Surrender doesn’t seem to be a very popular practice around here. We avoid it, actually. Fight it. Demonize it. We don’t want to surrender, and especially not to reality. Because the reality of this world often involves losing; our autonomy, our agency, our power, our bodies, our opportunities. It hurts. In this corner of the galaxy we’ve been taught that surrender hurts because it’s almost always at the losing end of an imbalanced, vicious, structural power dynamic. One that’s designed to punish huge swaths of Us just for being alive.
There are those with power and those who surrender, we’re taught. Be one, not the other.
The past couple of weeks I’ve been presented with chances to view surrender through a different lens. I find myself at the intersection of somatic meditation, peer counseling, and technical phone screens. And the feeling I’m most aware of, the action that keeps calling my attention is breathing; the motion of my breath as it suffuses my body and then whooshes back out. How it impresses itself upon me, my breath. I repeatedly surrender to it and allow it to permeate my parts, organs, and cells all the way out to the edges.
My breath and I are seeking a balance of power. How far will I allow it to touch and impress itself upon me? How deeply will I surrender to my breath and allow my shape to change as I accommodate and then accept its pressure on my muscles, bones, and cells?
How far will I exhale? Can I follow the breath down into the place where it accommodates me? That place where I empty my lungs fully and drop beneath the air line to inhabit the space where cells do all the breathing. Where chaos takes the form of a heavy energy ball in between my solar plexus and sacrum, suspended between inhalations.
Paying attention to my breath at this level strengthens my embodied sense of Self, which I also refer to as my intuitive or subtle body. It anchors me inside my awareness so that I can better feel the undercurrents of conversation. The tiny ripples and streams of unspoken desire for validation and acknowledgement that are present whenever two humans communicate.
I can better hear the subtle voice behind the speaking voice when someone tells me about an experience they had. When they’re nervously laughing about having done something they regret, I’m feeling inside my body and asking the question “Where do I feel what they’re saying?” What part of me vibrates or lights up or aches when I hear their nervous laughter? When I laugh nervously, which parts in me are trying to hide behind that laughter?
There’s a whisper or a scream or a wail beneath almost every spoken word. But your ears can’t hear it, your body feels it. What that wounded part is trying to convey isn’t a word, it’s an experience. A felt sense, like an impression.
Tapping into that awareness helps guide my response, it helps me feel that other person. I can remember what it felt like the last time I nervously laughed after having acted regretfully; using that as a reference point, their experience now makes sense to me. And so I actively seek to receive their impression of regret; I want to feel them because it not only helps me empathize and connect with them, I also get a sense of their Self-ness.
The brilliant, funny, warm, lovable, caring person whose behind all the complaints, stories, and blaming. The passionate, amazing human who is part of my community, whether that community comprises peer counselors, co-workers, or beloveds. Sometimes that person is applying to join one of my communities.
Part of my day-job involves phone-screening new engineering candidates. In addition to reading their resume, I have a set of questions whose answers are supposed to give me a sense of the candidate, a feeling of who they are and how they might fit into my team from a technical qualifications perspective. So I ask the questions and furiously type out their answers to the best of my ability, seeking to log only the pertinent pieces, the pieces that answer the question most fully and accurately.
And yet underneath all that talking and typing, I’m breathing deeply into my belly. I’m trying to feel that person on the other end of my headphones as transmitted through their spoken voice. I’m trying to tap into and feel their conversational undercurrent. Using my breath as a vehicle, I’m asking my body to surrender and make enough space for their Self to impress upon me.
The thing about impressions is, they hang around. Like a ghost or the whisper of an exhaled breath. After doing a phone screen or counseling session, that person stays with and haunts me. I continue to hear their voice. I can feel what I perceived to be their Self.
In the hours after surrendering to someone’s offered impression, I feel genuine love for them. I can feel them inside my body, such a small and tender thing. Potently at first, held in the transitional nest I’ve carved out for them, and then slowly fading away.
I surrender to their leaving and I surrender to their impression. There is great power in my choosing to do so.