Surrender to Win at Life

Very grateful to have run across this article about surrendering to life.  Surrender is one of my favorite subjects because of its positive impact on my personal and spiritual growth.  I’d have to say that I’ve been surrendering too many things in my life. Surrendering to the truth of my life situation over and over again. Surrendering in different ways – some skillful and some not so skillful.  In terms of recovery it is said, “surrender to win” because of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits that will be gained as a result.

Although I grew up under poor circumstances, for a while in my youth I actually held to a positive outlook on life.  Hearing reaffirming messages from my Teachers and Counselors at school, I dreamt of my future, being a marine biologist, or an astronaut or the President, owning a house in the country and having a beautiful loving wife.  But in my college years news that the draft might be reintroduced send this positive outlook into a long depression (the first time I ever experienced depression).  Now the small struggles I had of yearning for a mate, my career outlook, and the reality of my past and perceived future buried me.  Subtly I looked for an escape. I turned to people, work, drugs and alcohol to relieve this pain.  Trying to fill the whole inside.

Being constantly ill at ease, my life turned to an endurance race.  Lacking any sense of direction I snatched whatever seemed to give me relief or to meet my needs.  I was on a path without being aware of the whole picture.  I lacked patience or wisdom.  I did not see what I was doing in terms of the short and long term effects it might have myself or others. Emotionally and spiritually I was ill equipment to handle selfless, compassionate, balanced human interaction.  The kicker though was that there was nothing wrong with what was going on.

The kicker though was that I felt that there was nothing wrong with what was going on.    I thought of myself as a good-natured person in general despite my actions. Actually, I viewed myself as a good person despite my actions.  I believed in honesty, truth, and what is right in the world. When conflict or repercussions for my actions came up I felt as if I was unlucky or being persecuted.But then my world came crashing down. Although

But then my world came crashing down. The cumulative effects of all this came to a head for me.  My score card read zero and I could rely on my good nature to save me anymore.  I though I had lost all of the value to me.  I sat in disbelief.  I wanted it to all end.  I wanted to know why this was happening to me. And then I surrendered…..

For the first time, I let go and let Nature do with me as it would.  Having no understanding of what was going to happen, I took suggestions from those in authority and went with the flow.  I was all ears. Now I started to base my decisions on what might move me in a positive direction and my long-time benefit.  My spiritual side had always been neglected/ignored  – thought of as not existing. Now I learned that it was of primary importance. I left go of anything I could not control which was everything but my own actions.

As relief came I started to notice things within me that I had never paid attention to before.  I noticed the deep-seated unease and base of fear within me. Whereas I had been filled with ignorant confidence in the past I now realized that I knew very little.  Instead of knowing the world based on its worst I now began to experience life with fresh eyes seeing everything as both with its good and its bad and with it being neither good nor bad.  I see I always have some choice even if that is to do nothing at that time.  I have the choice of holding onto something or letting it go.  If I chose on to hold on to something then I should understand how that it may affect myself and others. Being aware of what is going on.  Trying to keep in mind seeing the whole picture.

Regarding the article:

The first thing that came to my attention was taking issue the definition of “surrender” itself as defined in the Oxford Dictionary.  The first one was to“stop resisting to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.”  In my view, I take issue with the “to an enemy or opponent” part.  This is what makes the word so repulsive to us in the first place.  We see surrender as losing, like death.  In my opinion, the wording might be better served by ending the definition at “stop resisting” period.  There are many things that are better served when we stop resisting.  The reality is that as we stop resisting we go into acceptance and stop suffering. It is then natural to begin to look for a better path. This may mean regrouping, redoubling our efforts, or reevaluating our approach.

The second definition is even worse in my book, at least at first glance.  To “give up or hand over (a person, right or possession) typically on compulsion or demand” sounds like the opposite of surrender. This definition needs added, “… to a higher authority”.  This higher authority might be the rule of law, the greater good, as defined by society, or to a power greater than ourselves, but it always appears to us as at this time appears to be in our best interest.

Keys points to bring out:

  • Venting: All of our actions should be undertaken with Awareness of the big picture.  When we share with others we should be aware of how it might affect others.  We should not just lay all of our burdens on others.  At the same time, being witness to others and being witnessed is part of the spiritual path. We get so wrapped up in our own worlds we can lose our connections to others.  Seeing that others are going through tough experiences can bring us humility.  We see that we are not alone.
  • Surrender is not giving up.  Surrender to win.  Letting go of the burden brings peace.
  • On being the happy warrior. Learning to see conflict as part of the path. I prefer to call it being a spiritual warrior.

Thank you, Joshua for your article.

The One Who Knows

Today in my morning meditation my awareness of the one who knows was primary. This is a shift from what I have experienced. Instead of being a part of what I was experiencing and struggling to keep some awareness, I did not struggle.  I was able to see clearly what the body and mind was doing and did not get wrapped up in it.

This was different than my most recent practice of purposely keep the one who knows in mind.  In non-dual teachings it is said that this awareness or primary consciousness has no boundaries, is timeless, and is ever present.  This was how my presence appeared to express itself today.



Breathing through Daily Life

Recently I have moved away from my daily meditation practice.  I am very grateful though that my wife and I have developed a regular habit of reading dharma to each other.  These have been an inspiration for my latest posts and have kept me connected despite my lack of actual practice. It is funny how a particular reading can speak directly to what is going on with us.  In recovery circles, these are no mere coincidences but are considered acts of god.  In Buddhist practice, this is referred to as the fruits of our merit and good karma.

There are many points to reflect upon in this particular reading, “Breathing through Daily Life” – taken from Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s book of Meditations (Meditations 2). The basic premise, that the mind is alway working and as we juggle with the numerous issues we face we usually drop the things that are beneficial to us, particularly meditation.  Ideally, we would want to place the priority on a consistent meditation practice because it is what grounds us, it cuts away the extra baggage we carry, it brings us happiness, joy, and peace.

In recovery, this is like getting sober a few days or weeks, getting a girlfriend or boyfriend, or getting a job and then cutting back on your meetings or stopping doing your step work.

In this dharma talk, Thanissaro emphasizes that the meditation is where we need to take our stand, as meditation is what provides us with support for the mind, our foundation or jumping off point.  This reminds me of Dr. Bob’s quote on humility where we have a place where we can go with our higher power and be safe. This jumping off point is where we become grounded in the awareness of what is taking place within us -to let go of what needs to be shed or what is being wasted, and to focus on what really important.

This constant inventory taking is a foundation of recovery  – and of Buddhist meditation also. It is not about getting narrow-minded though.  An inventory is meant to get the whole picture. It is meant to give a direction to our lives, even if very little changes.

It is not about being mindless about it either.  The purpose of the practice is to develop our skills of awareness and insight.  Am I aware of what I am experiencing or am I numb or disconnected? What results am I getting?  Am I being patient? What factors can I bring to the practice that would help it? Am I developing meditation skills or am I just droning on and on. Patiphaan – ingenuity is recommended.

Right now, I am not meditating regularly so sitting on the cushion today is a start. That is very encouraging.


Comments on “A Meditative Life” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

It is recommended that we find a teacher to help us guide our spiritual and meditative development.  I have tried to heed this suggestion, but, due to circumstances not of my own making, I have thus far not found someone who has stuck with me. However not finding a teacher has not stopped me.  In fact, I am blessed to have many teachers.  Many whose insights I have shared and will share on this blog.

One of my most valued teachers is Thanissaro Bhikkhu, also known as Ajahn Geoff and Geoffrey DeGraff.  I have and be sharing many links to his teachings and his teachers teachings. One of the reasons I value him so much as a teacher is that he shares that is readily available on the internet.   Just check these links out so you can see what I mean.

Dhamma Talks

Wat Metta

Thanissaro Bhikkhu on Access to Insight


He has published a series of books called Meditations that I use for periodic reading. Most of the books in this series come from the daily dhamma talks that he gives at the monestary he is abbot of, Wat Metta.  In Meditations 2 he has one talk called “A Meditative Life”. One of the main reasons I love him as a teacher is that his matter of fact teachings seems to remind me of what it means to be on the path.  This article is no different.

In many ways I guess I do think that simply because I have added meditation to my life that those effects will be enough as I go down this path.  I know in fact that that is not true.  It is said that nothing is gained without hard work and persistence and I find that I many times I do not put in the work and am not consistent in my practice.  I could tell you all the reasons why (and they are valid reasons) but the fact is that I have not applied myself to this practice to the best of my abilities.

One of the main messages of the buddhist teachings is that we can all be free.  It is something that can be learned.  But we need to create that life, create the conditions for that to occur.  As he stated “some state of mind, aren’t like fertile soil.  They’re like rocks.”  We have to look at what we are doing to see what needs to change.

This article consists primarily of a discussion on the five principles that a new monk should keep in mind but that really apply to anyone who want to live a spiritual life.  These princples are:

  1. Virtue – keeping firm to moral values.
  2. Restraint of the senses.
  3. Restraint of conversation
  4. Finding solitude in your life
  5. Developing Right View (karma and the results of karma, and seeing the four noble truths).

I have to say that I am challenged on most of these principles.  For the most part virtue is the easiest (but I am not a saint for sure).  When I reflect on virtue it is clear that when I am disturbed I am reminded of the path. When I am not virtuous then I am stressed or worried and when I am virtuous I am at peace. The same goes with the other principles listed here.

Like many of us currently I am having difficulty staying away from the news so I am not practicing much restraint.  However another benefit of using awareness as a guide is that eventually I will be motivated to take action.  In buddhist teaching this is called samwega.  I will be disgussed enough eventuall to turn another direction.  In fact I consider this an important part of the path,  It is a critial part of recovery because if you are not sick and tired of being sick and tired you will never take any action.

I have used the Middle Way as a guide post because I feel that I suffer the most when I am out of balance. These principles are geared towards turning us in the direction of freedom and release, towards a sense of balance, towards peace.  This article is an excellent reminder of some of the principles required to make this come about.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu – A Meditative Life – July 2003


Directing Attention Skillfully

Directing Attention Skillfully

Luang Por Pasanno • April 2005

Learning how to meditate—how to develop the mind—is learning how to direct attention in a skillful way. Whatever we direct our attention toward becomes our reality. If we like, we can direct attention to all the chaos in the world or to the chaos of our own personal dramas. But we don’t have to do that. We can instead direct our minds to contemplate our experiences as merely form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. We can direct our attention in other skillful ways as well—toward objects that soothe the mind and conduce to peace and clarity. It’s simple: We can incline the mind toward what is wholesome or what is troublesome. The choice we make is up to each one of us.

Taken from Abhayagiri Web Book, “Beginning Our Day, Vol 1.”

5 Gut Instincts You Don’t Want to Ignore

Let’s try to find our way back to our gut instincts. Here are just a few feelings we shouldn’t overanalyze or ignore.

Source: 5 Gut Instincts You Don’t Want to Ignore


Although I generally agree with the premises raised in this article, I do have some issues and comments about the insights provided.  In particular, I feel that:

  1. Danger: It is not a matter of listening to our gut instincts when we feel we are in danger but to determine the correct response to what we feel.  One does not have to have a mental disorder in order to inaccurately react to situations that bring up fear in us.  For example, when my boss points out that I did something wrong at work and I get afraid of losing my job, I do not have a mental disorder if I feel I am in danger.  Emotionally I may not be as strong as I need to be to face criticism.  It may be that my boss is the one in fear. Definitely being aware of one’s feeling in danger is important to one’s wellbeing and survival.
  2. First Impressions: Again we are talking about awareness here. We are sensitive to other people. If someone is uncomfortable then that can make others uncomfortable (likewise with other emotions and moods we may sense). How many times have we felt uncomfortable about someone and then when get to know them that disappears.  Even people you trust can hurt us.  I agree with what was mentioned about “protecting yourself from the harmful actions of others without fabricating instincts that really aren”t there.”
  3. Feeling comfortable: Feelings are transitory and not necessarily indicating that things are right in the world or in ourselves.  Many times feeling comfortable is allowing it to be that way despite circumstances or appearances.

I really like what the website and the article generally promotes (especially meditation).  Promoting a sense of wisdom and wellbeing is good for all of us.