To surrender to the greater movements of life and our inner realms, entering into the unknown nature of the present. When we surrender, we become one with who we really are—the witness behind the thoughts. We must be willing to repeatedly surrender to the shadows lurking in the background of our minds. In surrendering, we humbly make the space necessary for true living to flow through us wholeheartedly.

Surrender means letting go of who we thought we were, and being OK with not knowing who or what we are and why we came to be this way. We wipe out our ideas of what makes us upset, what fills us with joy, what we like, what we dislike, what makes us comfortable and what makes us uncomfortable.

As I walked home at dusk one evening I caught a glimpse of an unsettling shadow lurking in my driveway. A warm Santa Ana breeze was blowing down from the mountains, stirring up fallen leaves that crunched with the gravel under my feet. The shape was dark and grainy. It seemed as if it had been thrust out of the opaque twilight sky, and that it was held together by the bark of oak trees that dotted the hillside. There was something deep within me that resonated with the formless shape before me and yet I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to run. My entire body was reverberating and I began to sweat. It was uncomfortable to be with this figure, gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable—a squirming, wriggling feeling, like a fly caught in a spider’s snare.

Breathing slowly, allowing the billowing wind and the coming night to swallow me, the shadow and I stood together. I wanted to move, I wanted to get away, I wanted to break the tension. It would have been so easy. All I had to do was blink and the moment would have shattered, but these options were reactionary and shallow, not sufficient responses for the entity that had entered my zone of awareness. I needed a creative move, so I let go and surrendered myself completely with a deep exhalation and a wide-open demeanour. In surrendering, I went towards the shadow and melted into it. Wooooooosh! The bottom dropped out, the breeze blew and I could feel a large smile crease both our faces.  There was a sense of vastness and depth. I was relaxed, yet alert, melting and unpeeling myself into the ground on which I stood.

The shadowy shape was none other than me, a reflection of the things I had long kept at bay. I could see the phantoms: the crying abandoned little boy, the discomfort, the drinking, the insanity, the masks, the clown, the fear, and the night. The conglomeration of my inner darkness—what I suppressed and what I was uncomfortable wading into—sucked me in and, instead of running away, I saw it as an interesting opportunity for me to shift into a new experience and expand. I had never felt so drained and so light—leaping into a black hole.

Later that night I left my home and walked into the hills to sit with the Santa Ana winds, the moon, and my shadow. We laughed together and thought of the mountain lions hungrily looking down on us from the trees, which only made us laugh harder. The shadow visits me from time to time. He comes to receive his gifts, to know that I am here and awake, to know that I do not shun him. I let him come and I accept him with open arms. He’s a beautiful boy and I’m fortunate to have him sit closer and closer. Though I cannot greet him directly each time, eventually I’m pulled in: he comes to pull me down, to rub my face in the soulful dirt of this life, to push my practice beyond my borders and to let me know that when I fall, I am still human. All he requires is my presence and all he asks is that I remain open in the midst of the good and the bad: while I move through the mud of life and while I bask in the warm light of spiritual experience, he teaches me to surrender myself and to treat the myriad possibilities as one. I see now that my shadow, what I run from, is the key to my practice—what I must move towards.

Things become more interesting when we surrender our old notions and habits. Something against which we may have been completely guarded may be the key to a deeper insight, a deeper relationship with ourselves, or life, if we are able to surrender our old beliefs and be open to not knowing what will happen. There is a deliciousness that would otherwise be missing if we did not surrender—we would remain small and guarded, sitting in our metaphorical castles, never knowing what might lie beyond the fog: mountains and trails, the sun, the sky, and the shifting breeze.

Don Dianda is the author of See for your Self: Zen Mindfulness for the Next Generation. Through meditation, daily mindfulness practice, and individual koan work, Dianda seeks to shed light on the inherently deep connection one can have with the experience of this life as well as the world one moves through. Stepping into the now and recognizing the movements within the mind is where the path begins.
image: shadow via Shutterstock