Don’t give up; surrender

How to open your heart to possibility

The other day I was talking to a friend when he asked me a question. I answered what I felt was true, and we moved on with our conversation. But later I reviewed my response to him and I realized: I’ve given up.

Now, giving up is different than surrendering, though sometimes you have to first give up to get to surrender.

Here’s what I mean.

Giving up comes from a sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, and despair. We give up when we feel paralyzed, overwhelmed, or stuck. Giving up often leads to apathy, frustration, or bitterness.

Surrendering is different. Surrender is a choice. You admit you don’t know, and let go of forcing or figuring it out with your mind. Surrender comes from honestly evaluating your choices and recognizing that while you don’t know what’s next, what you are doing is not working.

Giving up comes from fear and doubt and closes us down. Surrender comes from love and faith and opens up possibilities because we finally let go of our narrow perspective and let something larger work through us.

To illustrate the difference between surrender and giving up, here is a traditional Japanese story, which I first learned from my fire walking mentor, Peggy Dylan:

A monk is being chased by a tiger. He comes to the edge of a cliff. Looking down, he sees a vine, which he grabs hold of and starts climbing. As he is clinging to the vine he looks up to see the tiger peering over the cliff at him, and looks down to see two tigers circling below. Then he hears a sound and sees a mouse chewing on the vine he is grasping. To his left is a wild strawberry, which he plucks and puts into his mouth.

When I first heard this story my first thought was “WHAT?”

Now I think I am starting to understand.

We are faced with choices every day. We all have tigers chasing us: difficult experiences, betrayals, loss. We get to the end of our rope, and everywhere we look there are mice chewing on the vine we are grasping.

And here is the choice point: give up or surrender?

Giving up drains our energy, dampens our creativity and intuition, and nulls our wisdom.

Ah, but surrender. When we surrender, we keep our perceptions open. We stay in the present moment. We look around to see what new idea or experience or possibility are waiting. Instead of our mind being filled with stories, fears, and disaster scenarios we are surrendered into choosing the nourishment of the strawberry. And it is from this place, strawberry on our tongue, immersed in gratitude, that the miracles and unexpected surprise answers show up.

Giving up comes after fighting and struggling; surrender comes from listening with faith. Giving up says “I lost, I can’t do it, I made a mistake.” Surrender says, “I trust that something larger is at work here.”

Here is a story from my own life:

After a particularly devastating heartbreak I found myself at a choice point. I literally felt like I was at a crossroads, and I could see down the pathway of both roads. One road was well-laid and straight, a well-worn storyline that led to defended bitterness from betrayal and blame. The second road was curvy and unpaved, and not well marked. But I could sense in the far distance that it led to forgiveness and peace.

My mind yelled at me, “Of course, take the easy path, it is the truth! You have been betrayed! You shouldn’t trust love! Look at the evidence!”

My heart whispered, “You can do this. Turn towards love. You don’t need to know how. Just take the next step, sweetheart.”

I’ve never regretted choosing the sometimes more difficult, less traveled path, because that is where the beauty lies; learning how to surrender into faith, even when we have no idea how.

There are so many things to give up on, so many ways to armor our hearts, so many options to feel helpless, so much to be overwhelmed by. Instead, choose to surrender and let yourself be guided by the quiet wisdom of your heart.

Let’s be love revolutionaries, walking towards freedom, compassion, and presence.

For the next blog I’ll share about the importance and application of boundaries, communication, and tender fierceness needed to be a love revolutionary!

Here’s to surrendered presence and strawberry wisdom,

P.S.  Get good guidance for surrendering and claiming the power of love: The Warrior Heart Practice, my new online course, begins Tuesday, February 11th through The Shift Network.  Or join me for Heartistry, a live experiential workshop with my dear friend Sarah Rose Marshank at 1440, a gorgeous Santa Cruz mountain retreat April 3 – 5.