My boss’s boss and her boss took me into their office and told me that my department of three people was to be dissolved immediately, I would no longer be a manager and my position was “re-structured” to a much less sophisticated line of work.
If my salary was to be cut off or not was to be determined at a later time.
WHAT!? I was sweating, scared and totally out of my mind.
The top boss, an eccentric English man who rode a Rolls Royce on an island he owned, was late for his first-class plane ride to London that Friday, so, to cut it all short, he suggested I go home and drink a glass of whiskey. I am not making it up: Whiskey.
What about my salary? What about having to wait a whole weekend? Why do bosses always tell you bad news on a Friday at the last minute? Why the cruelty?
Looking back I see I was primed to learn about surrendering because I was convinced that I was indestructible and I fully believed that my job was safe, and that it was forever. I had a whole lot of learning to do.
I was a fool.
It is usually at the peak of arrogance that we feel the first blow pointing towards surrendering, and we reluctantly do it because we have to! There is just no other choice.
This is how I learned what surrendering means, the hard way, and the TRUE way:
1. FORCED INTO IT, I ACCEPTED
There was no way out. The situation had changed dramatically for me. Even though I fought for a while and ended up getting my manager title back and my salary intact, the job still sucked.
In the end I had to accept that change had happened, that things were never going to be the same way they were, and that I had a choice:
I could be OK with it and flow, or be miserable for the rest of whatever time I had in that jail. I chose the second one. And was much happier afterwards.
And by the way, there is a trick to this, meaning to how to accept a change of circumstances, it is point two.
2. I STOPPED COMPLAINING
Complaining only adds to the already huge mental mass of negativity the mind gets into, it causes extra stress and resistance, and it closes the door on new opportunities because people can smell it.
I got myself a rubber band on my wrist and whenever I heard myself complain I would snap myself with it, so I would learn, in the body, and through pain, that it was to stop.
In general when I feel a complaint coming now I say to myself:
In some cases in which I do this I find another way to deal with things, which is more efficient. At other times the complaining takes over. I am not perfect, but I do realize that non-complaining is a muscle, and as such, it needs practice.
3. OBSERVING GRATITUDE EVEN IF IT HURTS
Gratitude sounds very new agey but it is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.
If you list just ten things you are grateful for today, including the coffee you may be drinking as you read this, or the time you have to do so instead of having to be harvesting under a sun in a job that pays a dollar an hour, then suddenly you have “perspective.”
You see yourself for what you are, in my case a spoiled brat. I am in the top tier of the world that gets to “eat” every day, how lucky am I?
Never underestimate the power of gratitude when you are trying to surrender. It is like a shortcut, it gets you there really fast, and underlies how blessed you are, already.
And I have one tip on this, because I know it’s not easy to think with gratitude when we feel like we are in the gutter… In days like these I speak to some higher force and tell IT to be grateful for (insert list here), because for that day I just can’t.
Might not be perfect but it does the job.
4. MY YOGA PRACTICE GAVE ME HUMILITY
A daily yoga practice humbled me because when facing a challenging pose, like a headstand, all defenses fall, it is just hard, and I am not that good.
The body can teach us to let go of grandiosity if we let it.
As I took on my new chores at work, the morning practice helped me level my head.
I could not, after all, just quit because I was deep in debt and had a mortgage obligation to my name. I needed a plan and to work towards it.
The anger attacks subdued due to a daily practice. The breathing and the stretching helped me calm down and open myself to new opportunities.
Some people tell me they prefer to run and that yoga is not their thing. I can understand, not all of us like to sweat in the same way. The surrendering way says, heck, screams: Whatever works!
5. I SHUT UP MORE OFTEN
In one of the new, post-restructuring meetings where I felt completely powerless, a fellow co-worker suggested I do something that would have implied way too much work for me, and to top it off, doing something I hated.
I thought I was going to lose it, but because I had some grounding, due to points one through four, I was able to do just this: shut up.
It was not easy, I wanted to scream, list all the reasons why it was impossible, and complain. But I did not.
To my surprise, within thirty seconds, another manager (higher in rank than the person who had the unsolicited idea) explained why that would not be doable.
And this was someone who, in my opinion, did not even like me.
But, because there was a space thanks to my shutting up, circumstances resolved themselves, in this case to my happiness and right in front of my eyes.
I practice shutting up all the time now. I know how powerful it is. I know how you get more information in the next thirty seconds. Or even better, within thirty seconds there could no longer be a problem. Talk about the power of surrendering those words of anger!
But don’t believe me, you try it and see.
6. I REALIZED WE CAN INTEND BUT NOT CONTROL
I could not control anything, but I could “intend” to change jobs. And I did.
With a clear intention I let go of how I thought things were going to happen because we have no control over the “how.”
The thing with the “how” is that there are way too many people involved in how things happen, and all these people have different levels of mental and spiritual awareness…
Sometimes things move way too slow. Sometimes they don’t move at all. We can intend and wait for the opportunity to be right.
If you had told me a few years ago I would be writing here I would not have understood how that had anything to do with changing the nature of my work.
Funny thing about the how… when it happens it looks so obvious… but we can never anticipate or control it.
7. LETTING GO OF THE FORM
Sometimes I get that which I want. Sometimes I get my wish! And Oh! it feels sooo good.
But the thing that gets me is that what I get is NEVER how I pictured it in the first place.
The feeling is right, but the actual object or thing I’ve been wanting looks different, many times much better than expected.
As surrendering gets more sophisticated we begin to realize that everything we tell ourselves is just a story.
The mind labels things and prides itself in knowing. But what “is” happens beyond the ideas that the mind wants to box-in.
The way I practice this is by listening to the thoughts my mind speaks and then repeating: “that is just one point of view, but there are a billion others.”
And I pray that I get what I want… Or… “something better,” hence leaving a window open for sunshine to enter and do its thing.
Then the form that things take become a lot more malleable, full of life, and interesting.
8. BEYOND SURRENDERING
Beyond surrendering we understand – at a visceral level – all previous steps, and we begin to live life as a practice of being present for what is arising in this moment.
This leads to seeing everything as sacred. Because this moment, with its infinite possibilities, is sacred.
Magic happens when we go beyond surrendering and we incorporate all the prior points. Prayer becomes possible because we have a subtle appreciation that this is the moment we are riding, at the crest of what is, surfing the beautiful now, where everything is possible.
Things do work out in the end. If we can surrender then time speeds up and things may work themselves out even faster.
We may get a different point of view, we may access gratitude for all lessons learned in spite of the harsh circumstances, and may even get enough courage to show up for what is, exactly the way it is, and even bless it.
Image courtesy of Ivan Malkin.