Most of my life, the underlying operator in my life has been an outlook that “life is out to get me”.
This has shown up in countless ways and affected every area of my life. And the truth is, this is what I was fighting against for so many years…still do in many ways, actually.
That fight is the source of misery. It pits me against life, me against me. And no matter what, I lose. I am doomed. I cannot win that fight. So I live in constant terror as long as that is how I am living.
A lot of self-help and New Age teachings – and even cognitive behavioral therapy – suggest that belief shapes our lives. And it is true. But what many go on to propose is that the remedy is to counter belief with different thoughts. (And yes, I know that is not true as a complete generalization. But it is a popular idea thrown about in the spiritual and self-help marketplace.)
I tried that for a long time. I tried thinking different thoughts. I tried affirmations. For a long time I actually carried notebooks with me and would write affirmations in every spare moment I had…while waiting in line at the bank, while waiting for a bus, etc.
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“I am a beloved child of God. I am one with God. I am loved, loving, and lovable.”
I’d write stuff like that hundreds of times.
But underneath, I still believed myself to be separate. I still believed life was out to get me. I believed that I was a victim.
It wasn’t at the level of thought that this basic orientation and belief existed or exists. And so, at least for me, countering it with a gazillion different thoughts wasn’t going to work very well.
In fact, it was kind of like piling shit on shit to cover up the shit. Not a nice metaphor, but then again, it’s not a nice experience.
I was brought to my knees by this futile pursuit of winning – obliterating an old belief with thought and will power.
I lost completely. I finally had to admit that I was powerless to force change.
Not only was I powerless to force change…I didn’t even have the wisdom (at least not at the level of thought) to know what change was good change.
I had to admit that I was scared. I was confused…but there was something that I was intimately familiar with that had access to what I did not.
Rather than trying to force my will and dominate over life, which I perceived to be fundamentally out to get me, I had to do something different.
What was and is asked is nothing short of complete surrender.
For me – and I will go so far as to say that almost certainly for you too – surrender is not merely an idea. It is not just something we can wish for. It is actually a posture.
Imagine that there is a dog who is fighting with another dog. The dog is entranced by the fight, and you cannot get the dog to back down.
You have to physically intervene. And you have to restrain the dog until he or she submits, surrenders.
You know when the dog has surrendered because of the posture.
We may not like this image. We don’t want to think of ourselves in these terms. But we are like that dog. We have identified as this thing that is threatened by life. And in our fear and panic, we are at war with life.
This generates a frenzy. We are caught up in it. We cannot see clearly. We believe our thoughts, which only reinforce what we believe, which is that life is out to get us.
As long as we aren’t surrendered, we cannot see clearly. We only see the hallucination.
How do we surrender? It is a posture. It is stillness.
How does one become still? I can only tell you how it has happened for me.
I released the chronic tension – the armoring that I unconsciously used to protect myself from life.
In this state of surrender, it is not that I create peace or earn peace. Peace is already here. But I am only able to recognize it in this state of surrender.
If you are in a frenzy, caught up in hallucinations…if you do nothing differently, you will continue to do the same. That has a momentum of its own.
Like the dog fighting, we must intervene. We must intervene by letting go of the posture of defensiveness or offensiveness.
Maybe it is because I am an inferior person, a weak person, a bad person. But at least for me, this has been the only way.
I have had to let down that guard and surrender completely over and over and over again. Every time I am afraid. Every time I see that I am acting as though life is out to get me.
I won’t tell you that every area of my life has completely transformed into some kind of perfect bliss. That wouldn’t be true.
But many areas of my life have changed radically. And without the overlay of new thoughts or constant effort to change things, what has happened is that the old belief simply doesn’t have anything to stand upon.
Without that foundation, it crumbles. It becomes clear that what is false is false.
The idea of me and life as separate things at odds with one another dissolves. But this is not generated by the overlay of more thought. This becomes clear in the absence of the posture of defensiveness.