Posted by: shawnjohnston | July 3, 2007

Surrender

It’s astounding how distorted the meanings of words have become over the centuries and why it’s so important if you are going to delve into ancient writings that you do some sort of etymology research so that you are understanding what you think you’re understanding. Allow me to illustrate:

Surrender: “to give (something) up,” from Old French surrendre “give up, deliver over” (13c.), from sur “over” + Rendre: “give back, present, yield,” from Latin reddere “give back, return, restore.”

The one constant you’ll see over and over again in spiritual writings, regardless of tradition, sect or generation, is the idea of surrender. This is not the “handing yourself over the authorities” type of surrender, but a yielding…a returning from whence you came…a restoration. It is in it’s simplest understanding, a release of the individual identity and the reclamation of your shared identity within the context of the Divine Light.

When one becomes focused on the individual self…when all things become about what you get, what you need and where you’re going it’s like viewing the world through the viewfinder of a camera. Everything for you is seen through this little box, and all the things that are going on off to the side or behind you are being ignored and overlooked. When you put the camera down and set aside your individual “what’s-in-it-for-me” mentalities then the most wonderful things start becoming visible. It’s not that they weren’t there, but just that you were missing them.

I’ve noticed in my own experience a more complex tapestry of gifts and experiences unfold to my senses and understanding. I read a story once about a woman who dropped her teenage daughter off at a ferry. She was traveling to the other side where she would meet with her boyfriend whom she hadn’t seen in several months. The woman on her way back home stopped at the top of the large hill that overlooked the river and the ferry and before her, she could see the whole drama unfolding. She could see the ferry, see her daughter move to the front in anticipation for this reunion, see the boyfriend waiting outside his car, and then the final joyful reunion itself.

This woman was seeing the story from a more distant perspective and could see all the parts of the story together at once, rather than, from where her daughter was standing, only parts of the story. And so it is with our own lives. When we surrender our individual needs and desires to God and allow our Spark to navigate us, we gain this much needed perspective so that we are better able to understand and piece together the myriad of lessons and messages that are being shown to us throughout our experiences. In other words, it’s living your life in a state of constant openness and acceptance of what is occurring right now, being fully aware of what you’re experiencing in this very moment, without colouring it with expectations and concerns. St. Paul called it being in a state of “constant prayer”. The Zen Buddhists call it mindfulness.

There is a particularly unfortunate misconception that surrendering is some how dishonorable or self-abasing. That somehow we are reduced by the act of surrender, that it is shameful is some way. Perhaps this is a product of a macho gladiator hunter/gatherer outlook, in that the only rule is the rule of the jungle. But the act of surrendering to God is not one of “giving up” or one of weakness and slavery. It is an active reclamation of what you are. It is a gallant and courageous reaching out into the unknown and the ineffable. It is a sacrifice on the grandest scale, a swimming against the current and a seemingly vain searching for a single drum beat amidst a cacophony of beats. It is, quite simply, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

But as I’ve said before in other posts, I fail at this everyday. But, I learn a lot from those failures. I read a story about a monk, Thomas Keating, who was teaching a group of people, laity and clergy alike, a new form of Christian prayer he called Contemplative Prayer.

Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself. Contemplative Prayer is a process of interior purification leading, if we consent, to divine union.

Like many forms of prayer or meditation, there is an aspect of non-thought involved which can be very tricky. After the seminar he was approached by a flustered and slightly irate nun, who burst out, “I can’t do this, after just 20 minutes I’d caught myself thinking at least 10,000 times!” His response with a small smile was, “That’s wonderful, 10,000 opportunities to return to God!”

This is just one form of prayer/meditation and it does fit well with my “make-up” and approach to life and spiritual endeavors but this is by no means a “you should do this” plug. We all need to find out what works for us, and the process of searching is as necessary as the finding. But like all spiritual practices and the traditions they’re a part of, it is important to take it with you throughout your day, not section it off to a small special chunk of your day. It is the “constant prayer” state that I try to capture and coax throughout my day. And even though I fail to stay mindful all day, every time I catch myself and return my self to a state of openness and surrender, it’s not a failure, but a small victory. Because it’s not about how many times I forgot, it’s about how many times I remembered I was forgetting and actively did something about it. That’s where I affect real change in my life.

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Responses

  1. kenosis = surrender

    Kenosis AO = surrender into the ‘Alpha Omega’

    This, I think, is completely key.

    All the best..

    Ken


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