Although surrender is often spoken of by spiritual teachers (including myself) as the key to spiritual freedom, somehow it has become erroneously equated with being passive. In other words, surrender is conveniently confused with “not doing anything.”
It’s convenient because it upholds the idea that you can abdicate responsibility for making decisions or having a direction in life. This kind of surrender is really a laziness masquerading as spirituality. It’s a subtle egoic strategy for staying in the comfort zone. It’s not malicious or even intentional; it’s simply a blind spot. It’s what happens when the “I” that continues to operate after awakening is rejected, and is an indication that awakeness has not yet descended from mind to heart to belly.
When surrender gets stuck as a mental abstraction, there’s a kind of constipation that prevents the maturation of awakening. What causes the blockage is a hidden agenda: the expectation that life after awakening is easy, there are no more challenges to grow from, you never stumble and fall and have to pick yourself up again, and you never have to harness an inner strength or discipline or resilience in order to fulfill your highest potential as a human being.
There’s also an expectation that only good things happen, no personal calamity ever strikes, and you’re protected against the world’s tragedy. This kind of superstitious thinking means you don’t have to engage with the messy business of being human — that somehow, just because you’re in the spiritually elevated zone of “going with the flow,” nothing touches you. And anyway, even if things don’t work out as smoothly as expected (say your partner suddenly leaves you or someone close to you dies), there’s no “self” to be hurt or disappointed and there’s no “self” to pick up the pieces or to make decisions.
While this extreme nondual standpoint may seem to provide immunity from suffering, there’s a lack of engagement with life that creates a more underground (and yet just as malignant) suffering called apathy.
True freedom from suffering happens when the “I” that is the doer is embraced as an integral expression of consciousness. At this deeper level of surrender, there is no longer an opposition between being and doing, because the outer action of doing (and making decisions) arises out of an inner silence of being. You can be very active and yet totally silent within. You could call this awakened doing.
In awakened doing, while the sense of an “I” that makes decisions continues, there’s a very different quality. There’s a sense of effortless effort, a kind of spontaneity that arises from being deeply rooted in the belly. You make decisions and take action (or nonaction) from a gut feeling. It’s a direct moment-to-moment response to the waves that appear as part of the human experience. It’s so instantaneous that there’s no sense of personal will, and it feels as if you are “going with the flow.”
What’s really happening is that there is no inner resistance to the deeper impulse of life’s intelligence. It’s as if each moment-to-moment unfoldment is happening at the same time as your response to it. Whether your response is a "yes" or a "no" is not the issue, because life’s intelligence has already revealed the "yes" or the "no" through the “I” that appears to make a decision.
You can tell if your doing arises out of being, because there is peace in the "yes" and peace in the "no".
(photo by Klara Avsenik on Unsplash)