In last week’s lesson I talked about setting process goals. My process goal for this year is surrendering, giving up on trying to control life. I’ve tried to control life with my ego and any other way, but I’ve been unable to succeed in doing that. In fact, surrendering to life and trusting in how it unfolds, has been my biggest challenge all these years. 

As I mentioned in the last lesson, we need to have practical ways to act on our process goals. This article, Why Surrendering to Life is the Key to Positive Change, from Joshua Kauffman of Tiny Buddha has some helpful tips: 

  • “One of the very first somethings that happened was that I became aware of the self-talk in my head and was able to disassociate from it, listening to it as a separate entity.” Ah, awareness! What would we do without awareness?
  • “It was all these ‘shoulds’ that almost killed me because they left me stuck in a mental construct of my own making, set up in opposition to what was actually happening.” Trying to bend life to what we think it should be? How is that even possible?
  • “Surrender is not giving up on life but giving up fighting with life. And, when you’re not fighting with it, you’re working with life.” Letting go of “should” shifts our attention to working with the reality of what is, a necessary first step for action.
  • “Beyond the facts that what is ‘good’ is often in the eye of the beholder, and the ‘goodness’ of what appears to be a ‘bad’ or painful or unfair event is often not revealed until later, all of these good things that should happen are far beyond our control.” I like how he puts good and bad in quotation marks. We label events “good and bad” before we have time to realize the learning within them. Realizing the learning takes time. 
  • “…surrendering, far from waving the white flag, becomes the ultimate tool for empowerment and positive action.” What we initially think is a weakness, a cowardly way of giving up, is, once experienced, exactly the opposite. We become powerful because surrendering blends us with whatever stressor we’re working with. How powerful is that?
  • “When I stopped fighting with my situation, my scope and options for positive action became clear, and at that point I was in full control of the little space in life that I actually could control—me.” Yeah, what can we actually control? Me. Powerful positive action flows from focusing on what we can control. 
  • “By dropping the shoulds, I am now able, in my clear-thinking moments, to act without opposition from life and more quickly move to consider my course of action.” “More quickly” is key here. A gap is created between reality and our reaction to reality. Effective action can’t occur until that gap is closed. Close it quickly so you can flow with life. 

Joshua says, “The logic [is] neat and simple, but the practice is difficult. Some of the lessons and tips I’ve learned to get to this place that I would recommend:

  1. Allow yourself to vent—up to a point: Venting of negative emotions is useful insofar as it allows us to liberate ourselves of them. So, pay attention to your venting. Is it releasing the negative energy around opposition to life, or is it adding to that energy?
  2. Remind yourself that surrender is not giving up: surrender is not giving up on life but on fighting with life. Indeed, not surrendering to reality—questioning the fairness, goodness, or logic of the present moment—is crippling.
  3. Be the happy warrior: It’s something of an oxymoron, but the ‘happy warrior’ tends to be more effective vs. the angry warrior. Think about some of the most socially impactful figures in the last 100 years—Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Theresa—these are happy warriors. Their optimism was infectious in winning people to the cause, and this optimism stemmed from accepting reality as it was and moving on immediately to the ‘how do we change this?’ phase. They began by surrendering.”

So we conclude this lesson with the image of a “happy warrior.” What makes warriors? Power! True power doesn’t come from fighting against what we perceive as our enemies: actual people or simple stressors of ordinary life. True power comes from developing the ability to flow with the reality of life. Life isn’t about how you want it to be. It’s about how life is. The sooner you change your preconceptions of what life should be, the sooner you’ll enjoy the struggles that are inevitable in life. Surrendering does this. That’s my goal this year. 

Practice Tip: Be a Happy Warrior

Becoming a happy warrior requires surrendering to life. Doing that gives you true power. Use these three steps to surrender and become powerful:

  1. Pay attention to how you’re venting negativity. Are you experiencing negative emotions, thoughts, or frustrations? Step back to your foundational awareness and pay attention to them. That simple act of paying attention diminishes their intensity. 
  2. Remind yourself that you’re not a coward, giving up your power. You’re courageous, accessing your true power. 
  3. Be a happy warrior. Your smile and happy emotion will infect your being and those around you. Being a happy warrior is “how you change this.”

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Andrea

    Thanks, Arno. A couple of things came up for me after reading both yours and Joshua’s posts.
    First, and ironically, I pulled a card today that said, “Drop the ‘Shoulds’ ” Rick Hanson reminds us to “be aware of whatever values are appropriate distinct from the rigid rule of this ‘should’ “
    Second, it reminded me of a previous post of yours. I recall, “pain + resistance = suffering and pain + Acceptance = freedom “. This has helped remind me to trust whatever life is offering to me and to be grateful for the lesson whether I feel comfortable or uncomfortable with what is happening. I choose to surrender to all that life offers me
    Thank you!

    1. Arno

      Hi Andrea, Nice observations. “Pulled a card”? Like Tarot? If so, I see such tools similar to what the ancient Oracle of Delphi did. She never answered one’s questions but rather made comments or asked additional questions to help one dig deeper into their own self. Yes those “formulas” can be simple to see and act on. We’ll have pain in life. By accepting it we can begin working with it. That’s freedom. a

      1. Helen

        Hi Arno and Adrea
        I am in a challenging situation at my work place as well as in my private life. I want the situation to change. I think it is crucial to accept what happens and not to see myself as a victim. But I think it is also crucial to define “accepting” correctly. For me, it does not mean to just be fatalist and think “it is as it is”. For me, accepting means be aware of the challenge, acknowledging that it is there and finally think of actionable steps to get out of the actual situation. I guess it is what Arno means by saying “By accepting it we can begin working with it”. “That’s freedom” – this is what keeps me trying “the accepting thing” again and again. Great message! Thanks, Arno

        1. Arno

          Hi Helen, Thanks for your comments. Yes, language can be confusing based on how we each understand it. “Acceptance” can be associated with action, of work we do to change situations. In reality, acceptance in how I’m referring to it has to do with preparation. We accept the situation as it is so we can think about it accurately. What are the actual details of the current situation? From that foundation we can make an action plan to change it. In action, too, acceptance is useful. It will not unfold as we expect, just like on a climb. To be adaptable, we accept how it’s different than we expected and then choose a better option for the next action. 🙂 a

  2. Katie

    So many wonderful points in this post! I appreciate the reminder to surrender, go with the flow, and focus on the thing we can control.

    1. Arno

      Hi Katie, yes, the points put “giving up” or “surrendering” into helpful perspectives. There really is power in giving up what we can’t control, including our small ego self, so we can trust life and a larger version of ourselves. 🙂

  3. Dave Pfurr

    Like this, Arno!

    Stephen Covey told a story of a ship’s captain trying to boss another approaching ship on a collision course, whose light he sees approaching at night, out of his way. Eventually, the signals back and forth reveal that the “other ship” is actually a lighthouse. Covey says that reality-based principles are like the rocks that the lighthouse warns of: We may break ourselves on them, but we won’t change them.

    I’ve been taking a sort of sabatical from climbing and have instead been fly-fishing through this pandemic–but the learning experiences in fly-fishing have still been along the lines of the same principles of the Warriors Way. Without getting into the intricacies of fly-fishing, I’ll just say that a lot of my learning has come along with acceptance of the nature of the things I am dealing with–“dialing in” as I used to say in climbing. There is Reality–and Reality is a big rock that will not be made otherwise by our desires. Each of us has to accomodate ourselve to Reality, learn its ways, and work with the grain of it.

    1. Arno

      Ahhhh Dave, I like that: Work with the grain of it. I remember an old Army Colonel who had a closing statement that I’ve never forgotten, probably because of its imagery: “And as you slide down the banisters of life, may the splinters all be facing in the right direction.” Can you imaging splinters facing wrong direction? Painful, just like resisting how life is directing us. a

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