Tara Brach: The Path of Spiritual Surrender, Part 1

Tara Brach: The Path of Spiritual Surrender, Part 1


[Flute music] Namaste and welcome. So I start tonight with a very classic teaching
story. The way it begins is it’s a man who falls
from a precipice and he finds himself powerlessly hanging from a limb and there is a tiger just
kind of pacing above and jagged rocks below and he calls out frantically, “Help! Is anybody there?” And he hears a resounding “Yes” and he
goes, “God?” “Yes,” booming. “God, can you help me?” “Yes. You need to do only one thing.” “Anything!” “Let go.” And he says, “Is anybody else there?” [laughter] So I’ve been sharing this particular teaching
story for as long as I can remember because it’s the very last thing we want to do when
we are feeling threatened is to, you know, we are caught up in protecting and grasping
and the last thing we want to do is let go of control, to let go. Ajahn Chah – who is a great Thai meditation
teacher – one of the stories he is known for is he’d walk around the monastery when different
monks were meditating and when he’d see somebody who was struggling, who seemed to
be really suffering, he would say to them, “Oh must be very attached!” knowing – and
this is what we’re going to look into – that when we are suffering we are holding on really
tight at that time to the sense that something is wrong – “Something’s wrong with me,”
our defenses, our judgments – we are in control mode in a deep way. And so the teaching – and this is an integral
part of any spiritual path – is that freedom comes when we learn to loosen the grip, when
we learn to let go some. And from Ajahn Chah, these are his words,
“If you let go a little, you’ll find a little peace. If you let go a lot, you’ll find a lot of
peace. If you let go absolutely, you’ll find absolute
peace and tranquility.” So this talk and the next one – this will
be a two-part series – will be on surrender, on the letting go or surrendering that frees
us. And I want to acknowledge this is not a good
word if you are running for political office or you are managing a corporate board meeting
or you are in the thick of battle, you know, it can be a dicey word. But the inner art of surrender – this inner
capacity to release the grip, to let go of the resistance, to open to what’s here – is
intrinsic to waking up. So that’s what we are going to explore. It’s intrinsic to being a wise leader. It’s intrinsic to being a good parent. It’s intrinsic to being a friend and an
awake human. So we’ll start by saying: Well, what does
it really mean to surrender? And I’ll even start before that saying:
Here is what it doesn’t mean. Surrender does not mean that we are resigning,
that we are submitting ourself to some illegitimate authority, doesn’t mean we are giving up
or that there is passivity in the face of injustice or violation – because each of
these are actually forms of denying what’s going on or avoiding or dissociating. Letting go doesn’t mean we say, “Oh I
am angry, I am just going to surrender my anger or let go of my anger or my jealousy…” It’s not a cutting off or a dropping of
the emotions that we are feeling. Illustrative story of a couple that’s been
married for sixty years. And throughout those sixty years the wife
kept a shoebox in a closet. And the only real demand she had of her husband
was: “Never open that shoe box.” And so he actually didn’t think about it
for the sixty years. But then she became gravely ill and he knew
that she wasn’t going to make it so he was sorting out their affairs and sitting by her
bedside and she agreed it was time for him to see what was inside the box. So his eyes widened when he saw that inside
the box there was $95,000 and two hand crocheted dolls. She said, “When we first got married, my
grand-mother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue.” She said, “When I got angry with you I should
just keep quiet and crochet a doll.” So he is deeply touched and, you know, the
two dolls meant that she was angry with him, you know, twice in sixty years, that’s pretty
good, you know. And he is overcome with emotion and he is
saying, “Honey, you know, that explains the doll. But what about all the money? Where did the money come from?” And she said, “Ah that! That’s the money I made from selling all
the dolls!” So that’s by way of saying: The most true
and deep and intimate relationships with ourselves and others don’t come because we cut off,
drop, surrender the lived feelings inside us. And I wanted to take another moment with that
because in spiritual circles there is what’s come to be known as premature transcendence
where whether it’s forgiveness or surrender, rather than then actually going through the
process which is hard of being with what’s there and getting to a legitimate, real with
integrity kind of forgiveness or surrender, there can be a sense of “I am a spiritual
person. I am just going to surrender my ego. I am going to surrender the impurities.” And that actually bypasses because it takes
a dedicated and courageous presence with what’s actually here to arrive at surrender. You can’t bypass. So what is surrender? And I am kind of pointing towards it because
surrender is the natural release of grasping or of resistance that arises when we have
a full tender embodied presence. It’s like this willingness to be with and
say yes to what’s here actually releases the controller. It’s that process of letting go of the controller. And I do think of it in a way that we surrender
any moment that we begin to say yes to what’s right here. And sometimes it’s a tentative yes like
“I don’t really want to be with this. Maybe if I’m with it it’ll go away.” That kind of yes. But there is still a kind of leaning in, we
are kind of saying, “All right, I’m going to,” you know, “kind of gentle in towards
it” – to the profound yes that just allows life to unfold itself. There are two gifts the more we cultivate
this capacity of letting go and letting be. And one of the gifts is, if you think of it
in the reverse, when we are controlling, we solidify a sense of a separate, controlling
self, we solidify the inner sense of “Something is wrong, I’ve got to protect against things,
I’m bad, you’re bad.” When we begin this surrendering, this loosening,
this opening, we actually wake up past that separate self and discover a larger belonging. We surrender into a larger truth of who we
are. We are going to explore this more. This is sounding abstract. But that surrender lets us open to a sense
of the sacred, the oneness that’s true. The second gift is it actually allows us to
life from a higher self or a more expended sense of being. And a favorite surrender-story I have – I’m
going to be telling a few different versions or not versions but approaches to surrender
and we’ll explore what makes it relevant in your life, where in your life is there
stuckness, a repeating pattern, something that’s really asking for that kind of presence
and letting go? That’s going to be the kind of enquiry – but
this first story: So this is about Lester Evenson who some of you might know of is the
founder of the Sedona method. So Lester when he hit his forties became super
sick: he had heart failure, he had colon cancer, in fact, at one point his doctor sent him
home and said, “Just don’t move around much. But there is no real way to heal.” There was just palliative… It was a death sentence. So Lester started reflecting. Now he was a super-educated guy, he knew about
all the world philosophies etc. but he realized that all his education and all his accomplishments
– he was a successful entrepreneur – nothing was in any way helping. Where did it get him? So he began this enquiry. And he basically began very present with his
body and his heart and he directed a question to his colon, he said, “What are you believing?” And what he got was that there was a demand
that the world be different, that he was moving through life and there was an undercurrent
of this demand that the world change and be different, “I am not willing to be with
life as it is. It’s not okay.” And he started seeing the suffering of his
way of controlling things, trying to control things and make them the way he wanted them. And when he saw that suffering, was present
with this suffering, that’s what allowed him to release that demand that the world
be different. Now for him it was such a profound awakening
this kind of surrendering of this demand that the world accommodate him, it was so profound
that he created a whole method of enquiry and presence and opening based on it. But the core – which is something as we’ll
see we find in pretty much every healing and meditating tradition – is that when we are
suffering we are like tight and resisting, wanting things to be different. And you might even take your hand right now
and just experiment: Just make a fist and clench some and just on purpose clench it’s
like “I want things a certain way,” “I don’t want things a certain way” and just
sense this is the controlling self clenching. One teacher said, “We are a bunch of tight
muscles tensing again our existence.” Now what is letting go? Letting go is actually just discontinue that
clenching, feel the pain of it and just discontinue. You are kind of surrendering the clench. And notice the feelings that come up in your
hand. Surrender dissolves the “No,” the clench,
and it makes room for the flow of life, okay? Letting go is not like we’re dropping something. Letting go is like a discontinuing or stopping
of the clench, okay? We do it. We clench in our body as we go through the
day tight. We clench in our mind with our worry-thoughts,
our obsessing. We clench emotionally when we tighten and
numb and armor our hearts. We clench behaviorally when we defend or aggress. So it’s a letting go of that, a ceasing
and desisting You know, one of the ways that I think about it is from a long time ago a
dialogue where one yogi was asking his master – I think it was Swami Sachananda – “Do
I have to be a Hindu to do this yoga?” And Swami Sachananda’s response was, “I
am not a Hindu, I am an un-Do.” Isn’t it good, though? Really, we don’t have to subscribe to a
religion as much as to learn this inner art of presence that lets us release these habitual
patterns of tensing against our life. So you might just take a moment to sense for
yourself because what we’ll do is, you know, invite you to pick a place where you feel
stuck where do you sense that the wisdom of letting go could be freeing for you. And you might check your body and just notice:
What happens if you soften the muscles in your shoulders? And you might not have noticed already that
the shoulders were knotted some. So you start noticing in your body where the
habitual tightening is. Or maybe you scan today and you notice that
your mind had a lot of judging going on, the clench of judgment that was kind of pushing
other people away with your judgments. Or maybe you notice today there was kind of
obsessive worry or planning, kind of fear-thoughts. So that’s a place where we get a lot of
freedom and space if we let go some. Or maybe you have been noticing that you’ve
resisted really honestly opening to your loneliness or your grief, you can kind of sense that
that’s there and can sense the wisdom of letting go of that resistance and opening. Maybe you’ve been trying to change somebody
and that’s a place of letting go. Or maybe you of having the second or third
drink at a social event or extra desert sometimes in the evening. Maybe you notice the belief deep down that
you are failing, that you are not lovable like Lester, that things need to be different
for you to be okay, that you need to be different, is there a belief like that? In the deep way, for all of us, what we are
learning to surrender is the story and identity with a separate, fearful, deficient self. We are learning to surrender that. And if you think of your whole evolution and
the evolution of our species, it’s really this awakening consciousness that’s surrendering
those stories of being a small, separate self and opening to a larger domain of being and
love and connectedness. So keep in mind for yourself where in some
way letting go could be freeing. And part of what reveals it is we start noticing
where the suffering is, we start noticing where it’s hard to let go, the anger that’s
hard to open to and see what’s going on, the fears. I often refer back to the work of a palliative
caregiver who described that the greatest regret of the dying – she sat with thousands
of people – and the report that came most regularly was the regret that “I didn’t
live true to myself,” you know, “according to other people’s expectations,” or according
to my own judgments,” but “I didn’t live true to myself.” And I have come to sense that this is really
how most of us are feeling a lot of the time that we are not living really true to who
we know we could be, you know, the heart that we know really could be more loving, that
could love without holding back or we are not living true to our potential in some way. And the shift that lets us live more true
has to do with in some way cultivating a surrendering presence. So let’s look more closely how we do that. We’ll close with a meditation. And the first is: How do you relate to things
when you find you are stuck? If you know you are caught in judgment, in
defensiveness, in feeling hurt and angry, if you know you are caught in depression or
shame, how do you then relate to that? And for most of us when we are stuck we immediately
add on to it, “This is bad,” “This is wrong,” “I am bad for being stuck”;
in other words, there is an evaluation. So the first step of surrendering is to let
go of making our stuckness bad. And I’ll say a little more. Thirty years ago when I was training in Neurolinguistic
Programming, which has got a lot in common with a lot of other therapeutic and other
processes, one of the mantras was, “Whatever comes up is feedback not failure. And I thought that was a really good phrase. It’s feedback not failure. It’s like: Whenever we’re stuck there
is some message from inside us that, “Hey, there is some freedom that’s needed! We need to be more freed up! Pay attention!” It’s feedback not failure. And the understanding on the spiritual path
that it’s not a bad thing when we encounter the fear, the depression, the jealousy, the
hatred, the anger; it’s actually a natural part of the human realm and that our spiritual
awakening comes when we actually bring a full presence to those experiences not because
they are not there, it’s the going through which requires acceptance and letting be and
a surrendering presence. Let me give you an example from Rachel Remen
who is one of my favorite teachers and authors – she wrote “Kitchen Table Wisdom,”
that’s just one of the good ones – and “My Grandfather’s Blessing” is another
good book – and she is a doctor and wise woman. And she tells a story of a young man named
Jeff who she said was the angriest patient she had ever treated. And he was diagnosed with sarcoma osteogenesis,
and to save his life doctor’s had to remove one of his legs. And he woke up from surgery an angry man. So his stuck place was that he is now a guy
without a limb and he believed his life was over, he believed that everything that was
going on was wrong and bad and he fell into a depression, began to use drugs, drinking,
further deepening it, so that’s when he got referred to Rachel, to Rachel Remen. So she asked him to draw a picture of his
body. And he drew a picture of a vase and it had
a really large crack in it, you know, it was like made the crack really jagged and horrible. And he hands it to her. So she put it in her desk drawer. And then soon he started asking about how
other young people were living with amputations. And eventually he started volunteering at
a hospital with other young amputees like himself. So one day he meets a twenty-one year old
woman and I am going to read, “She is recovering from double Mastectomy, horrible history of
breast cancer, twenty-one years old. And the young woman would barely look up from
her hospital bed. So after several attempts Greg looked down
at his leg, he took off his prosthetic device, dramatically dropped it. He started hopping around until finally he
heard the woman start laughing. And she looked up with a smile, “Fella,
if you can dance, maybe I can sing.’” So he went from angry – “This is bad”
– to “Okay, this is what is going on, how can I help other people to actually pulling
her out of what she was into. By the way: They got married, this is one
of those stories. I didn’t write it. It’s just what happened. Anyway, so I want to tell you about his last
meeting with Rachel Remen. He walks into the room and she pulls out the
drawing of the cracked vase that he drew nearly two years earlier. Studying it, Jeff took the drawing and said,
“You know, it’s not really done.” And he took a yellow highlighter from her
desk and drew a vibrant, yellow lines extending out from the crack in the vase. And she gave him a puzzled look. And he smiled and said, “This is where the
light comes from.” This is where the light comes from; the cracks,
the fishers, the imperfections, what we call the diseases, the feelings of failure, the
feelings of how imperfect we are, that’s the place where the light can shine through. You might know Rumi’s very famous line,
he says, “Keep your gaze on the wounded place. Keep your gaze on the wounded place. That’s where the light enters.” This is the first level of surrender. When we get stuck, can we surrender the idea
that this is a bad thing? When we are hurting, can some place in us
remember this is feedback to deepen our attention because if we deepen our attention this is
where the light will come through? Okay, so that’s the beginning of the path
of surrender. And I can say in my own life there is a prayer
that is used by the Bodhisattvas – the “Bodhisattva” is a word for “an awakened beings” – “May
whatever arises, may this serve the awakening of compassion and wisdom.” And I love that prayer because it’s like
saying, “Okay, no matter what happens to me…” Like today, I was really excited to be back
and come in and be with you, and I love this theme we are talking about, it’s a very
alive one for me, and I woke up this morning and I had a really bad back spasm. And I was so… you know, everything in me
was going, “Okay, what am I going to do about it, how am I going to fix…” like
“Got to get in, maybe I can’t, Jonathan can he teach…” and I went into this whole
spiral and I said, “Wait a minute! This is what I am teaching about tonight! Stop! Now what does ‘surrender’ mean now?” And the first step was: Whatever this is about,
what matters is that if I can bring presence like open to how it is, then there’ll be
some light that shines through whether or not I get to come.” Now as it is I am in a pretty delicate state
– I may even end up standing up to do part of the talk, I’ll se how my back is – but
it’s so amazing that if we can remember when stuff happens not to make it bad or wrong. And the more difficult it is the more potential
for light to come through. I remember when my husband and I got married
we built it into our wedding vows, “May whatever arises between us, may this be a
place that wakes up compassion and wisdom.” So you might reflect for a moment. Let your intention go inward. And you might first ask yourself, you know,
where you feel you’ve made real… there’s really been true growth in your life, where
you made it through a difficult situation – be trail or a divorce, maybe an early
trauma – it doesn’t mean that you are on the other side of it but that it’s been
like a source of transformation for you. The loss of a dear one, maybe the loss of
your own health. How did it grow you? How have you grown in relationship to that
difficult situation? Can you sense maybe what beliefs you had to
let go of about yourself and others or life? Old ways of reacting you let go of to emerge
more into who you are? How did that difficult place, the wounded
place, become a site for light shining through, for enlarging the sense of who you are? And with that informing you, what right now
is a place for awakening? Where is there some stuckness or woundedness
that can be really the place that light can shine through, that can be some awakening? And you might sense this first level of surrendering
by not making the difficulty wrong but rather just opening to how it might serve more freedom,
more love, more wisdom. So as we continue now the message of this
place of suffering is: Pay more attention, deepen your attention. So I’d like to now talk about the three
ways of presence and letting go that allow the light to shine through. And very briefly I’ll say it briefly and
then both this class and the next one we’ll be going into it further – the first big
letting go is getting the knack of letting go your thoughts that keep you in a virtual,
small reality about things, learning how to let go, not to believe thoughts. The second one is letting go of the resistance
to feelings so you can open to the aliveness that’s here. And the third is letting go into a larger
field of intelligence and love. So back to the thoughts: Letting go of thoughts
is what we are practicing in meditation all the time Notice when you’ve been lost in
a cloud of virtual reality and you don’t have to try to vanquish the cloud just notice
it so that you can be the sky and the clouds can be there but you are not stuck inside
them, you are not living in a contracted world, you are not believing the message of the thoughts. “Don’t believe your thoughts and don’t
believe your thoughts and don’t believe your thoughts.” That’s the trick. That’s the first place of letting go. And there is a story that I heard some years
back about a guy who was a lifetime smoker and he was hospitalized with Emphysema and
after a serious of small strokes his daughter encouraged him, as she had often done, to
give up smoking. And he basically asked her to buy him more
cigarettes and he said, “Look, I’ve been a smoker all my life. That’s the way I am, that’s the way it’s
going to be.” But several days later he had another small
stroke and apparently in one of the memory centers in his brain. He woke up the next day and without concern
he stopped smoking for good. It just because he was not – and this…
he wasn’t able to in this case remember and cycle those thoughts of “I am a smoker,”
“I need to smoke,” “I have to smoke,” “I can’t quit” – those beliefs just
weren’t… he just didn’t have access to them. Well, meditation actually trains you to disentangle
and to step out and to witness but not buy the thoughts. Takes many rounds. But that is the liberation of the practice. You are not who you think you are really. So “Don’t believe your thoughts.” And this is a quote by Vironika Tugaleva,
she says, “We speak about losing our minds as if it’s a bad thing. I say: Lose your mind! Do it purposefully! Find out who you really are beyond your thoughts
and your beliefs,” right, don’t believe your thoughts, that’s the first, that’s
the big letting go. Then the second that I mentioned: Let go into,
open up to the vulnerability that’s here. We are absolutely designed to avoid feeling
that edginess, that fear, anything we can do to stay away from vulnerability we will. So a part of the training of surrender is
to on purpose say yes to what’s here. And we do it over time. And I often think of that vulnerability like
these shy creatures that hide in the woods and, you know, you can’t force them out
but you can say, “Hey, I am here, I am willing, I am not going to hurt you, I just want to
be with you” to that vulnerability. And it’s like this light of the sun in the
meow, gradually they’ll creep out if you are not judging and you are not going to turn
on yourself. So we begin to learn to say yes to the loneliness
and “Yes” to the sorrow and “Yes” to the shame and “Yes” to whatever is
there and be with. That’s the second level of surrendering. The third I think of as remembering love. It’s like surrender our separateness. Just surrender into something bigger. And there are different pathways of doing
it. This is what the whole loving-kindness practice
is about that in some way we start to learn to give ourselves love and then something
dissolves and we feel more a part of that field of loving. There are many different ways. I’ll tell you a couple of examples. I learned a whole lot about surrender when
I was writing my books. I first started with “Radical Acceptance.” I remember I’d been on a role and all of
a sudden, you know, hit the typical writer block thing. But it was painful, it was like I’d lost
all contact with any sense of a flow of creativity, it all seemed like (0:35:37.5), just like,
you know, it was just like repetitive stuff, a lot of… I was glazed over by what I was writing so
I was getting exhausted and cycling and spinning. And I started practicing more consciously,
“Okay, pause, this is not failure, this is feedback, it’s not a bad thing, it’s
just I am in a difficult thing, deepen attention” – so I started with that – and then I
did the let-go-of-thinking thing like I just stopped trying to think my way into what theme
and what illustration and what teaching point, I just said, “Okay, just drop it, drop it”
and then I started opening to what was underneath. And there was an anxiety about failing like
it meant a whole lot to me to be able to get the book out and a feeling of “I can’t
do this,” there was like a belief of “I can’t do this” which really made sense
because I was so caught in the small sense of self that of course the small self couldn’t
do it. That wasn’t the source of the writing. But when I was inside it there was a feeling
like “I can’t do this.” That brought up a sense of vulnerability. And that’s when I could start calling on
a larger sense of intelligence and love, it’s almost like saying, “This little self can’t
do it so you’re going to have to do it” – this bigger field of loving presence. The name that at that time Prajna Paramita
is a description of the really the mother of the universe, is really the light and wisdom
and heart-wisdom that lives through all of us so I was calling on that heart-wisdom. And in a sense there was that surrendering
the best way to describe it is “This book doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to you,”
it was kind of like “Take it!” you know, “Flow through me because I can’t do this!” But it was in those moments of surrender – “I
can’t do this, let something larger” – that I became larger. Does that make sense? That I was no longer fitting inside a small
egoic self, there was just something larger. And I would rest and meditate like that for
a bit and I’d go back to my computer and it just… things moved. The wisdom of it is that I realized there
really wasn’t a self writing a book. There is not a self doing anything. It’s the universe flowing through more or
less at different times. That was a powerful part of surrendering for
me. And then it happened again writing “True
Refuge” and more recently in “Radical Compassion” which is coming out next year. I’d hit a stuck place and I’d realize,
“Oh there is a small self trying hard! I need to surrender!” Now a different kind of approach has been
whenever I get caught in the trance of unworthiness and, you know, feeling unlovable. Like many, many, many rounds of getting stuck
and feeling not okay about myself. And, again, it requires “Okay, let go of
the thoughts, open to the feelings” – step one, step two – and in some way call on
love to reconnect. Surrender to something larger and for me one
of the pathways was in some way in that place that felt really unlovable to have a prayer
“Please love me.” And it was like a prayer to the love of the
universe just to love me and in the sincerity of that prayer there would be a washing through,
a feeling of love happening. I read you… This is one of my favorite poems by Clarissa
Estes. She says, “Refuse to fall down. And if you cannot refuse to fall down refuse
to stay down. And if you cannot refuse to stay down lift
your heart toward heaven and like a hungry beggar ask that it be filled. You may be pushed down, you may be kept from
rising, but no one can keep you from lifting your heart towards heaven, only you. No one can keep you from lifting your heart
towards heaven only you.” We can’t control things. We get pushed down, we get stuck. But there is the surrendering of in some way
offering ourselves into or calling on the larger field of loving. And even if we are not familiar with it, there
is something in us that senses that we belong to something larger so we can begin to call
on it. So most spiritual traditions in some way teach
this kind of surrendering, of letting go of our smallness into something larger, letting
the river empty into the sea. Every religious tradition that I’ve run
into from Patañjali – The Yoga Sutras it’s a kind of surrender into the lord, into oneness
-. From Buddhism and this is you take refuge, a surrendering to the truth of the present
moment, that’s Dharma, you surrender into sangha, the relational field, and you surrender
into awareness, the truth or oneness or pure wakefulness of your being. The Christians not my will, god’s will. Twelve Step Programs turning your will over
to higher power. It’s all over. So here are the questions that often come
up when exploring surrender with different students that I want to name because they
are really important to acknowledge. One is: People will say, “Well, I have tried
but I can’t because I am so hooked on my belief that something is wrong with me that
I can’t get out of those beliefs and feelings enough to… I just keep locking me in a small self, I
can’t sense anything larger, that others actually confirm that reality that I am small
and not okay.” It is hard to sense something larger when
we are stuck. Somebody sent me this like a year ago with
a dog on a psychiatrist couch and he is saying, “It’s right on my fence. Be aware of dog. How is that supposed to make me feel?” Because we have these messages coming at us
that, you know, you are bad, you are this, you are that and how are we supposed to, you
know, surrender into a bigger field? And yet – and here is the deal – even
when we feel stuck, there is an intuitive sense in us – and this is what we sense
from that palliative caregiver who said, “I didn’t live true to myself” – that there
is more freedom, there is a larger sense of our being and we are not in touch with it,
it feels out of reach, but there is some sense that that it’s there and that we are holding
on tight to something smaller. But there is that inner wisdom. And I read something from Ajahn Chah teaching
that I thought was really useful about this. He said, “You see yourself clinging and
you know it.” – Okay, we all can see it in our lives,
“I am clinging to myself as a depressed self or as a bad self or an unworthy self.” – And we know it but we still can’t let
go. But this is fifty to seventy percent of the
practice already. There isn’t a release but we know that if
we could let go that would be the way to peace.” Even sensing that it’s possible that if
we could let go there’d be more peace means that we have an intuition of that through
that wound the light can shine through. So to honor just the process of knowing that
you need to let go and you want to let go. And the second big question that comes up
a lot is that “Okay, I am trying to surrender but it just feels like a small self doing
more controlling. Okay, my small self is going to surrender
now.” And I just want to suggest that when that
happens pray, in your own way, but from a very sincere place in you, “Please may there
be a letting go. Please.” And the more sincere you get, the more there’ll
be a dissolving of the crustiness and a surrender. Prayer really helps. Finally, it becomes like a move like you are
meditating and something comes up and say, “Okay, surrender” and then you have some
idea of something but you feel like you just really like again doing the controls. Surrender the surrendering, okay? So there is the, “Okay, I am going to let
go” and then let go of the letting go and there is like a… it’s called the backward
step, just keep letting go of what comes up, and let go of that, and let go of the idea
of letting go, and let go of that you should be doing it differently. And gradually what you’ll find is that there
is space, that you can rerelax into space. Okay, to summarize: Letting go of he idea
that something is wrong when you get stuck – that’s the attitude. And then letting go of the thoughts, just
don’t believe them. Letting go of the resistance to the feelings. And then letting go into some larger sense
of love and of presence. And we’ll explore them more but I want to
get a taste right now so let’s take a few moments to meditate together. So this is a simple practice of surrender,
letting go, of cultivating a surrendering presence. And we begin by just scanning. And you might scan your life and sense some
place that you get stuck and reactive, where you know you get caught in your small self,
that if you were at the end of your life looking back, you’d feel regretful that you stayed
stuck in that smallness, a place you get judgmental or defended or aggressive, a addicted, greedy. Let yourself sense a very real life-situation
where this has happened. And not just holding the gestalt of it that
this is a stuck place, begin by seeing if you can let go of any judgment of badness,
like this is wrong, bad, and sense that this is the wounded place that Rumi is talking
about, “Keep your gaze on the wounded place, there is something going on here that’s
asking for attention, and there is a potential wherever we are stuck for the light of freedom
to shine through. This is where the work can happen. So you might feel that Bodhisattva prayer
“May this serve awakening,” “May this help awaken my heart and my wisdom.” And let yourself deepen your attention to
the situation. Simply begin to sense what’s going on inside
you. Maybe you can notice what you are believing. Whenever we are suffering, we are having some
belief that’s limiting and untrue, the belief “I am bad,” “Another person is bad,”
“I am failing,” “They are failing,” “If they are treating me this way they couldn’t
love me,” “If this doesn’t change something very bad is going to happen.” Just notice what thoughts or beliefs are circling. And then see if you can sense when you are
believing those thoughts: What’s going on in your body? When you are really believing what the fear-thoughts
are saying, if you drop the thought, just feel what’s going on in your body, maybe
there is something you have been unwilling to feel. Can you gently open into your body and say,
“I am here, what wants to be felt? What wants attention?” And sometimes you can get more in touch with
what’s there if you let your face take the expression of the feeling, tightening your
face, or squinching or clenching your jaws or knitting your brow, sometimes that helps
to get in touch with what’s in the body. It can help if you put your hand on your heart
because that’s kind of a signal that you are keeping company, “I am here,” it’s
like inviting those shy creatures out of the woods like “I am here,” let whatever wants
to be felt be felt. You might even let it be as big as it wants
to be like let it fill your body, let it fill the room, fill the sky. If it’s fear or hurt or sorrow. So we let go of thoughts and we let go of
resistance to the feeling. And then the final letting go is letting all
that we feel be held by something larger. You might sense the vast field of this living
web of life and the intelligence that lives in it and the love that is here and potential
in each of us and around us. Or maybe there is a spiritual figure that
helps remind you of love. Maybe there is a person you know. But sense that you can surrender or let go
of the woundedness into something larger. Let it be held. Imagine loving, bathing that place. Be held by larger presence. And be patient. It can take many times sometimes to learn
to surrender this pain of the small self into something larger. Just have the prayer and the intention “Please
may I let go, let go into love. Please may I let go into love.” Rumi puts it this way, he says, “Be ground,
be crumbled, so wild flowers will come up where you are. You have been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.” “You have been stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.” So as we close you might sense yourself that
this is a life-practice of learning to surrender the thoughts and surrendering into the feelings
and surrender into this larger, loving space. And yet you can feel from your own intuitive
wisdom that remembering your belonging to something larger is a pathway to peace and
freedom and just knowing that will keep calling you home over and over. Taking a few, nice, full, deep breaths. And as you are ready opening your eyes. Namaste and thank you for your presence. [flute]

19 Replies to “Tara Brach: The Path of Spiritual Surrender, Part 1”

  1. It's wonderful to hear you mentioning Rachel Remen! She's truly a great author! Many thanks for this, your talks, books and podcasts are all wonderful

  2. We love you Tara. Thank you for the work that you do. It's meant so much to me, and so many people over the years 💕

  3. Unhurried presentation, which is exactly what is needed, from a place of authentic presence and empathy. Tara is a beautiful being.

  4. Tara, thank you again for your teachings. I was watching a ted talk where the speaker began describing RAIN, but he gave credit to someone else. I found myself so mad and protective of you and your ideas and teachings. Credit should be given to you. Then I wondered what your reaction is when you see people describe your teachings without giving due credit. I assumed you take it as practice to let go, to not grasp, to not get caught in the right/wrong. Forever thank you for you and your beautiful soul.

  5. I'm… so grateful. Tears.. I feel your depth of awareness, that you are a conscious being among us, like a "sage"/guru(real one's, not the superficial "new" stuff") and you really bring me the .. beauty of experience that Adyashanti, Mooji, Sadghuru and many more "alike". And we are all that, in essence.

    So glad I found you. Wonderful being. <3

  6. Thank you for this, Tara and team. I’ve struggled with the word “surrender” for years, especially since it’s one of the translations of the word “Islam”, the tradition I grew up in. Your talk reminds me of something I wrote years ago, as I tried to unpack my feelings around that word, trying to work with how counterintuitive “surrender” can be. I’m still working on it all, but here’s what I wrote: https://medium.com/@shrzjnju/surrender-bb8ce1b22ca6

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