When I was 11, I went on a class trip to Six Flags Great Adventure. I was clear on where I stood on churros, Dippin’ Dots, and my name written on a piece of rice in a capsule necklace (yes, yes and oh yes), but I wasn’t sure how I felt about roller coasters.
I knew I wanted to be the kind of person who loved them. I’m sure I just wanted to be cool, or maybe I intuitively knew back then that people who loved roller coasters also had a surrender type of quality that was foreign to an anxious, control freak like myself.
As we lined up for our first roller coaster, my heart started to pound. This thing looked like it was built in the 1800’s. The Runaway Train was meant to mimic an old, rickety, train. The wood was chipping, the brakes sounded like they had one good ride left in them, and there was just a thin bar keeping me from plummeting to my death. This thing was janky AF.
As I was being knocked around in my seat, holding on for dear life, I noticed the other kids on the ride had their arms up, squealing in delight.
Not for me. For me, this was a personal hell.
I got off that ride and made my mind up. I don’t like roller coasters. I don’t like not being in control, and I was going to spend the next two decades fighting the flow of life just like I fought any ounce of fun on this ride.
Many years and lessons later, I decided to start practicing the art of surrender.
Surrender: allowing life’s flow to unfold and guide you without resistance or attempting to control the outcome.
In the practice of non-resistance I learned that although I can’t control the unexpected, I can control my reaction to it. I can trust that everything is unfolding perfectly, which allows me to walk around in a constant state of relief (ok, sometimes I forget this practice and I’m anything but relieved, until I remember and surrender again with a big, long sigh).
So how do I get back to surrender when I’m spiraling into control freak mode? Three questions to ask yourself to check back into your place of surrender and flow:
- Will I even remember this in five years? Ten? Fifty? If the present is too overwhelming and you’re trying to control it - flash forward. When you’re in your rocking chair at 80 years old, will this still have a strong hold on you… will you even remember it? If you won’t remember this in five, ten, fifty years, let that shit go. If yes, then likely this is a huge life lesson and you’re at an impasse, so you need to surrender even more. You’re being guided to something else. Sometimes things are above you and the more you control, the more you’ll be resisting the path made clear in front of you. I know this doesn’t offer the control freak much comfort, so move to the next question…
- When have I felt like this before? How did I respond? Did that serve me? Can I see how the cards fell in the way they did to bring me where I am today? Looking back can be as helpful as looking forward like in the “Rocking Chair Test” above. For example, are you trying to control a person or relationship? Do you feel insecure? Kind of like you did with your high school sweetie? So yeah, maybe you were totally right and he was cheating on you and it blew up in your face and crushed your heart and you listened to sad songs for three months straight. But keep looking at it: was it a sad ending, or was it a saving grace that you’re not divorcing his cheating ass 30 years later? You have no control over what’s “about to happen” but you might be able to look back at other times life has been out of your hands (and likely really difficult, no doubt) and see how everything is unfolding for you when you zoom out.
- Is this something that can even be controlled in the first place!? Am I trying to do the impossible? Let me help you out. Any of the following is trying to control what you can’t control in the first place: other people’s thoughts / actions / priorities, the timing of getting what you want, avoiding obstacles/challenges/losses in your life, how things “should” have gone or how things “should” be, what’s about to happen… you get it. The only thing that’s in your control are the thoughts you’re thinking, how you interpret the life you’re currently living, and if you choose to grow.
Here’s what I’m sayin’:
Life is going to unfold for you, and you get to decide how you are going to experience it. You can hold on for dear life, try to control, and get knocked around pretty badly. You get to the end of life’s ride and you're beaten down, with a gnarly case of whiplash, not to mention all those unnecessary wrinkles!
If you put your hands up and surrender, you enjoy the ride so much more, even if it didn’t twist and turn in the exact way you’d hoped. You can, as a wise Southwest flight attendant once said, “sit back and relax, or lean forward and be tense, but either way we are landing in three hours…”
What are you trying to control right now that is causing suffering?
How would it feel if you were able to surrender, throw it out there into the Universe and trust that you were being guided?
Simply put, what would your day to day feel like without fear?
True health is as much about the mind as it is about the body. So sit back and relax, eat your veggies, and enjoy the ride.