The Surrender Experiment
Several years ago, when I was in the throes of depression, a therapist recommended Michael Singer’s bestseller, The Untethered Soul. It was my introduction into “monkey mind,” the concept that the loud and often self-defeating voice in my head was not, in fact, me, nor was it telling the truth. Once I became aware of the habitual thoughts and emotions as told by this sub-conscious narrator, the less power they had over me. Observing those thoughts—you’re stupid/lazy/crazy/not good enough—without judgement or fear and then letting them pass by is still a daily practice that requires constant diligence on my part. Thinking something does not make it correct, it simply makes it a thought. The stories we tell ourselves shape our emotions and, ultimately, our lives, but we get to choose what we believe. Needless to say, Singer’s book changed my life. So when he published The Surrender Experiment I was all ears. The premise: What would happen if you stopped trying to force your destiny and just let life be in charge? Since an a-ha moment in his early twenties (he’s now in his late sixties), Singer challenged himself to allow life to unfold around him without struggling with it. He makes strong case:
We are all intelligent enough to realize that we are not in control of 99.9 percent of what goes on around us. Our hearts beat, our food digests, and our cells divide — all without any intervention of our own. Likewise, the planets stay in orbit, and the entire rest of the universe unfolds on its own. We are not controlling any of this, yet it has been unfolding in perfect harmony for billions of years. If the forces of creation can create and maintain the entire universe, every moment, are not the moments unfolding in front of me part of this same universal perfection?
Without spoiling the jaw-dropping surprises and abundance that Singer experiences when he surrenders, the outcome of his experiment has me 100 percent convinced that letting go of the oars is the surest path to the life you want. Or, more accurately, the life that you are meant to live.
That same therapist once asked me to make a list of the best things that had ever happened to me. I quickly realized what she was to when I admitted that the greatest joys in life—my best friend, a job I love, this blog, my dog—weren’t my doing. Sure, I had walked through the door but the opportunities and the gifts weren’t something I set out to get. The universe had served them up. It had known what I needed before I did. No manner of goal setting, list making, or hard working would’ve yielded these minor miracles. As Singer likes to say, we react to life through a lens of our preference (this is good. that is bad. I want this. I don’t want that.) We think we know what is best for us, and we believe that controlling circumstances and even people is the only way to achieve it. In the few weeks since I started reading The Surrender Experiment, I have felt the most liberating sense of RELIEF that I don’t have to control everything, or do it all on my own. I stress less. I sleep better. I feel better. More at peace and definitely more excited about life, whatever it holds for me.