The Art of Surrender

by Christopher Lovejoy on May 8, 2011

Many years ago, in my mid-teens, I surrendered to death.

My sister and I were with some friends in a finished bedroom in the basement of a house and we were told that the joint we were about to smoke contained hashish.

When it came my turn, I took a few tokes and the next thing I remember I was lying on a large bed, prone on my right side, feeling barely conscious of myself and my surroundings.

My body was paralyzed, and I felt extremely dissociated from my body and my surroundings, but I experienced no hallucinations, delusions, delirium, or disorientation.

I could see my sister and my friends about fifteen feet away, laughing and getting high. They called out cheerfully for me to join them. I don’t know how, but I managed to utter, “I would if I could.” When I said it, I saw a friend of a friend (the one who brought the joint) smile and nod wisely.

I felt like I was entombed inside my body, with but a tiny island of awareness to sustain me.

In one eternal moment, I thought that this was it; my life was over. At some point, I just surrendered to my mentally suffocating, physically paralyzing condition for what seemed like an eternity.

I surrendered to the Witness perspective in a most visceral way, allowing myself to watch and listen passively to the events that played out before me until the feeling came back into my body.

In retrospect, the hashish joint was probably laced with a moderate dose of PCP (angel dust).

Needless to say, this is not a substance you want to take casually.

Surrender: The Positive Meaning

Certainly, the term surrender carries a negative connotation. No one I know cares to be made a willing prisoner to another, unless of course it’s done playfully and respectfully.

Surrender, as a beneficial practice, carries a positive connotation, and requires that you know and appreciate the difference between unconscious resistance and conscious surrender.

The value in conscious surrender lies in being conscious of the effects of your unconscious resistance, so that when you feel them, you can relax into them and release them with ease.

I sometimes catch myself tensing my shoulders when I’m writing with great intensity.

By deliberately and periodically checking in with my body, I can bring my awareness to this tension, assume a witness posture, and allow the tension to melt away in mere moments.

When I wake up in the morning, I sometimes feel a little more tense than I would like.

By assuming a witness perspective with the way my body feels, I can easily and gently coax my body into a neutral state of rest, releasing any mental or emotional tension that goes along with it.

As a practice, voluntary surrender has many observable benefits, but for surrender to become an art, something more is required to enjoy the full benefits of conscious surrender.

Your Values: An Exercise in Surrender

Voluntary surrender comes in two parts: surrender to the moment and surrender to the flow.

Before we can turn these two practices into an art, it helps to know what you really and truly value in your life – what really and truly matters to you so that you know what you’re aiming to fulfill.

Knowing what you really and truly value will serve as your polestar when you’re at rest, dwelling in a peaceful moment, or when you’re in motion, going with the flow and flowing with the go.

A quick assessment of personal values can itself be an exercise in conscious surrender.

You’re likely already acting in accordance with your values, at least some of the time, but what if you could get a handle on those values that best inform your needs and inspire your desires?

I recently did a quick review of values from this list of words, and surrendered my mind to the pull of picking this word or that, until I came up with a list that resonated inside my heart.

I came up with a list of 24 words in a matter of minutes. For you, you might tick off more or less words, in more or less time than mere minutes. These words represent my important values:


I willed myself to surrender yet again to my inner intuitive guidance, and within seconds, I was able to identify five words that respresent my essential values:


Within hours of choosing and mulling over this list of five words, the words seemed to arrange themselves spontaneously into the following order:


Why is this exercise in conscious surrender important?

First, it puts you in touch with the heart of your soul – with what really and truly matters to you as a soul. Second, you have a five-pointed polestar with which to guide your spirit into action.

For me, this exercise confirmed what I already knew deep down inside, but it was a confirmation that had me realize that I could be doing more to bring my actions into alignment with my values.

With your essential list in mind, let us now turn to the practice of surrender.

The Practice of Surrender: Dwelling in the Now

In the morning, I like to sit in silence and surrender to my breath, and when I get a nice, deep, slow, steady rhythm, I stop. Sometimes this takes minutes, sometimes it comes right away.

For you, your daily practice of dwelling mindfully in the moment might take some other form.

You might stand outside, face the horizon, and gaze in quiet awe at a growing sunrise.

You might sit in a chair on a porch in a mood of contemplation before the world wakes up, and with a warm cup of tea or coffee in your hands, watch the sky grow lighter with each passing minute.

Or you might walk slowly at the crack of dawn among rustling trees, along a shoreline, or through tall swaying grasses, and mindfully observe a vast expanse that surrounds you.

Whatever your preferred mode of surrender to the now, time slows down for you, you get a chance to catch your breath (quite literally), and your mind and body grow calm and relaxed.

In other words, you get in touch with presence and peace at the heart of your soul.

No rush. No hurry. No pressure.

The Practice of Surrender: Going with the Flow

Even before I meditate on the rhythm of my breath in the morning, I like to go with the flow.

I do this through a modified tai chi practice by moving my body through a graceful routine, in a single, continuous flow of movement that allows me to experience harmony between body and mind.

Because I’ve done this routine so many times before, I can surrender the mind to the motions of a fluidic body (“be like water, my friend”) to experience a sense of going and growing with the flow.

With enough practice, any graceful dance or exercise routine, with or without music – alone, with another, or with others – will allow you to experience a harmonious sense of flow.

Before long, the effects of your practice and routine will carry over into your daily activities, allowing you to flow like water around obstacles, perceived or otherwise.

Combined with dwelling in the now, going with the flow will feel natural, spontaneous, and effortless.

Dwelling in the now and going with the flow will allow you to maintain your peace and follow your bliss from dawn to dusk (or vice versa, if you’re a night owl or work the graveyard shift).

When the Practice of Surrender Becomes an Art

How does one raise the practice of voluntary surrender to the status of a fine art?

Cultivating an artful continuity of fulfillment comes from making time for both practices of conscious surrender: dwelling in the now and going with the flow.

Cultivating awareness to dwell peacefully in the moment, to be here now, is soulfully motivated, and depends on the quality of your encounters.

For me, beauty is essential. When a beautiful object, scene, or person catches my eye, I’m naturally inclined to dwell in the moment and contemplate quality where appropriate. When I hear a beautiful sound or melody, I find myself immediately taken in by it, and so I stop and listen and appreciate.

In fact, all of my senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell – provide sources of contemplation, but beauty can easily extend beyond the senses to include ideas, perspectives, and experiences.

Indeed, you might say that the experience of harmony itself is beauty in motion.

Cultivating awareness to follow your bliss and go with the flow is spiritually inspired, and depends on the vitality of your experiences, and so, for me, harmony is essential.

I experience harmony through the motion or action of anything or anyone that/who flows. When I practice tai chi in the morning, I am priming my spirit to attract harmony into my experience.

Bashar is fond of saying: circumstances don’t matter; only state of being matters.

As I continue to focus my attention on beauty and harmony, day after day, I attract more encounters with beauty and more experiences with harmony, which in turn bring me serenity, which in turn allows me to keep my attention focused on bringing more beauty and harmony into my experience.

Serenity is also a state of being that allows me to attract, appreciate, and enjoy more intimacy, and here I’m speaking of intimacy with myself, another, others, art, nature, or even the world at large. When someone appreciates beauty and harmony as much as I do, daily doses of intimacy are virtually assured.

One way to turn your practice into art is to simply identify (a) what will most easily bring you into the present moment (for me, this is beauty; for you, it might be …), and (b) what will most easily allow you to follow your bliss and go with the flow (for me, this is the experience of harmony).

Having cultivated your favorite state of being, desired encounters and experiences manifest with greater ease, pulling others into your orbit who are ready, willing, and able to share your most essential values.

Surrender is a fine art and can be practiced, refined, and perfected from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. Today (or tonight), give yourself over, wholly and fully, to a sacred encounter or a divine experience – alone, with a significant another, or with those who have your blessing.

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