A few years back, I drank Ayahuasca in a farm house.
The first night was a disaster… but that’s a story for another time.
Today, I want to talk about the second night.
There were 5 of us plus 2 facilitators.
A couple hours in, I heard one of the other guests struggling.
He was talking to himself, obviously trying to figure something important out.
He his hands were on his head as he mumbled to himself.
He couldn’t sit still.
He looked (and sounded) like he was doing his head in.
One of the facilitators eventually went over to him and told him to surrender. To just let go.
But did it help?
Not really, no.
I spoke to him the following day and he said he tried.
He kept saying…
…but according to him, it didn’t work.
It’s a tricky thing, surrender.
It’s the simplest thing in the world – just stop doing anything – and yet it’s often challenging for people (me included).
The first thing to understand about surrender – whether it’s during an Ayahuasca ceremony or in a slow line at the grocery store – is that it’s not a mental thing.
It’s not about saying “I surrender” 378 times as a mantra.
Because while we might be saying “I surrender”, we might be tensing our entire body at the same time. We might be fidgeting. And we might be wishing for a different experience. All of this the very opposite of surrender. All of it comes from a need to control.
The words are correct… but the actual embodiment of surrender isn’t there.
That’s why it’s a tricky thing.
At its core, surrender is about giving up control 🤔
In an Ayahuasca ceremony, that means not trying to change, control or replace thoughts. Not trying to focus on anything in particular. Not trying to feel anything other than what we’re feeling.
In a slow line at the grocery store, it means the same thing. Not trying to change, control or replace thoughts. Not trying to focus on anything in particular. Not trying to feel anything other than what we’re feeling.
One word that comes to mind is availability.
It’s about being totally, wholeheartedly and completely available for whatever wants to unfold.
All the thoughts.
All the emotions.
All the sensations.
If there’s any attempt to control or change those things, well, we haven’t fully surrendered or let go.
We’re simply acting out the internal programs of control that we inherited from our family and the people around us. Our parents or caregivers couldn’t handle our feelings and so they shut us down and now we’re relating to ourselves in the same way.
I wanted to write about this because the more I do this work, the more it seems that giving up control is the key to everything we want. All the joy, peace, purpose, freedom and BEASTLINESS is on the other side of surrender and letting go.
That’s not to say that techniques aren’t important or useful 😎
At a certain stage of our journey, techniques are essential.
Gratitude lists might make our frustrating life bearable enough for us to continue living.
Journaling might give us perspective that helps us to give up more control or see the ways that we do control things.
Focusing directly on a sensation, chanting or doing breath work can give us a much needed sense of control that was missing in our childhood.
But all tools can be abused… used to avoid something in our experience.
Even the tools I give people inside The Rageheart Academy can be abused. We can easily use orienting or tracking sensations or movement to distract from what might want to move through our system (with an agenda of control and suppression). And at the same time, sitting perfectly still (like we might in meditation) can also be a form of control.
At a certain stage though, the tools start to fade away and all that remains is availability. A kind of nurturing presence that’s ready and willing to listen to whatever might be unfolding (in a way that our parents and caregivers couldn’t provide)… whether that means sitting perfectly still or moving in some way.
If I can be so bold, I would say that my goal with Rageheart is to get people to this place of non-doing. To a place where they can be with their experience without trying to change it in any way whatsoever.
Trying to control everything is one of the big problems in our lives 😩
Procrastination is an attempt to control what we’re feeling because by avoiding doing whatever it is that we want to do, we get to avoid feeling the fear that might arise if we actually did it.
Snapping at someone we love, cutting someone off in traffic to spite them, eating loads of junk food, getting drunk, watching porn, playing small, self-sabotage, watching too much TV, scrolling social media…
It’s often just an attempt to control our experience.
Why would we do that?
We’re afraid to feel.
Afraid to be vulnerable.
Afraid to truly experience what we’re experiencing (without changing it).
On that note, I find it funny when people (usually men) think they’re tough because they don’t feel anything. A lot of men wear it as a badge of honor, as though not feeling is a symbol of strength and masculinity (ie. boys don’t cry).
But underneath that supposed “toughness” is fear… which means “tough people” are actually just people who are afraid to feel their feelings, which (to me at least) is the opposite of toughness (even though there are good reasons for it).
The question is HOW?
How do we learn to stop controlling everything?
How do we get to a place where we’re willing (and able!) to feel exactly what we’re feeling?
And how do we avoid the trap where feeling everything all the time becomes its own control mechanism? (speaking from experience here 🤦♂️)
I wish there was an easy answer… but there’s not.
I will say this though:
It starts with curiosity.
Making a choice to be curious about our experience instead of afraid of it.
When we reach for a beer or for some porn or for junk food, we pause and get curious.
We might ask…
What am I trying to avoid or attain by consuming this beer/porn/food?
…and then we simply be with what arises without trying to change it and without trying to get rid of it.
The problem is…
If we’ve spent a lifetime avoiding what we’re feeling, the advice “be with it” is about as helpful as telling someone to “surrender”.
Cool. Thanks for the tip Jawwwwn. What the hell do you mean?
That’s where techniques for dropping awareness into the body help.
Looking around, feeling the ground and noticing breath.
Using movement, sound and specific points of focus to drive awareness deeper into the body.
Even understanding the mechanics of the survival (fight/flight/freeze) response ease this process.
Then once we’re more connected to what we’re feeling in the body, we can start to actually let go.
You can literally do this right now.
You don’t need to sign up to The Rageheart Academy to do it.
Simply start paying attention to your sensational experience. Not your thoughts about your experience… but your direct sensory experience of your experience. Use the ground and your environment if it helps… but as always, lean in the direction of less technique whenever possible.
As our skill with this improves and we get better at feeling what we’re feeling, we’ll often find ourselves gravitating to things like alcohol, porn or food much less often.
Because if we’re willing to feel what we’re feeling, we no longer need to control it.
It’s a simple thing… but it’s the key to ALL of this.
Lastly, watch for the need or desire to do it perfectly 🧐
Even surrender or letting go can become another goal… and trying to execute it perfectly gets in the way of it happening.
It’s human to be imperfect. To try and stumble and try again. Me? I’m far from perfect… with this and everything else. I’ve struggled with these things as much as anyone. I just don’t let it stop me from continuing.
Along this journey, there will be many mistakes… and many times when we can’t let go and simply feel… and you know what? That’s all perfectly fine. It’s normal. It’s how we learn.
There is surrender and letting go here as well. Letting go of the need to let go perfectly. Surrendering the desire to surrender perfectly. Simply doing what we can today… and not getting caught up or frustrated that it’s not happening however we think it should. And if we find ourselves frustrated with that, can we open to the frustration, once again, without controlling it?
It’s paradoxical and weird and yet… it’s also beautiful.