A Very Short Course in Surrender
I TALK ABOUT SURRENDER at every opportunity that Life affords me. And as it so happens, Life has afforded me an awful lot of opportunity. This body-mind has taken a lot of knocks. Most of them started right here; they were initiated by me. I never saw that, and for 47 years I resisted whatever was going on. It would not be inaccurate to say that for 47 years I was simply a bundle of resistance, a constant impedance in the current of Life. Now, for almost a dozen years, I’ve become more and more skilled in the art of surrender. I had to learn another Way, or be driven crazy by story-mind. I had to become schooled in softness and femininity, in the power of openness and receptivity in navigating the ever-shifting currents of Tao.
I ATTENDED RECOVERY MEETINGS for more than a decade, and for most of that I spoke almost entirely on surrender. When I have heart-talks with people in private, the subject, no matter what it looks or sounds like to them, is always surrender. I give public talks from time to time, and that usually consists of my talking about what it’s like now—living in surrender—as opposed to living in the resistance that was the first 47 years of my life. Just as I was formerly resistance, one could say that I now am surrender. Until I’m not. Surrender is always about right now.
PRETTY MUCH NO ONE EVER KNOWS what I’m talking about, even the ones who say they do. People smile. Some nod their heads like they’ve heard something wise with which they identify. A few will wince or smirk, because they’re sick of it already, damn it. I am like a crazy old uncle who tells the same off color story every Thanksgiving. You really wish he’d keep it to himself, but he won’t; tradition allows him to say his peace, and no one wants to disrupt the holiday in an attempt to retrain a relative. Pass the potatoes and let’s move on.
MY BUSINESS DRIED UP over the past week like the gods on Mount Olympus cut off a faucet in spite. Business was okay one day and dead the next. And the next and the next and the next. I’ve been selling books on the Internet for eight years. I’ve been selling at least some high-line books for the last five, and that’s nearly all that I sell now. By high-line, I mean books that sell for $50 and up, either technical or antiquarian. I have some cheaper stuff in the house, but it’s the spendy stuff that earns me my living. In eight years I have never seen a sharper drop. Not during the financial crisis of ’08, not in the recession that followed, not in the middle of the dog days of summer when all the students are chasing each other instead of grades.
HUT WORLD, WHICH IS WHAT I CALL MY DAILY LIFE, exists only because of the peculiar way I am able to run my business. I have the time to do what I do, because I don’t need to sell a lot of books in a day to make a living, and I don’t have to go out in pursuit of inventory. I need only the Internet and my postman. But Hut World, brought to you courtesy of my little book business–Henry Dickens & Co.–flies on the delicate wings of a butterfly. Any stiff wind can blow it from existence into memory. It is fragile and ephemeral, as are all such things of rarity and beauty.
I WRITE LIKE IT’S MY HUT WORLD, but in truth it’s our Hut World. It belongs to me, Betsy, Henry and Dickens (our spoiled cats), Gus (our equally spoiled Golden Retriever), and to a lesser extent the squirrels and birds that daily hustle me out of sunflowers seeds and fresh water. Because I am home all day the quality of all of our lives is a good deal higher than it would be otherwise. We know that for a fact, because I traveled three states for six years, and it’s only been the last two that’s seen me be able to wind that down.
I REALLY WILL tie this into surrender in a minute.
I DON’T MAKE A LOT OF MONEY. I can’t stand a no-income situation for very long. I could make more money and have more financial security by working longer and harder. I could go back to traveling three states. I could give up the regular schedule, the gentle pattern that Betsy and I live by. I could send the dog to Betsy’s folks when I went out of town, instead of tussling on the floor with his old body, and giving him a bit of biscuit every time he drags me outside and eliminates to my satisfaction, which just happens to be every time.
I COULD PUT OUT A BOWL OF DRY FOOD for the cats instead of fussing over them with bits of canned treat and crunchy kibbles six times a day. That’s a pain sometimes, but I invented the game for us, and it’s a warm little pain. Paying attention to the cats forces me out of my head and into the world in which my body lives.
THAT’S WHY I HAVE THE BIRD FEEDER, TOO. There’s a whole lot of difference between staring at a computer screen and gazing at the fabulous color and motion of a bird feeder, you know? Only one of those things is real, and it’s not this one. Watching the days and seasons change via the feeder is a short, healthy break numerous times during the day. I watch when I’m downstairs making tea and fixing lunch. I watch when I’m tending the beasts who run me.
IF I WENT ON THE ROAD, Hut World would suffer dramatically. It’s not worth it, not by a long shot. Unless it is.
WHEN BUSINESS DRIED UP, both Betsy and I were fine. We actually stayed fine for the whole six days. I mean, we could both see we weren’t selling any books, and we know that selling books is necessary to pay bills and everything, but there just wasn’t any sense of panic. Ever. We did discuss it, but more from a point of wonderment than anything else. We said things like, “Weird, isn’t it?” And, “I guess times are hard and we’re taking our lumps just like the rest of the world. There’s certainly nothing special about us.”
WE DID NOT SUFFER. We did not tell ourselves stories about anything being wrong. We certainlynoticed that something was very different, but we never labeled it as wrong. We didn’t think anything other than what was happening should be happening. We were not in resistance to it. There was not an internal movement within us that was contrary to the movement we found in the world our bodies were living in. I am not going to say we were completely “loving What Is,” but I will go so far as to state that we were loving most of What Is most of the time, and were in acceptance of the rest. I think that’s honest and accurate.
THAT’S WHAT SURRENDER IS. It’s agreeing to go along with what’s already going on anyway. It’s allowing everything to be as it is. I notice that everything already is as it is anyway, so it would be insane to go to war with Reality. I mean, who do you think is going to win that war?
SIMULTANEOUS TO THIS INTERNAL SURRENDER, after about three days of deadness, I did some serious repricing. It didn’t make a bit of difference. So I began to make some mental shifts concerning travel. I started looking for acquisition sales. I began to mentally reorganize my old road gear and began going over what would need to be done. If it did. I began to make contingency plans. I couldn’t see why anything fundamental had changed in the space of a few days, but I also knew that my banker really doesn’t care about any of that. He just wants his money. On time. Fair enough.
SO, INTERNALLY, I WAS SURRENDERED. I was in alignment with the movement that was already happening. But I hadn’t given up. Do you see this absolutely key point? Can you grab this? I hadn’t thrown in the towel. I hadn’t wrung my hands or thrown them in the air and said that apparently God’s will was for Henry Dickens to collapse, damn it, and there’s nothing to be done and no one to do it and blah, blah, blah. That’s not surrender, that’s bitter resignation. That’s resisting while pretending to hold a white flag. It’s still that old same blame game.
AUTHENTIC SURRENDER is Truth calmly holding a white flag up to Itself while the body does what it does. Godness surrenders to God. The appearance lays down to allow for the march of Reality. That’s surrender.
THE DROUGHT BROKE TODAY. We sold some books and did a good day’s business. If we have good business the next couple of days, I won’t travel. If we don’t, I will. I’ll have to, unless I’m willing to face the consequences of not traveling, and I’m not prepared to do that. But I’m surrendered either way. Reality always knows best.