The final frontier. [Hahaha. Come on, you were thinking it too.]
I’ve started this post like five times already, and no matter how unrelated the fandom reference, they just keep popping up. I’ll just stop fighting it. If the post is going to be about surrender, I guess I’d better be ok with all my quirks, including the fact that I speak fluent movie and TV quotes.
Ok. I’m focused and professional.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about surrender this week. Not just about the big things that help you get centered and receptive, like transformative sex or being out in nature or pushing to the edge of your physical and mental capabilities in sport, but about the small, minute-to-minute practices that keep you remembering to surrender.
And space seems to be the key. Finding space in your mind’s chatter to get in touch with what’s actually happening right here and now in your body.
What I mean is that there are so many times we face “urgent” circumstances. And you may not even realize the stress of these moments, but your mind is already way past conscious fight or flight and is instead grasping for a decision, any decision, that gets you out of danger, even if all it does is buy you time before the real decision needs to be made. Maybe food is the answer it finds. Or curse words. Or blame.
When our mind finds itself in this perceived corner, resistance tends to get the upper hand. Resistance tricks us into thinking we’re “safe”, in the box of Stuff We Know. Steven Pressfied wrote an entire book about it, The War of Art. It’s amazing and you should read it.
It’s our nature to seek safety. It is also our nature to tell stories in order to make sense of our reality. But are these stories always objectively true? Or do we often create our own panic and desperation?
I’m not here to judge. I’m not even asking you to stop telling the stories. I’m just here to advocate two tools: breath and empathy.
Breath is possibly the world’s most underutilized resource, in my opinion.
Done properly, it pauses everything. It makes room for new sensation.
And it calms the body, which allows the mind to rest for a moment. It finds space inside the body and fills it up with something fresh.
If you notice yourself panicking, or in the throes of a food binge, just take one breath. Four counts in, four counts out. That’s all. Maybe you’ll need a second round. On a scale of 1-10, where is your mind in terms of serenity to agitation? 8.5? Take one breath and see if it moves to 8.4. There’s no pressure here. All you’re doing is noticing.
And that leads me to the second tool, of empathy.
Empathy is simply the capacity to share another being’s feelings. Empathy doesn’t fix, or wish for something better. That’s Sympathy’s job.
I am completely fascinated by Nonviolent Communication and Empathetic parenting. It seems kind of ridiculous, the conversation you might have with a child that’s flipping out. You’re just… stating facts. Not drawing any kind of conclusions, or fixing anything. It’s just talking out loud. And the key part of it is to let the pace stay easy and slow, with the knowledge that any “fixing”, if necessary, will come.
Byron Katie uses this empathy in The Work (another incredible book you should read). She writes, “I didn’t fight or shame my thoughts, I questioned them, and they stopped shaming me.” It’s innocuous inquiry, just seeking to learn more. And with patience and love, your stories will yield, and the true need will show itself.
So this week, just pause. And breathe. And soften. And see what happens.