Cheryl Richardson: Learn to Surrender

Maybe you're praying that a loved one recovers from a serious illness -- or that your new date calls again, or that your son gets into his top college choice. Whatever the situation, times like these challenge us to go beyond life skills like critical thinking or organization. In these cases, when you truly have no sway in the outcome, only a higher, more spiritual skill will get you through: the ability to surrender.

Knowing how to surrender reflects spiritual maturity -- and it requires patience and practice. But it's worth it. When I think about my own life, I can see that when I'm able to relinquish my will to a higher power, things are no longer a struggle; life gets easier. I don't waste enormous amounts of energy trying to maintain an illusion of control. Instead, I find that by releasing my grip, a power greater than myself seems to take hold to steer me where I need to go.

Our source of suffering is always related to our resistance to what is. The soul doesn't try to control life; the ego does. When your ego is wrapped firmly around a desire, your peace of mind and happiness are held hostage by an obsessive need to control the outcome. After enough pain and suffering, you'll eventually get the message: If you don't learn to surrender your will, you will surrender your peace.

It takes a leap of faith to abandon your way for the right way. It means letting go of how you think things should be and accepting them as they are. When we surrender, it doesn't mean that we throw our hands in the air and do nothing; it means we pay close attention to our intuition so we can act on this wisdom. Then, once we've done what we can, we let go and allow grace to shine a light on a better path -- one that brings about the result that ultimately serves our highest good.

Hands Off the Wheel
The idea of letting go became clearer to me several years ago after I was interviewed about coaching for a story in a national magazine. Just before the article was published, I was told that my part of the interview would not be included, even though I'd spent hours answering the reporter's questions. I was extremely disappointed. Every time I thought about the interview, I'd get upset all over again. I tried to think of ways I could convince the reporter to include me in the article. Finally, I got tired of agonizing over it and let it go. I decided there must have been a reason for the change, and I stopped obsessing about it.

When the article finally appeared, I discovered that the angle the story took would have reflected poorly on me and my work. As I sat there with the article in hand, I felt both embarrassed and relieved. Rather than doing me harm, the writer had actually helped to protect my reputation. I also learned an important lesson about letting go. Things often work out for the best in ways that we can't possibly imagine and don't expect.

I once met a woman at a conference who shared with me a little piece of wisdom. "If you could suddenly rise above your life and look behind the scenes, you'd understand why things happen the way they do," she said. "But you can't. Sometimes you just have to surrender."

Noreen was her name, and she spoke from experience. She'd been away with her family on vacation when she received some terrible news: Her mother, just short of her 60th birthday, had suffered a stroke and died. "During both the funeral and week of sitting shivah, I struggled to come to terms with her death," Noreen told me. "I felt tortured about not being there when she died and not having one last chance to tell her how much she meant to me. I finally faced the reality that there was nothing I could do to change what happened. I needed to surrender and let my emotions run their course. There's something about grieving that teaches you what it really means to let go."

Learning to surrender doesn't require a long, drawn out series of painfully difficult steps. A simple prayer such as "Help me to accept the things I can't change" can go a long way toward giving you the strength you need to let something go. Let your prayer be an invitation to grace, one that says, "I'll trust my intuition, take the steps that feel right, and do my best to release my attachment to the result." Surround yourself with reminders that will inspire you to let things go. I have two signs that hang on the wall in my office. One says, "Surrender Draws Grace" (a phrase from my friend Jerry), and the other says, "The World Is Conspiring in Your Favor" (compliments of my friend Bruce). When I'm struggling, these signs remind me to trust and let things unfold as they may. And here's the funny thing about letting go: When we learn to surrender, we then make space for true miracles to happen.

Are you ready for a miracle?

Need Cheryl's Coaching?
Each issue, our life coach helps a Body+Soul reader work on life challenges like career change, relationships, and procrastination. Write to Cheryl, describing your situation: Cheryl@bodyandsoulmag.com. Cheryl richardson is a life coach and author. Visit her at cherylrichardson.com.

Adapted from The Unmistakable Touch of Grace by Cheryl Richardson. Copyright 2005 by Cheryl Richardson. Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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