore. I'd try to shut out the pressure, the relentless nudging. But, there was no way out of the flow that kept pushing and herding me out into massive amounts of people contact. At some point, it finally became clear to me that this was what my real life was for now. I gave up the useless resisting. I gave in. I surrendered.
Surrendering into the middle of the new shape of my existence did not ever include loving it or even liking it. Surrendering meant accepting that this was what my life was to be about for a time (or maybe, forever more). Surrendering meant letting go of struggling and railing against what was so about my life in these moments. Surrendering meant looking, instead, for what lessons there might be for me in the midst of all this unavoidable unpleasantness. Surrendering did not mean that I was required to give up my gripes about what I was having to surrender into. In fact, surrendering was much easier when I could allow my self to continue hating the situation.
During the next three years I moved in and out of extreme crabbiness, in and out of hating the course of things. At the same time, I no longer resisted the flow in any way. The flow continued – unremittingly outward. While I hated it, I watched, I listened and I learned. My vision of my journey expanded. The me that had emerged in solitude moved out to explore her self in a wide variety of unfamiliar settings.
I had many opportunities to witness the impact of my work on passers-by who stopped and with eyes closed, randomly picked a Rememberings and Celebrations card from a basket outside my booths. I'd be as stunned as they were by the synchronistic appropriateness of the cards they picked. People who came into the booths to buy my cards and shirts and amulets were stirred – by the words and images in my work – to share intimate healing stories from their own journeys.
I got to watch how separate I felt from my work, how little it felt mine in any self-aggrandizing, ego way. I could accept credit for the tremendous work I'd been doing to get out of the way so that Spirit could use my life, my experience, my emotional fluency as a vehicle. I could feel amazed by what had come through me. I could be fairly comfortable receiving acknowledgment and gratitude for the healing impact of this naked sharing of my own process.
And, through those busy out-in-the-world years about which I so often griped, I began what has been a phenomenal, catalytic collaboration. My friend B – whose nudging and coaching over the years brought me (kicking and screaming) into the world of websites and computer literacy – introduced me to the magical possibilities of collaboration as we created shared sacred spaces for showing our wares at festivals.
It distresses me that so many spiritual traditions imply that equanimity always comes with (or from) surrender. Or, conversely, that still having considerations or gripes implies that one hasn't really been surrendering. It distresses me, as well, that our larger culture continues to view surrender negatively, as a passive, disempowered caving in.
I see surrender as an active, empowered and empowering choice to accept and allow what is so, to be so. It involves committing our selves to fully embracing what is. Yet, it does not require, ever, that we suppress or give up our considerations, irritation, sadness or crabbiness about whatever it is that we're embracing. Allowing our selves to grump about it is often what allows us more easily to surrender.
Giving up the struggle of resisting the inevitable (rather than giving up our feelings about it) is what enables us to use our energies to harvest the gifts hiding in the middle of what feels so awful.
Consider lovingly honoring your willingness to surrender your resistance without surrendering your feelings.