One of my major flaws is my desire to figure everything out. I keep trying to crack the code of life, thinking all the answers lie on the other side of some bridge I’m about to cross, if I could only get closer to that bridge.
But life is life. There is no figuring everything out.
There is only letting go.
The practice of surrender is a difficult one for me. I’m a smart person, capable, competent. And I’m a thinker. And I hate making mistakes, because I’m sensitive, too, so I don’t want to do anything that makes me feel icky inside, or filled with regret. So I often try to control the situation, the pieces of my life’s puzzle lying in a mess before me.
And when an idea or a daydream takes hold in me, it’s really hard for me to let it go. I get attached to it, start strategizing ways for it to come to fruition. And that is not a practice of surrender. That is a practice of control.
And honey, we all know where control leads you.
To annoyance, and anger, and frustration, and misery. To confinement. To irritability. To smallness.
Shall I go on?
I met a man once in a field. (Doesn’t that sound pretty?) He was wearing a white linen shirt. When he approached me, I had the strange inclination to wash his feet. That had never happened to me before, so I assumed that whatever he said would be valuable.
“I feel like I’m supposed to meet someone here,” I told him. “And I think it must be you.”
I shared with him a couple of things that were bothering me. He listened. And then he said, “How about a hug?”
In that moment, I realized that a hug was all I really needed. I thought I needed other things, and I was so in my head about figuring my life out, going in the right direction, doing everything correctly so I could avoid pain and find bliss.
My shoulders relaxed and I said, “A hug would be great.”
So he hugged me, and when he did, it felt like a light extended from his heart to mine. He told me, with his mouth next to my ear, “You feel empty. You feel like you’re looking so hard for something. You need to just surrender and let go.”
I agreed. That was my problem, I said. I was always looking so hard, trying to find. And when you’re looking that hard, you can’t really see. It’s the gentle gaze that finds wisdom and truth. It’s the gentle voice that allows you to relax and embrace the lesson.
I told the man some other things, namely that I was worried about seeming crazy.
By this point he was kneeling as he listened. He shook his head. “Don’t worry about whether anyone thinks you’re crazy. What matters is whether you’re happy.”
That might seem like a simple and nonchalant thing to say, but to me, in that moment, those words meant everything. I felt that it was the most important message of my life, the lesson I’d been waiting for. And it was given with kindness and compassion, from a stranger in bare feet, who had sweat dripping down his back.
He was nothing short of an angel, and maybe more.
Because worrying what other people think of me has never led to happiness. It has never led to feeling free. It has only led to feeling like I’m living in a prison.
But being happy? Now there’s something.
In my Quaker meeting and in other retreats I’ve been on, I’ve sat with people of all ages, mostly older, as we share opinions on life and our spiritual journeys. The thing that always strikes me when I listen to people in their 60s or 70s, is that they are still figuring things out, still learning lessons. They have not yet gotten there. Because there is no end to learning in this life, to the toil of being a human, until you die. And then most of us will just be reborn anyway, trying to learn whatever lesson we didn’t learn the first hundred times around.
But we sure are beautiful in our struggling, as we climb up the mountain, looking for fresh air. The crispness comes, in waves, and then it recedes again. We can’t ever know all there is to know. So there is no point lying to yourself that anyone has the answers. There is no peace in trying to ignore who you are. There is no value in worrying so much about what anyone thinks.
The best you can do, on any day, is stop fighting with the world, and with what is. The best you can do is be courageous. Courage is standing tall before the Greatness and widening your stance. It’s opening your hands. It’s telling that Divine Queen, I am fully here. And I’m not going to let anything get in the way of me being me. So whatever you have to throw at me, I’ll handle it. I’ll get through it. I’m going to live my life alive.
And then you can sigh, and finish washing the dishes, or put on your shoes to go for a walk.
And you can look up one more time and smile at Her, and say:
Bring it on.
Categories: spirituality and faith