The Paradox of Surrender:
FINDING STRENGTH AND WISDOM IN THE STRUGGLE
Robert D. Rossel, Ph.D.
I met with one of my favorite clients yesterday, a very deep and animate soul, a student getting an advanced degree in one of our local therapist training institutions. She shared an experience that touched me deeply. She is a bit of a psychic who frequently anticipates phone calls or animals crossing the road. She told me as she drove to our session she had a premonitions that an animal was going to cross the road as she rounded a corner and over the crest of a hill. She slowed her car, ready to break. As she cleared the hill and could see her way ahead, she was surprised because it appeared that nothing was there, no deer, squirrel, or other animal that she was accustomed to seeing when she had those premonitions. Yet something told her to slow down even more, almost to a complete stop. As she did this a little furry mouse scurried across the road, its legs all a blur, its little ears sticking up in alert attention, its whiskers alive with kinetic energy. She pulled over and started sobbing, filled with a complex mix of sadness, joy and a deep recognition of the subtle energies of the web of life surrounding her. She was aware as she seldom is of – what shall we call it — mouse consciousness, sensing its fear, its vigilance, its close-up mouse-view of textures, sounds, smells and vibrations, all the things that are such a basic part of its experiential world.
I am not exactly sure why this story woke me out of a deep sleep this morning and why I was filled with an impulse to write it down. I guess it has something to do with our current life situation, its noise, frenetic pace, and shallowness, and a call to pay attention to the deeper currents of life that surround us, currents that we are often too numb, too distracted, too busy, to sense or notice.
The “greater intelligence” our current life situation requires of us today is not just about paying attention to the “important” things that call upon us to notice, the distractions and preoccupations of our all too busy lives. It also calls on us to stay connected deeply to the animate world; the trees, animals, earth tones and earth smells, the things the mouse knows. It is in our ability to pay attention, to sense beyond knowledge, to notice that our world is alive, animated with energies and possibilities that we easily miss. It is also in our ability to connect with the mundane aspects of our lives like doing the dishes, making our beds, and “doing the laundry,” in Jack Kornfield’s words. It is an invitation to awaken to the full spectrum of life’s possibilities—the good and the bad – dark currents as well as joy, noticing everything that surrounds our life. To enter mouse consciousness we must slow down, breathe, and listen deeply to each other. We must listen to the silence between the words; and above all, as we would with any innocent child’s vulnerable self, be very respectful as we listen and respond.
In the Power of Now Eckhart Tolle speaks of the importance of attending in this open way, discovering in this presence a way to free ourselves from the attachments of the ego that create suffering. As he says (1999: 79-80):
Presence is needed to become aware of the beauty, the majesty, the sacredness of nature. Have you ever gazed up into the infinity of space on a clear night, awestruck by the awesome stillness and inconceivable vastness of it? Have you listened, truly listened, to the sound of a mountain stream in the forest? Or to the song of a blackbird at dusk on a quiet evening? To become aware of such things, the mind needs to be still. You have to put down for a moment your personal baggage of problems, of past and future, as well as all your knowledge; otherwise, you will see but not see, hear but not hear. Your total presence is required.
But the connection to nature and the larger mind we establish through presence and surrender require constant practice—things like trance, mindfulness, dance, yoga, play, centered “belly” breathing, prayer—define the conditions where this connection to flow and presence is likely to happen but they in no way guarantee that it will happen. I think presence and the ability to surrender create the conditions where awareness opens up to currents that are always there but from which we are often distracted because of the imperiousness of our egos and because we become attached to particular fixed positions that shut down our capacity to surrender and be in the flow of our experience. I have found more and more that things begin to happen with clients when I am able to sit with the discomfort or anxiety that invariably comes when I cut loose from my attachments to particular expectations or desired outcomes and look for the surprises that come into the field from the margins or gaps in experience. Subjectively, I sense this presence and connection with the larger mind when I find myself inexplicably chuckling at things that are said or done—the feeling tone and emotional quality of the interaction is playful and dead serious. What is said often has a poetic quality and perceptions open to make room for color, texture, vibrational qualities, and an increasingly rich and multi-layered non-verbal connection.
© 2011, Robert D. Rossel, Ph.D All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ morgueFile