By Andrea Wachter, LMFT
Having been around the spiritual book block a time or two (umm, make that more like 2,000!), I am no stranger to the concept of surrender. If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard it and read it a thousand times too: “What you resist will persist,” “Let it go and see if it flies back,” etc. I don’t know about you, but when I want something, the last thing I am inclined to do is let it go and see if it comes back. And yet, everything I have ever read regarding the laws of attraction and the foundation of spiritual principles has led me back again and again to this: Obsessing and excessive efforting equals misery and usually does not help in attaining my goals, whereas letting go and surrendering brings peace and is often accompanied by some pretty magical experiences. (And if nothing magical happens to occur, if there has truly been a genuine surrender, then peace ensues anyway, which is really the end goal of any goal in the first place!)
Case in point: I spent decades obsessing about relationships. You know, finding Mr. Right, my significant other, my life partner. I dabbled on Internet dating sites, I dabbled with blind date set-ups, I dabbled at parties and gatherings with my mate-matching antennae up high. And not once did anything akin to magic occur. What did happen was a lot of frustration, a lot of feeling unlovable, a lot of mismatches and a lot of painful comparing myself to couples who appeared to be so content.
Eventually came my genuine surrender. I was about a decade into my fruitless search. I remember complaining to a dear friend about a recent dating fiasco and she said, “You know, as long as I have known you, you have been trying to find a partner. What about letting go of trying and just enjoying your life as it is?” Well, I never! I thought I was enjoying my life. I thought I needed to seek a partner in order to deem myself worthy. But, I realized, she did have a point. I had been quite the little “trier.” So, I decided to try to let go of trying. Oh this being human stuff is so complicated, isn’t it?
So, I surrendered. Not the pray with clasped hands and one eye closed while peeking with the other eye to see if my prayer is getting answered kind of prayer. It was a genuine surrender. I truly let go. I decided that my life really was wonderful. That I really was enough, with or without a partner. I decided to just live my life and focus on what I already had instead of what I thought was missing.
My favorite definition of unhappiness is this: “Unhappiness is the exact distance between where we are and where we think we should be.”
I think the opposite is true as well. The definition of happiness is, “Wanting to be where you are.” (After all, we are right where we are anyway, why not enjoy or at least accept it!) Now, I have nothing against a good ol’ goal or two, but when we think we are not okay now and will be okay “when,” it is a set up for never feeling okay!
So, back to my story. I truly let go of looking for a partner. I decided to love my life and myself and let go of the idea that I would only be okay if I was partnered. It wasn’t a fake it till you make it kind of let go. It was the real thing.
And about a year or two into my genuine surrender, I accepted an invitation to go a beach bonfire with a friend. I had no intention of meeting anyone special. I simply had the intention of going to the beach for a bonfire. Period. I didn’t even try to dress cute. I went with my black hoodie, black hat, Unabomber look. And it was there that I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in decades. We learned that we were both divorced. We learned that we had a lot in common, and the rest, shall I say, is genuine surrender history! The main point here is not that I met my wonderful husband at the beach. It’s that I would have been fine if I hadn’t.
I always wonder why the universe gives us these gifts when we let go. Don’t we need them a tad more when we are desperately searching and in need? Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of teaching us the lesson of letting go, but I can’t begin to speak for the universe! I can only speak to my own and countless clients’ experiences. Genuine surrender leads to genuine peace and it’s often followed by some genuinely cool things. If it’s not though, you are already at peace, which is pretty cool in and of itself!
A similar thing happened around my weight. I spent decades on one diet or another. Each one eventually led me back to bingeing, and I was pretty lost in a life of hellish weight fluctuations. I was convinced that losing weight would make me happy. Not only did it not make me happy, I was so starved, deprived and obsessed, I always rebelled from each diet and gained back the weight I lost — plus a rebate. Also not bringing said happiness. (See definition above!)
Then one day out of the clear blue internal insanity of a chronic dieter, it occurred to me. What if I let go of trying to lose weight and just try to eat what I truly love in moderate amounts? What if I genuinely surrender? What if I am heavier than I want to be but saner with food? Wouldn’t that be worth a few pounds or 20? And for the first time in my memory, I let go of wanting to lose weight. I didn’t go to the extreme of bingeing and giving up on myself, I simply decided I would eat lovingly, let go of dieting and let my poor body finally do what it wanted to do. I figured if I could have butter on my bread instead of no bread followed by bingeing on a whole loaf, it would be worth some extra weight.
And, for the first time in my entire life, I lost weight without trying. I truly let go and I truly got what I had been desperately and unsuccessfully seeking for decades. And, even if I hadn’t lost weight, I still would have had peace, since I had let go for real.
I could go on and on with examples but you hopefully get my point here. See if there is something in your life you can genuinely surrender. See if there is something you can make a peace treaty with. See what happens. If something magical occurs, great. If not, peace is pretty magical in and of itself.