Surrender to mystery with grace

I may have mentioned before how the Hermit card regularly comes up for me, signaling or confirming an instinct to turn inward for an extended period. Yet surprisingly, the card I’ve been drawing with startling consistency during lockdown has been the High Priestess. She taps into the magic that lies under the hood, in the in-between spaces, in the heart of paradox. In a world that prizes the light of clarity and reason, she reads truth in the darkness of uncertainty. When I feel into her energy in comparison to the Hermit’s, I get the sense of there being no “there” to retreat to, no “world out there” to withdraw from. There is only the Here and Now of the mystery. In this uncanny way, the High Priestess remains connected to the collective.

Yet individually, there are many ways to face or turn away from the mystery. We can numb, distract, resist, fill time—look every which way except towards the call. Or we can choose differently and surrender to grace, sink into the juicy marrow of life, and maybe stand a chance of touching the face of God.

“Surrender” is such a misunderstood word. Some call it “allowing” so as to maintain a sense of control over the process. And they are not wrong insofar as “surrender” means surrendering to your higher intelligence, which is part of the intelligence of life, or what I refer to as the Brilliant System. “You” remain in control, if you like, but at the level of the Self.

And from there, control will not feel like control, which is entirely the point. Our greatest acts of transformation are not directed from the level of the earth-bound self. The only control your physical mind can exert is to slow or stop the process. It is always your right and your power to determine what you are ready for and when.

At certain critical junctures, though, it might feel like the Universe really has it in for you, or that God has abandoned you. When you feel like life is beating you mercilessly, consider the notion that your Higher Self has decided that enough is enough. Time to turn the screws.

This is what happened when I lost a parent and thickly interpreted “working through grief” to mean literally working. I presented at conference just days after my dad’s death, and continued to work from bed in a state of adrenal exhaustion months afterward. I was slow on the uptake, so total burnout stepped in announcing that THIS. MUST. END.

Since then, I have been refining my ability to surrender to mystery with increasing grace. Each turn of the spiral brings ever new learning. First, it was simply a huge relief to stop swimming upstream. Then I realized that if I stopped paddling so hard, I could actually sink into the stillness and find peace. And then it was the discovery that still waters really do run deep. There is motion in stillness, and that motion carries knowing. (This is why we have to get very still to hear that silent voice.)

Recently, I turned another corner and found that deep in the mystery there is joy. Last year’s joy was simply the joy of learning new things about myself and the expansive nature of existence. This year, the joy is truly heart-felt, and it is the unconditional love of life. When I look back on my dad’s passing and of the period in my life when I retreated so deeply that many of my friends and family did not hear from me for over a year, I have no sadness or regret. In fact, I consider that period very sacred, and I even worried that I would lose that sense of sacredness once my life returned to normal.

I haven’t and it hasn’t. I am forever changed and glad for it. Am I “glad” my dad died? Of course not. Would I rather he be alive? Even if I said yes, it wouldn’t bring him back, so why even wish things were otherwise? I have reaped uncountable gifts from the experience of passing through darkness, so I am grateful. Is there a phrase (perhaps in German) for the understanding that while you may not have chosen something at the outset, you are so happy for the experience that in retrospect you would choose not to avoid it? Because I don’t fear that pain, regret no second of it, and am so very grateful for who I’m becoming as a result. I am not talking of finding silver linings here, but of alchemy.

This is what I meant the other day when I wrote that I am glad for this current experience. Would I choose this pandemic? Of course not. What sane person would? Yet what is the point of resisting? If it is not in you to jump up and down for joy in these times, do not jump for joy. Honor whatever is coming up, asking to be expressed and attended to.

Yet can we keep dreaming the world anew without resisting What Is? Can we mourn our dead and other losses while building our strong, steady centers of light? Can we trust that destruction also brings untold blessings and opportunities to create? Can we honor the heroic choices many of us get to make because of the crisis? Can we flip the narrative of victimhood once and for all to stand from our sacred centers? From there can we hold everything unconditionally in love? I am convinced that if we embody a heart like the sun, we will be so filled with light, so immersed in our natural rhythm, that we will dance in the darkness.

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