I turned 54 a few days ago. As usual, whenever my birthday rolls around, I spend some time in reflection and contemplation.
I’ve done that as soon as I got old enough to reflect and take stock of things in my life. I found that the practice has allowed me to be more mindful of the way I live, especially in my work and the relationships that I keep.
It has allowed me to see my life in retrospect, to celebrate my gains and mourn my losses properly as well as see areas where I could be better. Doing this has been a very rewarding exercise for me, especially on my birthday and when the New Year comes around.
My reflection this year was a bit different. It came in the form of a song – the lines of which showed me where I was at this point in my life and how I was supposed to go on. It was a song about “surrender” by one of my favorite inspirational artists, Karen Drucker. The song kept coming up in my consciousness as I spent time in reflection and I knew it had something for me.
Looking back, I realized that surrender was not a word that would describe my life. I used to be a control freak. I wanted everything in my life to go exactly as I wanted it to and for that to happen, I had to be in control. Whenever I felt things would get out of hand, I would panic and get anxious. I would lose a lot of sleep trying to mull over situations and how I can manipulate things so they would get back on track.
I especially hated it when I couldn’t foresee or predict any possible outcome. I’d spend enormous amounts of time planning and strategizing on how to make things go as I envisioned them to be. I did experience a fair amount of growth and success because of that, but I was constantly on edge.
Needless to say, I experienced all sorts of stress and the ills that came with it. I did pray a lot, but mostly it was to ask for God’s help so that things wouldn’t go awry. I needed God because he was someone that would help me control things when I couldn’t control them myself.
Over the years, however, I slowly realized how utterly tiring and futile it is to try to control life. I saw that the more I tried to get a firm grip on life, the more frustrated and fearful I became and the more it spun out of my hands. I needed to loosen my hold or lose it altogether.
I began to understand what the Bible meant when it said “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). It was not a one-time big revelation, but more of an unfolding. Little by little, one difficult challenge after another, one uneasy step at a time, I came to this place of surrender.
This was what I realized on my birthday as I reflected back on my life so far. I thought over the things that transpired in my life and I can say with much gratefulness that in the past few years, life has treated me rather well.
I am more at peace. I am happier.
I am excited about life and I feel life responding back to me in very positive ways.
I have family and friends who love and support me. I have work that is meaningful to me. All my needs are met. I have faith that all my desires and intentions will come to pass soon or eventually.
And so I asked myself, how did I come to this place? What changed it for me? And that was when the song began to play out in my head: SURRENDER.
In today’s competitive society, the word “surrender” is often viewed as a negative. It is often equated with “giving up” and is therefore seen as a weakness. However, it takes great strength to be able to surrender. In fact, Krishna Das once said, “The ultimate act of power is surrender”.
To live in surrender means coming to terms with the fact that life happens for us. The universe is a friendly place. Whatever emerges is meant for our highest good and we should surrender to whatever it is, whether we perceive it as positive or negative. There is no point in resisting and fighting against what is.
It is when we surrender to the wind that we can ride it. It is when we don’t resist the waves that we learn how to float, to swim, to surf. It does not mean that we no longer have any fears. It only means that one has chosen to come to a place of trust, of non-resistance. It means giving up on trying to understand everything and being okay with not knowing.
When I stopped trying to control the outcomes of my life, I found the freedom to truly enjoy it. When I stopped trying to steer my life in the direction I wanted it to take, I found myself on the right path. It is not that I do not plan or work hard anymore because I still do – but I no longer get so hung up on the result.
The endless striving and grasping has ceased and in its place there is the exhilarating freedom of simply letting go. It is not that I am without struggles. I do have them, and I allow myself to go through them – but in the end, I always try to find my way back to this place of surrender.