It is easy to be in a place of peace when all of the parts of life seemingly work in complete harmony. It is easy to peer from the vantage point of positivity when the unseen forces of the universe create space for unexpected fortune. Perhaps this favor takes shape in the context of work through productivity, success, or promotion. Perhaps this favor takes form in the context of relationships through happiness in the absence of conflict. Each area of our everyday lives, whether it be work, love, family, finances, goals, or health, are either comfortably steady or increasingly prosperous when we experience seasons of universal goodness. Finding contentment is an effortless search when life is “working in our favor.”
But when the forces of life are at odds, when the rhythm of the universe falls out of harmony, that sense of happiness is quite quick to vanish. This can occur because of a lack of recognition at work, an unexpected separation with a lover, a failed attempt at pregnancy, or an unanticipated diagnosis. Frustration and worry start to outweigh optimism. Misfortune begins to feel like a daunting presence at the forefront of our consciousness. If we could paint these seasons as landscapes, our setbacks and hardships would be the focal points.
We may ask, “After working so tirelessly towards my dream, why is it not coming to pass?” or, “I have been putting 100% of my effort into exercising and eating healthily while my friends eat terribly. Why am I the one who is not meeting my fitness goals?“, and “I am terrified of what is to come of my autoimmune disease. What is going to happen to me?“
Contentment is often replaced by resentment when we feel as though the universe is not “working in our favor.” Gratitude and compassion are packed away in storage as we venture on, determined to change the apparent opposing trajectory of our lives. The need to resolve becomes unrelenting as life events head in a direction so far off from the course we intended. We try with every feeble attempt to be the pilot in our own suffering, taking an active seat as we search for fortune in the foothills below. The only caveat is this: we were never in the cockpit to begin with. Sometimes, life calls for us to be a passenger.
This is not to say that we cannot take control of our lives through setting goals, making decisions, and acting on our most profound desires. Of course we can, and with that, we should. “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Jeniffer Lee
Being a passenger means that we participate in the unfolding of our lives by taking the seat of the witness. Participation is often misinterpreted as an active process. As a witness, we are passive in allowing life to flow through us like a stream of water. Actually, the seat of the witness is as active as it is passive; we must release what we cannot control so that life can begin to manifest in the way it needs to. This can be a challenging notion for many, as we often perceive the events of life as being unrelated to our actions on earth. But when the universe is not “working in our favor” or when life events cause us to feel strife, we suddenly believe that we can somehow shift the narrative and control its outcomes through behavior. We make plans, we set deadlines, we add things, and we take things away. We trace our steps back, determined to figure out the time and place where our planes flew southbound. We oppose descension. Our opposition forms blockages within ourselves. When we oppose the way of life, we refuse to let love enter. When we oppose our paths, we deny gratitude a place to grow within. Our opposition acts as a force against being happy. But how is happiness achievable when we feel the universe is not “working in our favor?“
There is something that should be known, something that is undeniably quintessential to understanding the nature of the universe: it is continuously working in our favor.
That is right. Even when the events of our lives seem to pose as barriers or obstacles that keep us from reaching some expected higher place in our existence, the universe is working in our favor. When things do not turn out as we wished, it is challenging to imagine that life is working for us and not against us. It may feel as though the cosmic nature of synchronicity is somewhat flawed, but the universe is calling us to look deeper. It is not the relation of events that occur, their meaning, or timing that are out of sync. It is us. We are out of sync. To tune in, we must tune out.
We must tune out of our logical thinking, of our expectations, our plans, our frustrations, and our anxiety. We must ultimately surrender.
When we surrender, we release the narrative that the universe is working against us and we allow the universe to be as it may. Remember, life is always working for us. When we surrender, we allow life to unfold without our interjection. Perhaps the path we planned upon would ultimately not serve us. Perhaps our hopes were keeping us from even greater opportunities. Perhaps there was a lesson to be learned about the self. Perhaps our setbacks were actually set-ups.
When we are passengers to life, we are better able to surrender because we notice when we feel out of touch. This lack of connection is not necessarily due to our frustrations, such as the reason we lost our job, the reason we have an illness, or the reason we cannot find true love. Rather, our disconnectedness resides on a layer just below the surface of frustration and worry. We feel out of touch because we are aware of a void inside. This void causes instability and discomfort. Naturally, we attempt to fill it, as we are products of a society that rejects disagreeable feelings. It seems as though avoidance has become the remedy to all sensations; there is likely a pill for any malady of the human experience. But when we avoid the void within by either denying its salience or opposing the space it takes up by trying to fill it, we create a blockage. Similarly, when we diverge from our current path by substituting variables for different outcomes and holding on to control, we create resistance.
When we surrender, we cease filling the void with false remedies and we allow it to expand from within. The more we fill, the more we block. Blockages are true experiences. The frustration and worry that are felt when life is not going how we planned, no matter how hard we tried to alter it, are blockages. Frustration and worry quite literally block us from experiencing the goodness of our divine existence: compassion and gratitude. When we feel as though the force of life is not moving in our direction, we are not in a place of thanksgiving. Our refusal to submit to the flow of life keeps us from feeling gratitude, but the presence of gratitude should hold no contingency. May we be grateful for life, just the way it is. May we remain in gratitude, even when life is unfolding in ways that we did not want.
We let go of our expectations, plans, worries, and frustrations to cultivate gratitude and compassion through the practice of surrendering. This practice does not call upon any background of faith. We do not have to believe in a higher power or spiritual realm to simply trust in the process of life and remain open to all that comes our way.
When we feel strife as a result of life unfolding in unexpected and uncomfortable ways, can we believe that life is working for us and not against us? Can we be the passenger instead of the pilot? Can we witness that the true way may not be the way we are paving? Can we surrender our resistance? Can we abandon frustration and shelter gratitude? If we continue in our opposition, opportunities may be missed, doors may remain closed, and pessimism may become a perpetual tone of our lived experiences.
“Obstacles are often detours in the right direction.” – Gabrielle Bernstein
Here is my story of surrender:
I sought love unremittingly because I wanted it so desperately. Each time I found love, I was met with inevitable heartache. Despite this, I continued my efforts to discover the most beautiful connection until something finally cracked deep within me. I think it must have been the place I stored all of my trauma. It had been tucked away for safekeeping or perhaps for avoiding… Maybe a combination of the two. I often thought to myself, “These are things that happened to you. And that’s it.” All this time, I truly believed I was a terrible person, that my patterns had no context. I thought these patterns belonged to me because I had never made the connection between my trauma and my behavior. I typically felt angered at the thought of a healthy relationship being wildly impossible because I longed to feel validated and loved. But this time, I could not ignore the sense of seeping I felt from my heart center. Disconnected from my true self and resisting life’s way for so long, I did not realize I had such a blockage in my chest. It was the heaviness I felt in heartache and the constriction I knew from worry. And after years of failed attempts at love, I finally noticed an openness in my heart. It was minor, but it was there. I assumed that being broken up with would break me and it did. But unconditional love filled the space that agony should have occupied. Tears were much more a symptom of release than a side effect of anguish. I felt myself letting go. I entered my mediation and set the intention for surrendering. I said a phrase I had heard before aloud:
“Today is a beautiful day for opportunity. I am exactly where I need to be. I open myself to all that is to come. I trust in the unfolding of my life.”
I allowed my desires and frustrations to empty into the surrounding space. The void was really a means of releasing. Once it began to open within me, I was provided a chance to let go of my pain and my desires; the things I craved so intimately but did not yet belong to me. Despite how terribly I wanted these things, my name was not written on them at that time. When I noticed I had a chance to let go of my pain and my desires, I took that chance.
I allowed my unsettled suffering to leak into every crevice of my body and by my surprise, it took the form of compassion. For the first time, I surrendered.
❊ ✺ ❊
For me, I needed to surrender to my healing. I recall feeling as though the universe did not have my back throughout those years of heartache after heartache. But I soon realized that by going against the force of life, the force of life pushed back harder with frustration, indignation, and pain. All along, the void was something I thought needed to be sewn shut. When I allowed it to breathe and expand, it released. Soon, I released too.
When the chance arises, will you surrender too? Will you allow life to work for you? Will you release control to see life through? Will you choose gratitude when that is all that is left to do?
If you truly open your eyes, all of the answers surround you.
“What is meant for you will reach you, even if it is beneath two mountains. And what isn’t meant for you won’t reach you, even if it is between your two lips.”
Briana Shea, BA, BS