Surrender and Joy in the Pursuit of Excellence
There are many beliefs – myths – on the concepts of success and greatness; and even around something as simple as making an honest living. For most of us, these revolve around struggle, competition and lack.
It makes sense, then, that lack and struggle just make this earth a worse place for everyone living on it. I cannot say if these old beliefs are right or wrong – they have been ingrained deeply in me as well – but I have been considering an alternative, and I want to share my thoughts with you.
Struggle, grit, and competition
What are some of these common myths? Many of us believe the only way to make a decent living is through struggle. Hard work – blood, sweat, and tears!
Others believe they have to step on others during their upwards journey, stealing customers, or ruining the reputations of others. This mindset is so deeply entrenched that even many otherwise kind and loving people seem to have multiple personalities – Jekyll and Hyde at their best.
They call these mindsets business savvy, street smarts. It’s just the way of the world, they say. Sometimes it gets a bit more subtle; they might try to be selfless in their work. But deep down inside, struggle and competition still exist. They are still looking around – “Is anyone noticing how selfless I am being, how giving and compassionate I am?”
And here’s the kicker: It is definitely possible to achieve certain goals through competition, backstabbing, struggle, sheer grit or cunning. The problem arises when we think that these are the only ways to get “there”.
What I want to offer is a different perspective, a total turnaround in the way we do things.
Joy and Enthusiasm
“Riches, when they come in huge quantities, are never the result of HARD work!”
~ Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich.
The first concept I want to discuss is struggle. In the seminal millionaire’s bible, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill makes a statement that sticks in my head to this day: riches never come as a result of hard work.
But in the rest of the book, Hill goes on to espouse persistence, telling stories of people who have taken years to get what they want. It confused me initially. “Doesn’t that clash?” I thought. “Doesn’t that already mean hard work?”
But it doesn’t. Hard work has nothing to do with the time, quantity. It implies struggle, a lack of joy. And we have discussed this in part one: success simply means bringing quality into the present moment, the step we are taking right now.
Bring joy and enthusiasm into your work. Though it might be tiring, let it be playful. Forget all thoughts of the past, the future, and of others – and quality is the natural result. Without enthusiasm, there is no quality – how can anything good come of that?
Make it a point to ask yourself: What is my inner state? Am I doing this from a state of joy, or resistance?
Burning the seeds of suffering
“Nobody wants to suffer, but we carry the seeds of suffering within us.
The whole point of working on ourselves is to burn those seeds.”
If you are a long-time reader, you will probably notice until recently, almost every article has been chronicling an inner journey, a focus on suffering and its removal, of cultivating happiness and compassion for others.
This journey was not by choice, it was out of necessity. Before I started it, I struggled in many other areas of my life, finances and relationships, but my efforts never made much a difference. It was only when I went to the root of my dis-ease; that was when everything else began to fall into place.
What does that have to do with achieving our goals? What does that have to do with finding quality? Everything.
When we have burnt anger and resentment at the past, when we have cut out anxiety over the future, our mental space is so much clearer. Our thoughts and attention are no longer being focused on all the garbage, the mess in our heads; and we can focus them on bringing quality into our work. It is hard to bring joy and enthusiasm, even for a job you love, when you are simply not happy.
Is it just fear?
Naturally, our external situation has a big part to play. Riches never come as a result of hard work – which means that it will be twice as hard to find riches in an endeavour you dislike. Find a job you love, and work will become play – and tackling your list of tasks begins to feels like fun.
Yet this is easy to say; so hard to do! “We live in the real world,” you might think. “It’s not always so easy. Wouldn’t we all love to play at work? What if we can’t?”
And I can’t deny it – very often it seems like everything is against us. Lack of opportunities; bills to pay; families to support!
But if you look closely; are your circumstances really as limiting as you think it is? Often, it is not. Everyone uses excuses and self-deception, covering up a lack of courage, a need for external security or approval. “What would my parents think? What would my spouse say? What if I fail? What if, what if, what if?”
This is another reason for internal work, emotional mastery – I have found my courage steadily increasing. I’m doing things that I would have shied away from in the past; I’m letting go of my needs for approval and safety. And as a natural result, persistence and faith – the very traits Hill espouses – have been steadily growing.
The trap of non-resistance
There is a beautiful teaching in many traditions and religions: Non-resistance – a state of inner surrender – is the key to living a peaceful life. Bring inner surrender into your life; carry an inner yes from deep within you.
Emotional anguish mostly stems from two roots. One of this is an inner resistance to what is happening. A sudden storm forces you to cancel your picnic; why are you upset? A belief that things should go your way, or that rain should only fall on days convenient to you, perhaps. In other words – an inner “no” to whatever is happening.
When you change that no into a yes – a yes with your entire being – your external situations suddenly don’t seem that bad. But it doesn’t mean not taking action at all, it means taking action without any resentment – letting your actions go with the flow.
This is a trap many fall into; they believe this teaching means accepting the situation silently at all costs. They have confused inner surrender with martyr hood and self-sacrifice.
Because of this, they stay in something they hate. They are in a job they despise, a location that makes them miserable. And they try to follow their interpretation of this teaching; they try to be spiritual or religious – and so they just stay in it. Very often, their mental anguish increases, for they are still unhappy, and on top of that, another layer. Now they are not “spiritually advanced” enough, whatever that means, to remain happy in adverse conditions.
Inner surrender and outer action
Inner surrender doesn’t mean outer stagnation; we are not to just sit there and take it. Words and actions can and will still arise. There will be many times we have to speak up for ourselves, or remove ourselves from the scene. But whatever we do, there is reduced anger, fear, or defensiveness in it. Like we’ve discussed in part one, this brings a certain quality to your words and actions, making it far likelier to succeed.
Still, there will be times when you cannot do anything externally. All we can do is to remove as much negativity as we can from it. If you can’t be happy doing it, then at least bring acceptance into it. Remove all grumbling, external and internal.
And again, emotional work can be tremendously helpful here. We’ve mentioned the rainstorm above. What is the other reason we get upset? The anger, the sadness, whatever it was – it was already in you. The rain didn’t cause your anguish; it merely served to remove the veil you had used to cover your sadness.
Surrender to where you are now
And the last, perhaps most important lesson I’ve learnt about inner surrender. We’ve discussed resistance to what we have to do. We’ve discussed resistance to the past – this shows up in our constant ruminations and reliving of the past. We can resist the future – which shows up as fear and anxiety.
But as Eckhart Tolle said in The Power of Now – our resistance can be to our life situation. If we see it as unpleasant, painful, we have a natural tendency to want to begin pushing against it. This is so common; I see it almost everywhere I go – and in particular in myself and my closest friends.
We think that our resistance to our present situation, whatever we are experiencing now, will somehow propel us out of it, into something better. We think that it motivates us to take action.
But what if this resistance strengthens the unconscious patterns that perpetuate our circumstances?
I had a friend who has been single for several years. He was lonely, and he desperately wanted a girlfriend to alleviate his sense of isolation. And the more he tried and failed, the more upset he got. I remember a night he called to complain about another night home alone; his anger and frustration was almost palpable, even over the phone.
I didn’t recognise it then, but it strikes me now. The more he resisted being alone – the more he hated it – the stronger his desperation and neediness became. And these were the very traits that were driving potential lovers away.
Tolle explains this in a slightly different way – the quality of your consciousness decides your life. No matter how you change your actions, or your appearance, or anything – if your inner state remains the same – nothing will yield solid or lasting results.
An important inner step
An important step to changing your circumstances is to accept it as it is right now. Remove all resentment and negativity, so you can bring quality into your actions. And that quality will be a key factor in improving your lifestyle.
Be aware that it is not negativity subtly disguised as surrender a I dont give a damn anymore! attitude. Surrender brings peace; giving up doesnt.
If that is hard, then begin by recognising what you do have. An alternative would be to take the story out of whatever you are in, leaving behind the bare facts.
A psychology lecturer once explained to me how this works. “I am poor!” you cry. That is a story, one that you wallow in, that keeps you in a state of depression, desperation and low motivation. He told me to consider the pure facts, without the story? For instance – “I am five thousand dollars in debt.” Facing facts goes a long way towards removing self-pity; it empowers you and kicks you into action.
Outer action and inner surrender don’t clash. Surrender brings excellence to your every action.