If we are looking for genuine peace and contentment, peace and contentment that does not depend upon external circumstances at all, then we must become acquainted with surrender. Surrender is a negative term for some, who may equate it with quitting or being beaten.
If it is more pleasing or simply easier to grasp then the surrender I’m referring to here can be called acceptance or nonresistance. Let’s consider the importance of it within the life experience, whatever it should ultimately be called.
In fact all negative emotional states are expressions of resistance to present circumstances. Bring to mind any negative (unpleasant or in some way damaging to the self) emotional response, any one we should choose, and its roots are resistance.
Anger is being at odds with present circumstances. This is not acceptable! Sadness is being at odds with present circumstances. This is tragedy! Depression is being at odds with present circumstances. It shouldn’t be this way! Anxiety is being at odds with present circumstances. This is dangerous!
When you experience negative emotional states trace your response and find what it is that you consider unacceptable — what it is that you’re saying, in effect, ‘no’ to. It is certainly there for negative emotions do not arise without a forethought, as emotions always follow thinking, that basically says ‘It shouldn’t be this way — it should be this way instead!’
When there is no disharmony with what is there is no negative emotional state; there is no emotional suffering. If you want genuine peace and contentment then surrender to — or accept or do not resist or however you’d like to express it — what presently is. You can try to change your future but what is presently already is, and denying the present moment is futile and also leads to emotional pain.
What it means — from here at least — to surrender is to accept what presently is. This may mean accepting a life circumstance or accepting that we don’t, in fact, accept a life circumstance. It may mean accepting unpleasant thoughts or emotions that come into our awareness rather than pushing against these things or labeling them as wrong or undesirable. Note that this is NOT the same as acting out an emotional response.
Acting out an emotional response is carrying out resistance physically; it is not acceptance of or surrender to a situation or to our emotional state of being. Acting out an emotional response is actually drawing out the resistance. Having said that emotional acting out happens, and I engage in it myself at times. It is preferable in most cases however to remain conscious of what’s happening external of us and also within, and to accept what is happening in whatever way we can (to accept situations, to accept that we don’t accept situations, to accept emotional responses that we may have, etc).
Recognizing emotional states and accepting their presence — I feel furious right now and I allow that OR I feel great despair right now and I allow that OR I am feeling fear and I allow this feeling to be — can take the edge off emotions so significantly that acting out no longer feels necessary.
Surrender to the present moment does NOT mean permanent surrender. You don’t have to surrender to being stuck in the mud; get out. You don’t have to surrender to being mistreated; you can take action to end the mistreatment. Surrender to the present moment and then determine what the next moment allows for. Perhaps surrender is your best option in that next moment because no genuine action can be taken or, perhaps, real change can be made.
Here’s an interesting exercise: Practice moving through life surrendering to, or accepting if you prefer, the present moment. This means accepting what’s happening external of you, and what’s happening within (thoughts, emotions, physical body responses, responses to other people, responses to events, etc). This requires a degree of awareness — you have to be aware of what’s happening in the present moment versus being lost in mental noise.
The outcome of this exercise, the outcome of all surrender, will be a substantial experience of peace and contentment that will be entirely independent of what happens within the world.