A response from Michael A. Singer, the author of The Surrender Experiment.
I recently wrote about the new book The Surrender Experiment. In a nutshell, it’s about Michael A. Singer’s philosophy that the key to a happy and successful life is to “surrender” to what life brings you, instead of trying to call the shots on your own. Singer believes that life has a plan for us that is better than anything our own minds can conjure up, and that by accepting what “the flow of life” presents us, we are more likely to have a richer life.
I received several comments on the story and one that stood out to me was from a reader stuck in a low-wage job. Given her circumstances, she believed that surrendering to life was something she literally couldn’t afford to do, as she needed to pay the bills. So I reached out to Michael Singer and asked if the surrender philosophy would work for someone struggling to get by. Here’s what he wrote back:
There is no one who cannot afford to surrender. It is really quite the opposite; the worse it gets, the more we cannot afford not to surrender. Surrender doesn’t mean not dealing with the issues life presents us; it means dealing with them in the most effective way possible—from a place of peace and absolute clarity.
Consider the following example: When a car cuts you off on a slippery road and you begin to skid, you had best surrender to the reality of the situation you are in. Relax and fully accept it so that you are prepared to deal with it. If you resist the situation and start complaining about how it’s not fair and you didn’t deserve this, then you will not be able to deal with the skid properly. You will be preoccupied dealing with your own resistance to the situation. Ultimately, you may become so panicked that you close you eyes, start screaming, and jump into the back seat trying to protect yourself. Well, needless to say, that’s about the worst way possible to deal with the skid. You are way better off accepting the situation you find yourself in, getting clear and quiet inside, and doing your best to focus on and deal with the skid.
Truth is, it is exactly the same with every one of life’s situations you find yourself in. You are always better off surrendering to the reality of the situation, and then doing your absolute best to deal with it from a place of clarity and one-pointed focus. You are never better off getting lost in your inner resistance to the situation instead of dealing with the situation, itself. If you start to practice this type of surrender to life, you will find that life is actually a very enjoyable experience. Life presents you with a constant flow of interesting situations, and you do your best to interact with them with respect and honor to the best of your ability.
When you begin by surrendering to the reality of what is before you, life becomes a dance, a sport, instead of a struggle. It has nothing to do with rich or poor, married or single, it has to do with your inner attitude about your interaction with life.
Singer’s response reminds me that trying to make something happen through the sheer force of our will often doesn’t get us the results we want. When something is meant to happen, it happens. It’s similar to trying to fall asleep at night. There’s simply no amount of will power that can help us go to sleep, we need to let it happen naturally.
Are you in a difficult life situation and find you can’t surrender totally? Then, I think that at a minimum you need to find a way to try a softer touch. In Worldwide Laws of Life, John Templeton recounts an exchange between a man and his good friend. The man is trying very hard to rectify a difficult situation and his friend advises him a lighter approach may be needed.
Man: “How can you deal lightly with something that means a lot to you?”
Friend: “Perhaps by not being so tense. Perhaps by realizing that we don’t have to, in fact, can’t do all the work. Perhaps by being aware that in trying so hard we are really insisting on our own way of solution.”
This is the same point that Singer makes: We’ve got to let life do the work, or depending on your spiritual perspective, allow God to do the work. Our own will may only take us so far. Sometimes we need the help of a higher power.
This post originally appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos, October, 27, 2015.