Surrendering to “What Is” – The Necessity and the Challenge

I recently heard a recording of Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, the president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, in her first address to IONS Shift in Action members. She spoke of the current projects of the Institute and their importance in today’s world. Toward the end of the talk, she made a comment, almost in passing, about our need to “surrender to ‘what is’ so that it can change”.

Surrender to “what is” so that it can change. As soon as I heard that statement, I turned off the recording to sit with that idea. I, and I think most people, think of surrender as having to do with me – what I must do so that I can move on, whatever that may mean in the moment. When I heard Marilyn Mandala Schlitz say those words, I realized that, of course, if I’m holding on to a belief, perspective, practice, or way of doing things, then through that act of holding on to energy, I’m not only preventing myself from moving on – I’m holding onto the “what is” or the situation as well. In some way, I am keeping it from changing, even if I wish it were different.

I was aware that some part of me knew this already, yet in that moment when I heard her speak those words, a voice inside of me said very loudly, “Listen to what she is saying. This is important. This is a critical paradigm shift for the world.”

Surrender to “what is” so that it can change. Healing is ultimately about coming to wholeness. Beloved American spiritual teacher Ram Dass has been an important teacher for me on this topic. In his book, Still Here, he talks about healing as letting “what is” take you closer to God. Years ago when I first read that book, this idea further expanded my thinking about healing. At the time, I interpreted “what is” as something that will not change – something we must accept, make our peace with, and move on. After all, Ram Dass’ “what is” when he wrote that book was that he had suffered a devastating stroke and his life would never be the same. There were some things he would simply never be able to do again.

Now, some years later, I hear Marilyn Mandala Schlitz talk about surrendering to what is so that it can change. Not me changing it, but it changing. This opens another door. What if the journey toward God also includes letting go of the world as we have known it to be so that it can find its next incarnation, its next level of evolution? What if the journey towards God isn’t about “fixing” the world, but rather about surrendering to where the world is in its evolutionary process so that it can continue evolving? On a personal level, what if it means not trying to fix your life or situations, but rather to surrender to “what is” in your life so that your life can continue on its forward evolutionary path? If we surrender at 20 that there is an Evolutionary Intelligence seeing a bigger picture and leading the way, whether you call that God or Consciousness or something else, then by design is our evolutionary path not trying to lead us toward our greatest potential?

This idea is not yet a part of our mass consciousness. We are conditioned to have an opinion, thought, or goal, and to keep a firm hold on the wheel to steer life in that direction. When things seem to be falling apart or some aspect of our life is threatened, we are conditioned to hold on even more tightly and steer it back on course or “fix it” as quickly as possible. Even if we “turn it over to God”, often our way of doing that is to pray that it will all be right again. And usually “right” means back to the way it was or how we desperately want it to be. Surrender demands letting go. In the West we tend to think of surrender as “giving up”. However the Eastern philosophies offer a much more expansive perspective, thinking of surrender as “giving over”- giving over your will to something larger, a greater force or power such as God, Spirit, Consciousness, or Evolutionary Intelligence. For me, surrender to “what is” has meant giving over my will, desire, or perceived need to the greater Consciousness and trusting that, if I paid attention and kept expanding my awareness, I would be led to the best choices, decisions, actions, and relationship to the situation. It has meant trusting that there is something bigger that wants to happen in this situation, and surrendering to that larger wave. Paying attention and constantly expanding awareness are critical to this process.

As I reflect on Ms. Schlitz’s statement, I realize that by surrendering to the “what is”, I not only free myself to shift to a higher awareness and action – I also set the situation free from my energetic holds on it so that it can shift, heal, and evolve. I open to the possibility that the situation is merely a sign that a greater energy is waiting to be unleashed. If I will pay attention and trust, it can show me the new path it wants to take, and in turn show me new perspectives and new actions that I can take to help steward that potential into reality. Now my surrender has become about much more than me.

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