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God, Life and the Spiritual Practice of Surrendering 'Complete Control'

Discussion in 'Spiritual Articles' started by spnadmin, Feb 23, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Rabbi Will Berkovitz

    Rabbi-in-Residence, Repair the World

    "Complete Control Matters." Read the poster at the Chicago airport. The copywriters know their audience because I suspect this belief in complete control is one many of us hold. And it is certainly one we desire. We want to be in complete control. Show no weakness. No fear. And stand as the rugged individualist in complete control of our emotions, our world and our destiny. We want to be gods while at the same time being atheists or at least agnostic -- to hedge our bet.

    I noticed this poster because I had been reflecting on how little control we actually have in our lives and that we would do well to practice letting go -- to cultivate a ferocious surrender. Surrender to our mistakes, surrender to life's fragility and surrender to the people around us -- complete surrender to the many things well beyond our control. There is freedom in owning this truth. Owning the fact that we can be very good at making a mess of things and very bad at admitting it. Accept the reality that we really do care even if we may pretend we don't. And there is no value in denying that we don't hurt. It may hollow us out but it expands our souls and makes us more human. Sadness is part of the dues we pay for a life well lived. And while it is painful and we have to mourn those losses and learn from them, ultimately we have to let go of them -- integrate them. How do we become more whole? By learning that we are all broken.

    There is an insect that lives in many rivers called a Caddis Fly. On a fishing trip in Idaho my guide began a meditation about his struggles with God and religion. I said I agreed with him. And then said I was a rabbi. Apparently he had never been fly fishing with a rabbi. And I told him there probably weren't many of us. But it opened up a conversation about the theology of fishing, the wilderness and the Caddis Fly. During its larval stage the Caddis Fly collects grains of sand and creates a stone cocoon around itself. What starts as a shelter becomes a fortress and ultimately many live and die encased inside their pebble tombs.

    We do the same thing. Year by year, stone by stone, fear by fear, we gradually build our own crypts in the name of self preservation or the desire to have complete control. The commentator Sefat Emet writes that upon each of our hearts God engraves the word "Life." Over the course of our years the engraving gets covered with grit and dirt until the word is lost.

    Anyone who has ever been in love has learned that the only way to fall in love is to surrender and relinquish control to another. To step, maybe tentatively at first, maybe courageously, from behind our walls and into love's insecurity. One of the lessons I learned in falling in love was that the cave I built and used to retreat to when feeling vulnerable or fearful suddenly had my wife in it. And that when our children were born the entire cave was torn away and I had to get used to my heart and soul walking around outside my body in the form of a four-year old and seven-year old. And the four-year old seems to have no fear, and does things that give him big scars and scares the hell out of me -- watching my son racing down the sidewalk behind his brother and stumbling grips my heart. But I know it is his job to fall and my job to help him back up again, so he can fall again. And I can pick him up again. It is our job as well -- to fall and help each other up.

    And often late at night when I can't sleep, I find myself thinking of all the things that are going wrong in the world. The wars, the horrible things we do to each other. The mistakes I have made, the bad decisions. That's when, completely awake now, I usually crawl out of bed, look in at my sleeping children, and hope to God they can hold on to their innocence. And then I start responding to work emails because I want an empty in-box -- something I still believe I can control.

    Many of us still haven't learned that we can't have an empty in-box and that we need to give up control to fall in love. By surrendering to another our lives can expand. By letting go we may feel free. On the seventh day, our Creator did not just rest, the Holy One let go. "And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God stopped from all the work of creation." It was God's final and perhaps most important lesson to us. There is a time to let go. With the Sabbath this idea was embedded into the very fabric of Jewish existence. Stop trying to control everything and make it perfect. Even God never said things were perfect. All God said was, it is very good -- there is a difference. We are obsessive perfectionists, maybe God isn't. Consider the platypus.

    Letting go is a trait I am committed to cultivating. The vulnerability of acknowledging what is already true. That in admitting I don't have much control of anything really, I can let go of the stress and anxiety that block me from experiencing the beauty in life. And that faith is what I really have. A faith in those around me and that even when things are scary and it appears the world is crumbling it rarely stays that way. Our lives and our souls naturally gravitate toward the light. Toward life. Thya h'matim the revival of the dead. The revival of hope. Of possibility. Of redemption.

    I want to remember the exhilaration and peace of giving up control -- of surrendering. Surrender is the ultimate act of faith. At once a faith in the world around us, the people around us and faith in some Higher Order in the world -- call it God, physics or chance. I call it God. It is also very good practice for dying -- the final life lesson and the ultimate surrender. Our Sages comment that when we are born our fists our clenched and when we die they open. If we haven't learned it in life we learn it with our deaths. What would it be like to live with our fists unclenched, our stone walls torn down? The words "Life" emblazoned clearly on our hearts -- living lightly with ferocious surrender. Taking emotional risks in the name of life. In the name of love.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-will-berkovitz/complete-control-matters_b_823844.html
     
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  3. findingmyway

    findingmyway
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    The only issue I have with the article is this line. Feeling broken is a very dangerous feeling as it can stop us functioning normally. Feeling broken can make you feel beyond repair
     
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  4. spnadmin

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    findingmyway ji

    I agree. However, there have been many historic cases ad unrecorded cases where that "feeling broken" comes just before the "breakthrough." Gurprasaad makes it happen. I think it works that way because "surrender" comes more easily when one has given up all one's psychological defenses and is so much likely to be open to the light.
     
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  5. Astroboy

    Astroboy Malaysia
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    ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
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    The most amazing thing I observed is that God's nature never stops doing its duties in a similar fashion regardless of our petty concerns. So what are we surrendering to? Nothings really is going to change. Only our feelings and viewpoints are changing all the time. The Sat never changes. Truth never changes. Is, SURRENDER then a realization that no matter what course of action we need to take or feel that we need to take, it is fulfilling an illusion?
     
  6. findingmyway

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    How do you go from broken to breakthrough? When feeling broken, there is no light, only darkness all around
     
  7. spnadmin

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    Jasleenji.

    I am not sue that we do "go from broken to breakthrough" by trying or through personal will. It could be that 'normally' our defenses of ego manage to keep light and dark separate. When those defenses collapse, for some who are given that grace, that's when light jyote rushes in and fills the darkness. It is also my suspicion that all are given that grace, but only some are 'weak' enough to accept it.

    @ namjap ji How do you know that feeling broken is not the greater illusion?

    Very spiritual people are often believed to be either eccentric or frankly psychotic because these defenses of the rational ego no longer work or are no longer important. Once through the experience of being broken and then repaired, surrender does not frighten them and they are able to experience easily.
     
  8. Astroboy

    Astroboy Malaysia
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    ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
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    Jasleen Ji,

    I was just two days ago having this conversation with a Christian lady where she mentioned something like, "I have started to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel" but she also said, "I'm not sure if this light is the real light or a train headlight". Actually she was in a wishful state that she would find a suitable job after being pushed around on lowly paid ones. It is basically seeing with your heart - the feelings world. Which tells me that we can change the way we feel. We can exercise the choices to feel good or bad. Bright or in Darkness. And the type of feelings we choose to feel actually produces the results in manifested form. Actually nothing really changes. Since we choose to focus on a particular feeling, we expect the results to look like as if they are being delivered in the way we choose to see them.
     
  9. Navdeep88

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    Jasleen Ji,

    I think this kind of darkness is a blessing because it puts one in a position where they only have one way to go (up), only one source to rely on (God) for compassion and life. There is nothing more fertile than pain, when in your utter grief, despair, you finally bow, give up etc. out of exhaustion because you simply cannot do it on your own, that grace may come. Im not sure if it comes for everyone because I cannot know what they are, but the God I know never abandons. You have to wait at his door, broom the steps outside of the gate and wait some more knowing that it is the ONLY door you want to enter.

    Im not sure but its quite possible to live life in distraction (maya), but darkness, whatever it may stem from, removes us from maya, and creates an opportunity for bliss.

    My apologies for the rambling.
     
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  10. Ambarsaria

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    It is a classic Baba trick. Most of the sects and "Sikh parchariks of lesser wisdom or degenerates" play on this concept as you become most vulnerable in such a state. Easiest to manipulate.

    God does not expect you to surrender yourself for understanding. As a matter of fact higher and more intense level of pure un-biased alive thinking and study or discourse is needed.

    Sat Sri Akal.
     
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  11. findingmyway

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    Navdeep ji,
    Appreciate the comments. Sometimes darkness is the opposite of a blessing. Darkness can disconnect you from Waheguru by making you feel totally unworthy. That is when the usual coping mechanisms of faith desert a person :(
     
  12. Ambarsaria

    Ambarsaria Canada
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    If you are in Western World (or have access Christian TV ministries) you will see this phrase quite commonly in those TV shows,


    • "Surrender yourself to Jesus"
    • "Give yourself to Jesus"
    • "Surrender yourself to the Lord"
    I also saw a learned Muslim scholar also extolling the virtues of making your self feel like a Zero so that you may start learning.

    According to Sikhism God is in all and everywhere, why you want to enter such states by design so that you be lead to a solution!

    I do recognize that in extreme despair mental faculties are looking for straws with out of the box thinking and it is a normal reaction in us.
    Sat Sri Akal.
     
    #11 Ambarsaria, Mar 11, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2011
  13. spnadmin

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    Let me quote a paragraph in the article that makes it clear that the author is not talking about surrendering one's will to another human being, a baba or guru, or letting go of coping mechanisms of faith. In fact the opposite is the case.

    This is a view that is close enough to make for good interfaith dialog. What are the similarities and differences? I don't see the essay as challenging good sense, piety in a different faith, mental health. It really deserves a second chance.

    Guru Angad, Ang 139

    ਪਉੜੀ ॥
    Pourree ||
    Pauree:

    ਤੁਧੁ ਆਪੇ ਜਗਤੁ ਉਪਾਇ ਕੈ ਤੁਧੁ ਆਪੇ ਧੰਧੈ ਲਾਇਆ ॥
    Thudhh Aapae Jagath Oupaae Kai Thudhh Aapae Dhhandhhai Laaeiaa ||
    You Yourself created the world, and You Yourself put it to work.


    ਮੋਹ ਠਗਉਲੀ ਪਾਇ ਕੈ ਤੁਧੁ ਆਪਹੁ ਜਗਤੁ ਖੁਆਇਆ ॥
    Moh Thagoulee Paae Kai Thudhh Aapahu Jagath Khuaaeiaa ||
    Administering the drug of emotional attachment, You Yourself have led the world astray.


    ਤਿਸਨਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਅਗਨਿ ਹੈ ਨਹ ਤਿਪਤੈ ਭੁਖਾ ਤਿਹਾਇਆ ॥
    Thisanaa Andhar Agan Hai Neh Thipathai Bhukhaa Thihaaeiaa ||
    The fire of desire is deep within; unsatisfied, people remain hungry and thirsty.

    ਸਹਸਾ ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਹੈ ਮਰਿ ਜੰਮੈ ਆਇਆ ਜਾਇਆ ॥
    Sehasaa Eihu Sansaar Hai Mar Janmai Aaeiaa Jaaeiaa ||
    This world is an illusion; it dies and it is re-born-it comes and it goes in reincarnation.


    ਬਿਨੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮੋਹੁ ਨ ਤੁਟਈ ਸਭਿ ਥਕੇ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਇਆ ॥
    Bin Sathigur Mohu N Thuttee Sabh Thhakae Karam Kamaaeiaa ||
    Without the True Guru, emotional attachment is not broken. All have grown weary of performing empty rituals.

    ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਈਐ ਸੁਖਿ ਰਜਾ ਜਾ ਤੁਧੁ ਭਾਇਆ ॥
    Guramathee Naam Dhhiaaeeai Sukh Rajaa Jaa Thudhh Bhaaeiaa ||
    Those who follow the Guru's Teachings meditate on the Naam, the Name of the Lord. Filled with a joyful peace, they surrender to Your Will.



    ਕੁਲੁ ਉਧਾਰੇ ਆਪਣਾ ਧੰਨੁ ਜਣੇਦੀ ਮਾਇਆ ॥
    Kul Oudhhaarae Aapanaa Dhhann Janaedhee Maaeiaa |
    They save their families and ancestors; blessed are the mothers who gave birth to them.

    ਸੋਭਾ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸੁਹਾਵਣੀ ਜਿਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਸੇਤੀ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇਆ ॥੨॥
    Sobhaa Surath Suhaavanee Jin Har Saethee Chith Laaeiaa ||2||
    Beautiful and sublime is the glory and the understanding of those who focus their consciousness on the Lord. ||2||
     
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  14. Navdeep88

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    Findingmyway ji,

    I think at times like that, a person needs to become their own best friend. Whether we land in that position of unworthiness by making a mistake or just giving up because of lack of discipline etc (Im speaking about my experience), we need to find that voice, that light, however dim (to guide us forth). The worst thing we can do is beat ourselves up because that gets nowhere.
    And I dont think faith can desert a person without Waheguru's hukum, maybe these are the tests... At the low points, a person has to gather whatever small amount of courage they can, and move forth. As Rumi would say, water always travels to the lowlands...
    I hope that helps Jasleen Ji.
     
  15. Astroboy

    Astroboy Malaysia
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    ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
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    I am very sure our Gurus did not teach us to become eccentric or psychotic in anyway. Instead they have made us use common sense when trying to find our way out of this illusionary dark pit.

    That means we are to just be without trying too hard to post-mortem our make up. We can always categorize that we are made up of mind, matter and spirit. These are just simple mind-mapping concepts. There is no way to tell which part of the body Soul lives. Gurbani didn't stress the chakras or the seat of the soul.

    We are as we are, every part of us is important. Feeling down and depressed is part and parcel of life.

    Page 277 Gauri sukhmani M.5
    ਆਗਿਆਕਾਰੀ ਬਪੁਰਾ ਜੀਉ
    आगिआकारी बपुरा जीउ ॥
    Āgi▫ākārī bapurā jī▫o.
    The helpless beings are subject to His Command.

    ਜੋ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਸੋਈ ਫੁਨਿ ਥੀਉ
    जो तिसु भावै सोई फुनि थीउ ॥
    Jo ṯis bẖāvai so▫ī fun thī▫o.
    That which pleases Him, ultimately comes to pass.

    ਕਬਹੂ ਊਚ ਨੀਚ ਮਹਿ ਬਸੈ
    कबहू ऊच नीच महि बसै ॥
    Kabhū ūcẖ nīcẖ mėh basai.
    Sometimes, they abide in exaltation; sometimes, they are depressed.

    ਕਬਹੂ ਸੋਗ ਹਰਖ ਰੰਗਿ ਹਸੈ
    कबहू सोग हरख रंगि हसै ॥
    Kabhū sog harakẖ rang hasai.
    Sometimes, they are sad, and sometimes they laugh with joy and delight.
     
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