Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tools for the Journey #32 - Building Muscle in Surrender and Trust

                        "Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith."
                                                                       - Margaret Shepard

If I tell the truth I'm not a huge fan of not knowing. At fifty years old I'm a planner rather than a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type person. I wish I was more the later than the former, but there it is. This being said, there are things you just can't plan for and this is where having leap-of-faith skills comes in pretty handy.

leap of faith
noun: leap of faith; plural noun: leaps of faith
1. the act of believing in or accepting something intangible or improvable, or without empirical evidence. 

The problem with planning is even with the best plans things don't always work out. You neatly cross your T's and dot your I's and you can still fail miserably. In those horrid moments when all the best laid plans completely fall apart there are a few options. First relax (yea, right) and realize this is yet another opportunity to build muscle in surrender and trust, and then take a deep breath and decide which road to take:
1. Improvisation (aka: roll with it). 2. Retreat and regroup. 3. Grab a pint of something or another and call it a day.

When faced with situations we have no control over my former Aikido sensei would say:

 "Be willing to enter the sanctuary of 'not knowing' and have the courage to wait."
                                                                                       - Wendy Palmer

The older I get the more I'm trying to reside in this sanctuary and in the 'every moment as a creation' place. It's sometimes a labor to remember to be patient with myself as I craft my days - especially when things don't go as planned! This life-walk is a constant faith-experiment and I've still got wobbly-colt legs when it comes to letting go of control and allowing 'not knowing' to be OK.

Recently I read a wonderful book: The Abounding River by Matthew & Terces Engelhart. In the book they address the importance of 'building muscle in surrender and trust.' Building muscle - who doesn't want to do that, right? These simple words transformed the way I was looking out of my eyes at a challenging situation. Maybe I don't have to fix things immediately; perhaps being patient with a willingness to not know might be the wiser path but in order to do this I'll need to build up muscles I've let atrophy.

Surrender and trust. Two small words with weighty implications; both require elasticity and vulnerability as well as leap-of-faith skills. Being vulnerable means we must give up our obsession with surefooted-ness which in turn increases our risks of stumbling and falling and being smashed against the rocks of life. Here is a story many of you may remember. It's a favorite of mine and one I often think of when I find myself clinging to, and residing in fear rather than surrender.

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all -- young and old, rich and poor, good and evil -- the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, "I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom."

The other creatures laughed and said, "Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed against the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!" 
But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, "See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the messiah, come to save us all!"

And the one carried in the current said, "I am no more messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure."

But they cried the more, "Savior!" all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a savior.
-- From Illusions by Richard Bach
I adore this story (Thank you, Mr. Bach) because it simply and delightfully shows the power of surrender and trust. What wonders await us when we relax our grip and let go in our lives? What marvels will we encounter when we stop clinging in fear to everything we know and instead take a leap of faith? What is waiting for us 'down stream?' Yes, there's the chance (even the likelihood) in the short term we could be smashed against the rocks but as the story told: time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

What lies ahead in 2014 is a mystery, but without a doubt there will be blessings and bruises, joy and grief, endings and bright new beginnings. Savor every glorious moment and seek growth with all your might no matter what happens. If we refuse to cling again and instead endeavor to trust the flow of the river I believe we will be lifted free from the bottom and miracles will be waiting for us down stream.

Recap: surrender and trust (repeat often)!

Blessings on the journey!

   "Doubts arise in the absence of surrender." - Ramana Maharshi

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