Here’s a scary idea: surrender control of your life. Our lives are ridden with tension, resentment, and anxiety because we try to control and determine everything that happens to us. But when it doesn’t go as planned—and often it won’t, because a million external factors are coming into play at once—we get upset or fearful.
Michael A. Singer, author of The Surrender Experiment, poses a simple question that we should all ask ourselves: “Am I better off making up an alternate reality in my mind and then fighting with reality to make it be my way, or am I better off letting go of what I want and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around me?”
Don’t confuse this with being complacent or lazy, though. Surrendering control isn’t about “dropping out of life,” as Singer puts it; it’s about embracing life as it comes to you, and not living in fear of making a mistake, or things not going your way. Sounds pretty ideal, right?
As life continues to whizz by, this concept can seem problematic. But it’s possible—and here are some ways Singer did it, and how you can too.
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Silence your inner chatter
“Inner chatter” is the little voice (sometimes it’s more than one) inside your head that makes you worry or anxious about things that haven’t happened yet. For example, you might experience obsessive thoughts about all the things you have to do the next day. Through meditation, mantras and focused breathing, you can quiet the inner chatter, and as a result, become more present and gain more clarity about the issues that lie beneath all the inner chatter.
Go with the flow
On a spontaneous but ultimately memorable trip to Mexico, Singer discovered that life isn’t as fragile as our inner voice leads us to believe. For example, many of us are scared of taking risks because we think things could end unpleasantly. But the good news is, life will always gift us the opportunity to take risks or do something different. All we have to do is trust both in life and ourselves. “There were experiences to be had, but only if you were willing to have them,” says Singer.
Maybe you have a path already mapped out with goals and checkpoints. But it’s important that we keep ourselves open to all sorts of new experiences, and possibilities, even the ones that seem off the beaten track. Even if you don’t think a presented choice is going to set you down your life’s path, you may be surprised. You might discover a passion that you wouldn’t have tapped into with your set plan, or it could get you closer to your dream in an unpredictable way. “I had treated each job as if the universe itself had given it to me — because it had,” Singer writes. On that note, even if we’re in a job that we aren’t passionate about, we should see it as a necessary step that takes us further in our journey through life.
Illustration: Marie Guillard