Mindful Writing is a lot like life which is a lot like dancing on a teeter-totter, “surrender” at one end and “control” at the other. When the desire for control takes over, I buckle down, work harder, make some progress but too often end up banging my head against a wall, then feeling joyless and burned out. On the other hand, if I surrender and let go too quickly, without feeling that I’ve done my “due diligence” (whatever that means), I feel lost, unmoored, a leaf floating in the wind. Maintaining the balancing act is not easy. Falling off the teeter totter (you see those two guys at the top of that building?) is not good for body or soul.
The Choice: Surrender or Control
The other day, for example, I had a well thought through list of “to do” items. The list promised a day that would be manageable, enjoyable, practical and inspirational. But almost immediately, life pummeled me: broken appliances; a neighbor’s plumbing problem leaked down into our unit; a rebellious computer wouldn’t, just wouldn’t; our daughter visiting and I wanted to spend time together; and I couldn’t find the car keys … you get the picture. I jerked from phone to email to breakfast to problem solving. CONTROL, must get CONTROL!! I move into high gear. I logic, I telephone, I clean up, I listen, I eat, I demand, I … am ready to explode. Thoughts and images, hopes and fears, ideas rush in. I’m stressed. I’m angry. I’m relieved. I’m overwhelmed.
Then, I remember the other end of the teeter totter: Surrender. I hear the universe calling. I take a few moments to meditate. I breathe. Try to let go. I watch my thoughts, let them go. More rush in. Let go. Let go. Not easy. Not perfect. Let go.
Surrender or Control. The choice, I know, is mine.
Every time I sit down to write, I face this same choice. The more pre-planning I do, the more outlining, the more left brain, logical is my attitude, the more control I have. Or think I have. I know what I want to write. I write – more or less – what I have in mind. The result is often competent, but uninspired.
On the other hand, when I surrender, I open myself to influences that lay beyond and beneath my conscious mind. Wild and crazy ideas, flights of fancy. Random associations lead to incomprehensible ramblings. Moments of insight lead to breakthroughs I’d never imagined. I dive into the void and find both treasures and rot.
The Joy of Surrender
In case it’s not already obvious, let me confess my bias. I love surrendering to the momentum of the moment, feeling the wind of the universe in my hair, knowing that I don’t know, but knowing also that the solution is out there and that my job is not to force it, but to catch it. When I surrender, I am more than myself. I am part of the awe and wonder of life. I am in the flow. (And, I may also end up in the pit.) There is nothing more frightening or more magical than surrender. Admitting that there are forces so much bigger than I am, but that I am a part of those forces. When I surrender to them, I become part of them. I let go and trust. It never turns out exactly the way I imagined it would, but it often turns out better. I feel larger and more connected to my own soul. I don’t understand, but I am learning to trust.
The Comfort of Control
And yet. There is the ego. The mind insisting on control. I like my clothes hung … the way I like my clothes hung. Control gives me the feeling of … well, being in control. Getting what I want. A measure of certainty. Distance from that scary fear of the unknown. The fantasy that things will be the way I command them to be, that the universe will bow to my will. At the deepest level, control gives me the illusion of permanence – all is stable, I will not die. It’s an illusion, I know that, but it’s an illusion that gives temporary relief. That feeling of control.
Getting Back to the Choice
I don’t opt for either surrender or control, all the time. The art lies in knowing when and how to choose in the moment. I remember Ram Dass saying, “Hold on tightly, let go lightly.” Right, but when? How do you know?
I try to understand what scares me about not being in control? What scares me about surrender? What attracts me to each? How far am I willing to go, how much risk can I tolerate before control comes riding in, on his tank, guns blazing. I listen to my deepest intentions. It’s a bit like saying a prayer before diving into the abyss.
These are big questions, rather more than a single blog can deal with. What do you think about surrender and control? I’d love hear any response you might have.