The samurai may help us understand: What does it mean to surrender spiritually?
Premodern elite warriors, the samurai served their daimyo, or feudal lord, with steadfast loyalty.
In 1716, Yamamoto Tsunetomo writes the samurai code of honor in a spiritual guide called Hagakure. The first chapter annonces, The way of the warrior is to be found in dying.
Instead of surrendering to the enemy, the samurai vowed to fight until death. Rather, they surrendered to death at any moment—which proved the utmost devotion to their lord.
When I first read about the samurai, I wondered, What would it be like to surrender to death at any moment?
I let that question permeate my daily life. In the morning, I couldn’t help but gaze at my partner Loïc a little longer than usual before he headed off to work.
When I sat down for lunch, I thought, This could be your last meal. Suddenly, my brown rice and sautéed broccoli tasted much more delicious.
At night, I paused before shutting my eyes to digest an epiphany: Accepting death amplifies our lives. Suddenly, every moment counts.
We begin truly living when we surrender to our fears.
So, what does it mean to surrender?
Embracing death is far from a morbid exercise.
And it’s more about embracing our fear of death. Many people fear death—and understandably so, since it’s the greatest uncertainty in life. We’ll all die, but when? How?
Yet avoiding our fear of the unknown strengthens it and keeps us from the present moment.
Contemplating our mortality helps us release what doesn’t serve us, so that we can live fulfilling lives. That’s the crux of surrendering spiritually too.
We must accept the metaphorical death of our ego, or who we think we are, to experience our true nature—spacious, peaceful and free.
When we mistake ourselves for our ego, we identify with our:
- physical appearance
- social status
- past or future
- thoughts and emotions
- beliefs, including spiritual ones
All these things come and go, so we can’t rely on them for lasting happiness. It’s important to honor our ego though because it tries to protect us, despite its sabotaging ways.
Any attempt to get rid of our ego creates more resistance. Instead, awareness and understanding allay our ego.
That’s when our life force flows effortlessly, bringing in peace, joy and vitality.
How to gift yourself surrender
“Surrender is a gift that you can give yourself. It’s an act of faith. It’s saying that even though I can’t see where this river is flowing, I trust it will take me in the right direction.” —Debbie Ford
Many fears haunt the best of us: the fear of rejection, judgment, being inadequate, pain and uncertainty.
We’ve been conditioned by these fears, whether we like it or not—and they run deep in our subconscious.
Believing in a higher power eases our pain a bit. Life, the Universe or consciousness—whatever you call it—orchestrates everything to perfection. Letting go of control sounds pleasant.
But what an uphill struggle!
We don’t fully surrender in one fell swoop, except in rare cases. In my personal experience, surrendering happens little by little. Each moment is an opportunity to witness my resistance to what is.
So, I check in with myself all day long, What am I thinking and feeling right now? Is there tension in my body? What triggered me?
I observe my reaction to “mistakes”, judgments and doubts and the suffering that follows. Our ego can also pretend to be our light.
Naming and feeling my emotions soothes me though and helps me make wiser decisions.
We tend to push and pull until we can’t anymore. That’s when we finally lay down our arms.
Each time I succeed in allowing my emotions, I disidentify myself from ego and take refuge in my loving presence. This process chips away at my old identity. And sometimes, it hacks into the bedrock.
Our faith, dedication and curiosity help us stay on track. We gain a bit of confidence, we feel a bit safer, to release our grip.
Slowly but surely, we surrender more fully, letting life guide us more often.
It’s about receiving each moment
The spiritual path asks us to trust we’ll be okay, no matter what.
But it’s easier said than done. Our worries constantly seize our mind and body. Blind faith doesn’t resonate with us either.
Fortunately, it’s possible to strengthen our faith step by step.
We simply stay open to receiving each moment as it comes. Instead of shooing our thoughts away, we see them for what they are.
And over and over, we return to the truth of who we are.
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Further reading to help you surrender spiritually: