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The Path of Surrender Over Struggle

There is a story about two young monks proceeding on a journey by foot to a distant village. At one point, as they crossed a bridge, the bridge broke and they fell into the river. The first monk, frightened at finding himself being swept along in the swollen river, began to struggle and soon drowned. The second monk accepted his circumstances as he watched himself being carried far off his path by the turbulent waters, not knowing when or if he would ever be able to get to shore. He removed his heavy, restricting garments and flowed along with the river. Making his way toward shore at a comfortable pace, he enjoyed the passing scenery on the banks. After a time, the river took him to a point where the current slowed and the monk found himself standing on a sandbar at a bend in the river adjacent to a village. Feeling grateful for his adventure and his delivery there from, he entered the village to inquire as to how he might get back on course toward his destination. To his great delight, he found that the river had delivered him to the very village he was seeking.

The Origin of Fear

In answer to the "why" of our existence, there is an ancient Native American teaching that the Great Spirit, which is perfect beyond creation, entered creation to dance the dance of attaining perfection within creation. Yet, in this mythology, as in many of the great world mythologies, there emerges the sense of the separation from the Great Spirit, or God. Out of this sense of separation from the All-That-Is that comes from entering creation, we experience the finite smallness of our physical existence and the vulnerability that comes with it. So, we begin to experience the primal negative emotion: fear. The more we turn our attention away from our inner connection to spirit, the more we experience fear. To the extent that we maintain the inner connection to the Absolute, we have at least an intuitive connection of our inviolate place in the Oneness of Spirit and Nature. That inner connection, as we dance the dance of creation, is our point of balance and the basis of our trust.

If we compare and distill the teachings of the Great Ones down through the ages, we come to recognize that there are only two ways of being in the world: the way of fear and the way of trust -- or surrender. All negative emotions have their basis in fear. When our way of being in the world is dominated by the outer-focused lower mind (or ego mind), we routinely see the events of our lives as being so much bigger than we are. We feel vulnerable and afraid. We can accept the vulnerability and the fear that comes with that state of mind, or we can deny them both. Our favorite way of denying our fear is developing a delusion that we can control the events in our lives. Many of us do that so effectively that we live whole lifetimes creating enough "safe places and spaces" to feel that life is predictable and, therefore, tolerable. From the denial-of-fear position, to the extent that we cannot maintain control of life events according to our finite view of how things should be, we become increasingly stressed and overwhelmed. Failing to recognize or accept that we are powerless to maintain reliable control over the river of life's events, like the first monk in the river, we drown. Perhaps we die early, or unfulfilled -- certainly unenlightened. Others of us, intuitively sensing our inability to control the outer world, seek to change consciousness in response to life's events by turning to uncontrollable and body-destroying chemicals. Many of the rest of us give in to our fear and sense of hopelessness and -- believing our only alternatives are struggling or drowning -- we struggle until we drown. What about letting go of struggle -- to float with the current?

Beyond Fear -- The Power of Surrender

How do we change our way of being in the world from that of fear to that of trust? First we must recognize our fear, accept it and own it as ours. We must experience the fear to realize that denial of our fear is the primordial lie and that belief in anything, especially God or a religion, as a reaction to one's fear is the ultimate expression of that lie. Our beliefs hide our fears and they are no substitute for experience. We cannot experience the river from the bridge. The Grace and Providence of life are that many of life's events are meant to break our self-made bridges of belief and delusion and cast us into the river. As we experience the power of the river, we come to the realization that the river endures and bridges are swept away. We cannot force the future or change the past anymore than we can change the scenery along the banks. We are swept along naked in the torrents with our raw fear and -- without our beliefs and delusions -- we have no choice but to rely on experience. We see that we are still floating along without them. We realize that we tire and start to sink when we struggle, so we learn to stop struggling. This is known as the experience of surrender.

At some point we realize that we have not perished . . . that we are being carried and nurtured by the river. We realize that apparent randomness is an illusion and there are no coincidences in life. Every turn of the river is meant to take us home to the village. Because we are Spirit in essence, our surrender of struggle with the outer world, with Nature, frees our energies to where they begin to turn inward to Spirit. As we are drawn inward by that energy, we become quieter -- we meditate -- we trust. We know, not believe, that Spirit is the force driving the river. From there, the journey becomes more one of remembering. As we move with the flow of the river, we forget from time to time, and begin the struggle. Then, we remember and stop struggling. In time, we remember more often than we struggle and the flow of life continues ever more peacefully.

Finally, we remember that we are not the doers -- we are part of the flow -- part of the One. The past and the future are the same banks on the same river going to the same village. And there is really nobody on the path by the time the path reaches the village. The naked one who walks out of the water at the village is not the same monk who fell off the bridge. This is the way of trust. This is the way, my Spirit, of becoming perfected within creation.

Granville Angell, Ed.S., L.P.C., N.C.C.

Copyright 1987 by Granville Angell. All Rights Reserved

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