I can laugh about it now, but I used to believe that attack mode was the best approach to any crisis. As a survivor by nature and an admitted overachiever, I was hugely skilled at being focused, applied and determined with every challenge that came my way. I would fight to stay on top of any set of circumstances — even when it was no longer helpful. This worked so well and in so many ways. It helped me build a successful coaching practice and be the go-to person for my family, friends and colleagues. But I know now that there are times when fighting doesn’t work at all. I’ve learned to pay homage to those times and surrender — if not with grace, then with grit.
At the start of the first lockdown, I noticed that I still felt the push to ‘do’. Not only was I not slowing down to accommodate this situation, I was expecting myself to continue as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. But a pandemic doesn’t come in isolation. Life continues. And my own personal circumstances suddenly became bare. Apparent. Heavier.
Like many people, I was far away from loved ones. I had to prepare for the possibility that I couldn’t hold my father’s hand while he passed. I felt I had to come up with a grand plan to support a vulnerable family member who was completely isolated by the pandemic. And in the middle of this, I was expecting myself to support my clients with a full and open heart – without skipping a beat.
But my body disagreed.
It kept slowing down no matter what my head was telling it to do. It was as if all my body wanted to ‘do’ was to BE. Many times I’ve circled the idea: practicing, meditating, observing. But this time, there was a noticeable shift. I actually changed my behaviour.
If you’ve ever tried to shift your behaviour, you know that this is easier said than done. As a coach, I know about the process of change and trust it. And yet, when I was in the middle of the old behaviour, it was still very hard to see my way out.
Here’s a window onto how I made friends with the idea of surrendering. I hope it serves you in your journey.
How I transformed knowing into BEING.
I recognized what I was doing – while I was doing it. I realized: “I’m doing it again.” I decided to accept it rather than fight it. Then I made a decision. I committed to doing the opposite. I created spaces. I slowed down – literally. I decided to walk more slowly. Eat more mindfully. Get out of bed more deliberately, as if the act of starting another day was sacred.
I had always known that it was perfectly ok to do less, but now I had transformed it into a practice. I made space for transitions, solitude, and all the time I needed to feel everything that was already there.
Empty space: it’s not actually empty
We need the spaces in our day so that we can shift our perspective. See the whole. Act wisely. Debussy famously wrote: “Music is the space between the notes.”
So how do we honour the spaces for what they are?
We pause. We surrender to what is. This is where we have real agency, not in the veneer of busyness.
Surrender – what it is not
- It’s not giving in or accepting the unacceptable. It’s simply letting things be as they already are.
- It’s not a sign of weakness. Vulnerability is our strength.
- It’s not a sign of failure, but a choice to BE with life as it actually is.
- It’s not giving up control, because we never had it in the first place.
Surrender – what it IS
- It’s letting go of the details and reconnecting with the universe at large.
- It’s accepting the ‘not knowing’. You don’t have to know everything!
- It’s acknowledging that our hearts DO have useful information (not just our heads).
- It’s an act of self-love.
- It’s letting go of what we ‘should’ be able to control (what a relief!)
- It’s letting go of the results and focusing on this moment. The present moment is all we really have.
How to surrender when you’re hanging by a thread
- Adjust your focus to the present moment. Feel your body’s experience. The present moment is in the senses, not the intellect.
- Pay attention with kindness and organize for the spaces.
- You don’t need to trust this process, but you do need to follow it.
- Recognize that every part of your being will want to hold on. Know that. Don’t fight it.
The act of surrendering doesn’t just happen once. I know I’ll be revisiting this lesson over and over as I continue to grow and strengthen my own agency.
I want you to feel empowered too.
In the middle of everything going on these days, what will you do to let go of the urge to fill the empty spaces?