spiritual journey to india surrender in addiction recovery

Surrender Your Ideas About Surrender

One morning while on retreat in India, in the hour or two before the sun rose, I ventured down to the banks of “Ma Ganga” (The Ganges River) to accompany my dear friend and photographing ninja, DJ Pierce, who had expressed his desire to dip into the sacred waters.

Where we go in Rishikesh the waters are pretty clean and many visitors like to have this magical, albeit bracing, experience.

Historically, I have not been much of a Ganga dipper. I love this river and have said many prayers looking over her. Yet, I am mostly happy to leave it there.

DJ got into his bathing suit, walked to the edge of the river and grabbed the thick chain embedded in concrete at the bank of the river to prevent folks from being swept away. In March, Ma Ganga is not particularly high, but the river could still take you for a ride if you are not careful. In August, by contrast, you could be permanently swept away.

Chain in hand, DJ walked slowly backward, step by step into the river, and rapidly dunked himself a number of times. Then, pulling himself forward using the chain, he walked back onto the steps of the ghat and dried himself off.

A few moments later, inspired, I found myself down to my skivvies, gripping the chain and dunking myself as DJ had done.

After getting dressed again and saying a few prayers for the day to come, we heard some chanting nearby. It was a small group of Krishna devotees, maybe 12 people, gathered around a teacher chanting to God with a radiant smile and a small guitar.

They were young people, seemingly from many different countries. They welcomed us with their eyes and by shuffling closer together to make room for us. We sat down on their comfy blankets, wrapped ourselves in our shawls, and chanted along with them.

In a few moments the chanting ended, and the teacher put down his instrument and began to speak enthusiastically about relating to God. His scholarship and knowledge of scripture were impressive. He quoted long Sanskrit passages by heart and related them beautifully to life.

He referenced a lecture he had recently given entitled “The Six Attitudes of Surrender”. My ears perked up as I am very interested in this topic, which is a common theme for all spiritual paths, including the 12 Steps.

I promise to share all six attitudes with the Recovery 2.0 community if I ever catch up with this man, but in this pre-dawn moment, he spoke about only one:

“When you are in the state of surrender, you will reject anything that gets between you and your relationship with God.”

Boom. The simplicity, clarity, and truth of this statement blew my mind. I had never viewed surrender in a way that made me feel good about having to do it.

But with this one sentence, my view of surrender was transformed forever. I had a higher bar against which I could measure the level of my surrender on any given day.

When the gathering ended DJ and I headed off to breakfast feeling like we had begun the day right. In fact, we were high as kites – spiritually speaking, of course.

A few days later I found myself sitting at a Satsang (wisdom teaching) led by one of my most beloved teachers, Anand Mehrotra, and he got onto the topic of surrender. He said, “Surrender is not weakness. It is an act of intelligence.”

What a powerful reframe from the Western view that surrender implies giving up, failing, or being weaker than someone else.

As I reflect on these teachings now, I recognize that every day offers opportunities for surrender – the surrender to wake up before the sun, the surrender to dip in the Ganga, the surrender to sit and hear teachings, the surrender to chant to God, and the surrender of any preconceived notion about what is supposed to happen any given morning in my life here on Planet Earth.

This is living in Universal flow. I believe it is available to us all. The only way I know to access it is through the intelligent act of surrender.

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