Surrender. Ugh. Just saying the word makes us shudder. We conjure up pictures of white flags waving and distraught people with their arms raised, fearfully walking toward the enemy. But is that what surrender is all about?

Hell no. We’ve got it all wrong.

Surrender is a deeply spiritual PRACTICE. I say practice because just when you think you’ve surrendered to a situation, you realize you’re still holding on, white-knuckled. Surrender isn’t giving up, it’s letting go, trusting in and allowing the energy that created you, to orchestrate things in your highest and best good. Especially when you can’t fathom why something happened. Or when you’re stuck in an endless, immovable and often unfair situation that gives you no way out and no answers. Surrender goes deep. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Life to show you. Because it will.

I started my journey of surrender, letting go and acceptance back in 2007. I had been reading, meditating and “waking up” for a few years previous and I guess the Universe felt it was time for me to actually experience what I had been learning about. I remember reading about the concept of “dying to self” in Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, which is the process of letting go of attachments to things and people before actually transitioning. And so, eager little me said to the Universe, “please help me die to self before I die.”

Be careful what you ask for. 😉

Late November, 2007, I lost my home in the early morning hours to the second largest wildfire in San Diego history. And if it wasn’t enough to lose every physical thing I ever had (including family heirlooms, all of my daughter’s stuff and my entire business), two months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I asked and I received.

And the lessons on surrender, letting go and acceptance began.

I didn’t do so well at first. I was angry at God. How could I have felt so aligned with the Divine and then, this? My daughter had lost her home with her dad in San Diego’s largest wildfire 4 years prior to our fire. I never imagined in a million years we would lose everything, and although the entire county was on fire, I believed the newscasters when they said our neighborhood wasn’t in immediate danger. I told my kid not to worry, that we would be ok. I didn’t know the winds would kick up to 100 mph, keeping choppers out of the sky. I didn’t know that downed power lines would join with the fire and take out our entire neighborhood, with 10 minutes to escape. It was a perfect storm.

And it was perfect for me. I bought a beautiful rock plaque that sits on my fireplace today. It says “learn to let go.” And 13 years later, after 2 failed relationships, difficulty starting a new business, several moves, losing my pets and both of my parents, falling severely ill for an entire year to neuro-Lyme disease, and relocating to be with the love of my life (who is in an abusive, year and a half-long divorce battle), I’m getting a little better. But I’m still not there.

So what can you do to have more success with surrender, letting go and acceptance?

Well, first of all, know this; if you fervently resist every single difficulty that comes your way, I promise that life will continue to challenge you until you begin to soften. And after that, you’ll still be challenged because that’s a big part of life and growth. But the difference is, as you begin to surrender, let go and accept more, you’ll stop reacting and start moving into allowing and flow with greater ease and speed.

Surrender isn’t the first thing we do when we’re hit with a challenge or crisis. If you’re having difficulties in your marriage, with a child, at work or an everyday human problem, you resist. You generally focus on the bad and the pain of it all. Our primal instinct is to protect ourselves or shield ourselves from pain. And then, there’s the typical urge to lash out and blame others, get frustrated, angry or depressed. Sometimes we get stuck there and at some point, we reach out for help or look for solutions (we use our brains and resources). We react, struggle, suffer, hold onto and fight our way through the process.

And if you get hit with something really big like having to take care of a dying parent, an injured or ill child, having someone close to you, murdered, getting hit by a natural disaster or devastating illness, then surrender, acceptance and letting go are a part of a very difficult and lengthy process.

SO, how do we DO it?

#1 – When life hits and you’re stunned by it, ALLOW the reactions and feelings to come up. When I fell extremely ill and almost died this past year, I was really put to the test. I was in disbelief. I got very angry at God. I was so sick I wanted to die. I asked God to heal me or take me. I was a victim without any faith. It took me months to come to terms with my feelings and situation. I was ashamed and scared. I did alot of screaming, crying and soul searching in my dark night of the soul. So, honor your human moments of grief, guilt, anger, shock and even blame and allow yourself the time you need to process the initial jolt of the experience.

#2 – ALWAYS have support. ASK for help. In any tough situation, you need a best friend, colleague, or counselor to hold your hand, love you, listen to you and accept you. My Joe, sister, daughter and doctor were my life lines. I had several long-distance friends also supporting me. Without them I wouldn’t have made it through the darkest days of my life. I’d say call upon your angels and guides if you can, but in the early months of my dis-ease, I felt abandoned by mine. It’s ok to wrestle with things like that; it’s part of the process. You also need someone who can shift your perspective on things so you can pull out of fear and see things with more clarity.

#3 – Have a TOOLKIT of processes and a PLAN of ACTION. All of the years of meditation, energy work, clearing and studying served me well. I pulled out the stops. On my worst days when I couldn’t see, function or leave the house, I wrote affirmations on sticky notes and put them all over my walls and ceiling. I created a huge vision board on my wall for the future. I had sessions with practitioners for tapping, emotional releasing, energy and spiritual healing and more. I did energy work every day. I forced myself to get up and repeat positive sayings, I danced and listened to Jason Mraz all day long to try and get my vibes up. I bought weird devices and took all kinds of vitamins, herbs and even changed my diet! I did whatever it took to get me through every second of every hellish day.

#4 – TAP into your inner fire. We humans are miraculous. In the midst of trauma, even when we feel like we’re sinking into the deepest pits of despair and hell, we can come into an alignment with who we really are. I imagine this also happens when we start the process of physical death. My mother was the most beautiful, powerful and courageous I had ever seen her in her final days. We are also built for survival. There’s a fire inside of us that fuels us and fights to live and win. Look for it. Feel it. Embrace it. Learn from it. Grow from it.

#5 – SURRENDER is a long process. It happens little by little. It happens over time and through many challenges. We can only chip away at it but each time we do, we begin to loosen our grip on “clinging on for dear life.” Each difficult experience begins to soften and refine us. Breathe into surrender. Ask the Divine to help you. Feel your body relax. Ask yourself what it would feel like to fall back into the arms of the Divine. What it would feel like to trust a power you can’t even see. To truly give into the gifts and lessons that life has for you in each moment. You’ll be met with resistance at first, but what does it hurt to try it? To play with it and see what it would feel like gets you more used to saying YES to the powerful process of surrendering to Source.

#6- LETTING GO is the same as surrender. See yourself loosening the “white-knuckled grip” you have on yourself, your beliefs, thoughts, perceptions and judgments. Let go of what others might think of you. Let go of trying to control others, situations and outcomes. Let go of expectations. Let go and let God, as the saying goes. This is also a process. Take time every day to sit quietly and again, visualize yourself letting go of whatever you’re holding onto. Ask yourself (or journal) why you feel the need to control and hang onto this. What purpose does it serve? Does it make you feel safe? Is letting go scary because it’s unknown? I love doing a process where I close my eyes, seeing myself floating freely up and into the sky and then, space, with arms open wide and without any fear. I allow feelings to come up and then, float past them. Actively practice processes like this to feel what letting go might be like. It’s so relaxing and calming!

#7 – ACCEPTANCE is really just making peace with what was, what is and what will be. What is, is what is, or it wouldn’t BE in that moment. And what was, was necessary for us to become all we’re here to be. I remember my last year filled with so much regret and remorse, wishing I would’ve known I was harboring Lyme disease in my body for an entire lifetime and wishing that others knew, too, so I wouldn’t have constantly been called a hypochondriac. I wished I could do my life over. I wished I wouldn’t have been married to a brutal narcissist/sociopath; that I would’ve been more conscious and a better mother so my daughter wouldn’t have had to suffer. I sometimes wished I hadn’t been brought together with my Joe. Even though the synchronicities and Divine orchestration were unmistakable and miraculous, and our love is deep and true, our awakening and union has caused so much pain for ourselves and others. And, our choice to be together created a few haters, who continue to write carefully crafted stories about what they think happened, when in fact, they know nothing about what’s real and true. So many things can hurt us deep down to our souls if we allow them to and I believe this is due to non-acceptance of self and our choices. But in reality, our self-criticism and judgment is worse than anything anyone could ever say or do to us. ACCEPTANCE is again, a process of loving and honoring one’s self and truth no matter what. ALLOWING what IS or WAS to just BE without examining, pushing against or wishing it to be different.

All there IS in life is CHANGE. If you’re stuck in a difficult situation, find a way through it, no matter what. Make peace with it the best you can. Work on surrender, letting go and accepting, knowing that the process is a gift, leading to a stronger, more compassionate, loving, perceptive, connected YOU. And knowing that your journey will support others when they have a similar experience.

And remember, life is ALWAYS happening FOR you, not to you. We are not victims of fate. There are things that happen that we cannot control (like the day we die) but I’ve experienced too many synchronicities and seen too many signs and coincidences to believe that I’m just randomly here and that things bad things just happen. I believe our time on earth is a time of learning and growing (or not). We get to choose. So choose to SEE the gifts, even in the hardest, most painful lessons. Ultimately, this entire LIFE that we cling to is an illusion. We CAME FROM somewhere, we’re HERE NOW and we’ll GO BACK TO somewhere when we’re complete. Just living this life, just coming to this planet is all about surrender. We were created in our mother’s wombs and birthed through a tiny canal. We survived. We live on a ball that spins in outer space and is part of a giant Universe. Think about THAT next time you’re hanging on for dear life, trying to control something or someone. You’ve never had control yet, you’ve always being held. Hang onto THAT and surrender will become much easier. You are SO LOVED.