In practical terms surrender means letting go. Although you don’t realize it, reality isn’t a given. Each of us inhabits a separate reality. Your mind maintains your personal version of reality by buttressing it with beliefs, expectations, and interpretations. Your mind blocks the free flow of the life force by saying, “This is how things must and should be.” Letting go releases you from this insistent grip, and when you let go, new forms of reality can enter.
You only have to take a ride on a roller coaster to see who gets more enjoyment out of the experience–those who clutch tight with white knuckles and clenched jaws or those who let go and allow themselves to be carried up and down without resistance.
Letting go is a process. You have to know when to apply it, what to let go of, and how to let go. Your mind is not going to show you any of these things; worse still, your ego is going to try to prevent you from making progress, since it believes that you have to hold on in order to survive. Your only ally in letting go is spirit, which sees reality as a whole and therefore has no need to create partial realities based on limitation.
The whole path to love could be described as learning to let go, but letting go all at once isn’t possible. This is a path of many small steps. At any given moment the steps are basically the same: Awareness begins to substitute for reactions. A reaction is automatic; it draws upon fixed beliefs and expectations, images of past pain and pleasure residing in memory, waiting to guide you in future situations. Memory has told you, in a fraction of a second, that your reaction to, say, a big dog, should be fear.
Overcoming this or any reaction requires an act of awareness. Awareness doesn’t resist the imprint of memory. It goes into it and questions whether you need it now. In the face of a big dog, awareness tells you that you aren’t a small child anymore and that not all big dogs bite. Being aware of this, you can ask if you need to hold on to fear. Whether you wind up petting the dog, ignoring it, or withdrawing is now a matter of choice. Reactions result in a closed set of options; awareness results in an open set of options.
Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. The past is closed and limited; the future is open and free.
Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997).