“Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are. You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.” ~ Rumi
Surrender (or letting go) has never been easy for me. And yet, I have had experience of this and it has been oh so sweet.
What is my understanding of surrender? When we surrender, we turn our personality/ego and self-will over to a deeper wisdom and knowing within us—our higher self. When we surrender to our higher self, we let go of the painful illusion of certainty, duality, and separateness, and we embrace uncertainty, connection, and unity.
Picture this…12 hours after arriving at Temenos in McGregor for my first retreat of the year I am half lying/half sitting in a tiny bathroom with my head over the toilet bowl retching… Lovely right?
Here’s my story…
I arrived at Temenos on the Wednesday afternoon before my retreat and after a much needed and oh so relaxing massage and dip in the pool I treated myself to an early dinner at Tebaldi’s restaurant. I went to bed early and although extremely hot (it was 40 degrees celsius) I had a relatively peaceful sleep. I then woke around 5am with a burning sensation in my gut. I couldn’t quite make sense of it. Was I hungry? Or nauseas? Hmmm…nauseas more likely — and after a few deep breaths I remembered I had some papaya which is good for the tummy. So I ate half a papaya and lay down again. Suddenly the nausea became a little too intense and I ran to the bathroom vomiting up all the papaya and the previous nights meal. Not a pretty sight!
Already I felt concerned. I lay down and practiced centring again and again and within minutes I was vomiting again. This continued all morning. I realised I was running a fever and had cold chills. I felt weak and delirious. Each time I found myself leaning over the toilet bowl vomiting I kept thinking, “I hate this, this is my worst nightmare. I have nothing left to vomit up and yet I’m still retching.” I could feel the resistance rising as the pain in my gut became more intense. Yet there was part of me that knew this was somehow important. It sounds odd I know — and I believe that there have been some patterns and beliefs that no longer serve me and this felt like a significant purging — it felt quite violent and cleansing all at the same time.
The thoughts continued: “What am I going to do? I have participants arriving for my retreat! I can’t cancel now!” And each time these thoughts came I would centre and say to myself: “This weekend is about self-compassion — this is an opportunity to practice. Remember to be gentle with yourself. Gentle is your quality this year! Surrender, there’s nothing else you can do. It will all unfold as it should.” I kept asking the universe for all to be well and for each of us on the retreat to receive exactly what we needed during the weekend. Saying these words to myself was not easy. I felt like shit!
And… I have an old habitual pattern of wanting to be in control — this stems from the need to feel safe and contained — something I learnt from childhood.
The funny thing is that trying to control everything takes quite a lot of energy and our focus narrows — the possibilities disappear. Over the years I’ve learnt that I never really am in control though (are any of us?) Which is why my practice is so important. This helps me centre and come into the present moment which helps me access more possibility, ease and flow.
I kept drifting in and out of sleep, shivering (while it was 39 degrees outside) and noticing my body aching. I wasn’t able to keep any fluids down so I knew that wasn’t good. The one thing I could do for myself and control to a certain point — was to make a request.
I asked Temenos to make an appointment with a doctor and to please take me to see him. This seemed like a responsible thing to do! I usually would ride it out and sleep it off — and I had made commitments. I wanted to show up for my participants. Temenos willingly obliged and after driving me to Robertson, seeing the doctor, having some shots (injections for cramps) and me agreeing to take antibiotics for the first time in 12 years, I slowly managed to drink my water and keep it down. I gave myself permission to let go and surrender completely and drifted in and out of sleep until Friday morning.
Although I felt weak, queasy, not very clear and so sore from the vomiting I got myself up in the morning and went for a swim. The water was still lukewarm (not quite like the icy sea I now swim in everyday) and yet still refreshing. I completed my daily practice of movement and meditation and then managed to eat some toast.
I still felt weak and a little confused so I made some more requests that day as I prepared for the retreat and I’m deeply grateful for the help I received.
It was suggested that as a facilitator I put on a brave face with my participants and pretend that all was well. I chose to be honest instead. This was after all #theselfcompassionbreak ! I explained to the group that I still wasn’t feeling my best and that I would also be actively practicing self-compassion throughout the weekend which may mean the programme would change slightly.
I hadn’t prepared for the retreat the way I usually would and yet magically it all unfolded as it should. There was much flow and I listened to my intuition carefully. I felt at ease and more calm than I had in weeks.
Not only do I feel that leaning in to the experience and being curious had served me well, it also reminded me of radical hope. As it turns out, according to Chinese astrology, this is the year of hope. I believe that surrender and hope are inextricably linked. One could say that surrender is similar to acceptance and certainly the mood of acceptance lays the foundation for stepping into a mood of radical hope.
Radical hope is a mood that in which one holds a commitment to possibility. This is an unusual kind of commitment: it is a commitment to something completely unknown and unimaginable: “The commitment is only to the bare possibility that, from this disaster/discomfort, something good will emerge.”
What transpired did feel like “I fell apart” for a moment and yet my overriding mood was definitely one of radical hope. There was/is always a deep set belief that something good will emerge. I actively chose to surrender and to pay deep attention to what was occurring for me — emotionally, physically and in my listening. I actively chose to be gentle with myself and to make requests of others so that I could help myself and honour my commitment.
I’ve simplified the process that I followed and I hope this is helpful:
- I noticed that I was looking to control the situation and I noticed my resistance. I chose to pause. I centred, dropped into my body and recognised the fear, uncertainty, anxiety. I stayed with this physical sensation in my body. Allowing myself to feel it and lean into it.
- I opened myself to the rest of the moment, paying attention. I invited curiosity and realised this could be a much needed energetic purging — a letting go of old patterns and beliefs that no longer serve me.
- I let myself rest in openness — I don’t need to control things, I don’t need to know exactly what will happen. Instead, I can find an ease in the openness of this moment, the unknown quality of the shifting landscape.
- How could I love myself and everything around me in the middle of this openness? How could I practice self-compassion? I chose to let go, rest and soothe my body with water. I chose to hope.
- What loving intention could I set for myself in this situation? Coming from a place of love instead of fear, and anxiety what would be the best next small step to take? I remembered my quality for the year – GENTLE. How Can I be more gentle with myself? This is when I asked for help — from my higher power/inspirational support and from those in my immediate environment.
- I chose to be honest with the group and be real.