STEP 3: “Made a decision to surrender our personal will and lives over to the guiding Principle and Power of the Universe (some call this ‘God’) as we have come to understand It.”
Surrender is more often than not, seen as a negative thing. When an army loses a battle, or a nation loses a war, it “surrenders”. In today’s world of social and corporate ladders filled with “winners” and “losers”, surrender is vilified as being akin to personal weakness and lack of willpower and drive. This outlook comes from the view that life is a perpetual struggle filled with victories and losses, until one finally meets the ultimate, yet inevitable “defeat”- death. We see the one who fights the hardest as the one who “deserves to win” and question our faith in God and/or humanity if they don’t. We see those who partake in undesirable behavior or struggle with addictions, or panhandle, or live a life that we generally perceive as “failure” or “mediocrity” as someone who didn’t have enough willpower to make something better of themselves.
The worldview of “winners vs. losers” is rooted in mankind’s general idea that we are our body and our body and the things that the body possesses (money, cars, houses, careers, physical health, sensations of pleasure, leisure activity, etc.) are what life is all about, and in order to obtain them we must have infinite willpower and “never give up”. If we “surrender”, that means we have given up and will not get what we want and are a failure at life. This is a misleading notion that is directed by the ego, which only wants us to fully “submit” to its wants and desires, which most do quite regularly.
The surrender we are referring to is a “defeat” of the ego. For those unfamiliar, the ego is the part of our mind most people commonly associate with their “identity”. When we say things like “I am a (put your occupation here)” or I do this particular thing this particular way because “that’s who I am”, this is really our ego talking. When people identify with their ego, they are identifying with the roles they play (husband, wife, son, daughter, manager, employee, police officer, accountant, student, graduate, Seahawks fan, democrat, republican, etc., etc.) in this 3-dimensional drama we call (physical) life.
Problems are created when we become ATTACHED to these roles we play and the pursuit of the physical pleasures of life, and we begin to identify these things as being WHO WE ARE. When we become attached, we desire things to stay as they are, which is impossible because change and motion and flow is forever a constant in the universe- Spring into Summer into Fall into Winter; Life into Death and then Life again from Death. But we create an illusion that this eternal flow will somehow not affect us and we cling to these attachments that our ego creates. This results in our minds manufacturing a world of turmoil and pain around the agony of having things we are attached ripped from our grasping hands over and over and over again.
The ego at its core is simply the part of our mind that differentiates our physical body from the rest of the physical landscape we inhabit. It is a necessary tool for having a spiritual experience inside of a dense physical body. Without something to differentiate separateness, we would literally perceive ourselves as “one” with everything- including the bus that was headed straight for us. We need the ego to survive and do the work we are here to do on this level of existence.
However something has happened in our development that has allowed this ego, which was designed to be a tool and a servant, to become the master. The ego has created kingdoms for itself and walls to protect what it has. And while it asserts an illusion of control, with its pride and hubris and attachments, it is easily fooled and manipulated by others and itself. It is also this pride and attachment that makes it extremely difficult and at times impossible to tell the ego it has been deceived or it has deceived itself. The ego HATES admitting it could ever be wrong in its belief and will aggressively defend against the notion that it ever could be.
Ego has taken over the consciousness of humanity collectively and individually. The reasons and origins given for this run the gamut from an unexplainable side effect of evolution to some kind of alien or demonic intervention. I cannot claim to be certain of the exact nature of the origin of the ego problem, but I feel the perpetuation of it into the present has to do with human “self-domestication” and the world we have made for ourselves which has caused us to become disconnected from the true nature of reality and the world around us.
The world we have collectively created is a result of a moving away from the Natural World and the Laws of Nature and Creation and letting the materialistic (focused on the world of matter) ego call the shots. Humanity under the guidance of its governments and institutions (which are the expressions of the collective ego of a people) has tried to do things “its way”, and the suffering and turmoil we collectively experience is the result. As always, the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, and the suffering and turmoil many of us experience in our daily lives is the result of trying to do things “our way”.
In the 2nd Step we came to accept that a Power greater than ourselves could bring us to “sanity”, now we have to move out of the way and let this Power begin to do Its work. This moving out of the way means we have to stop trying to control things and do things “our way”. The ego hates this. The ego wants us to submit to its will and remain attached to the physical sensations and pleasures and comforts as being our goal in life.
When I’m doing things “my way”, my ego’s way: I am doing what is habitual for me instead of taking a moment to reflect on the decision I am about to make. I am reacting instead of acting. I investing myself in specific outcomes of things and events that I cannot possibly control, and then getting upset if things don’t turn out the way I want them to. I am expecting other people to act and behave in a manner that I feel they should, and then resenting them when they don’t. I will even lie and deceive others and myself to protect and maintain the identity and ways of doing that my ego is attached to, and I will lash out at anyone who threatens it. When I am doing things my ego’s way, I am separate, isolated and fragmented. When I am in this place I can tend to be a miserable prick.
I can easily contrast this to when I “let go and let God”: I am reflecting on what I feel the impulse to say or do at an given moment, taking a conscious breath and checking in with my Heart, my Mind and my Gut (these 3 elements are unified when I am in this state of consciousness) to guide me. I am acting consciously instead of unconsciously. I have faith that the outcome of an event or situation will be for the best, but also have the clarity and insight to take the right actions, while being guided away from taking the wrong ones. I don’t put unrealistic expectations on people and I accept them in that moment as they are, while being grateful for them being in my life and learning what I can from my relationship with them. When I am letting go and letting God, I am connected, I am at one with my environment (although I still don’t walk in front of a bus) and I am in a state of whole-ness. When I surrender in this manner I feel truly alive and full of love, and my actions and demeanor reflect that.
In my experience, this process of surrendering to my Higher Power is not a “one and done” sort of deal. The ego and its habits and mannerisms are deeply entrenched into our psyche and don’t just “go away”. We have literally been programmed by a multitude of influences, most importantly our own mind, to act and identify with ourselves in this manner. We have become comfortable with our programming. This way of being is what we know. So it is for this reason that surrender has to be done repeatedly; day-by-day; moment-by-moment.
Every time we face a challenging situation where we are tempted to respond in the habitual ways, but instead we surrender to this Higher Impulse, we grow spiritually stronger as a result. The stronger the spirit is, the stronger we are as a whole. Whether it is keeping your cool and not speaking or acting in a hurtful manner when hurt or angered; or whether it is reaching out and being present and available when you would rather just not deal with it; when we surrender and let the Principles of Light, Life and Love guide our actions, we receive relief from our personal suffering and find Grace.
But in order for this to work, we have to move out of our own way and let that Force flow through us as the Reiki master does, and trust that this Force knows exactly what is best. Again this is not a one and done, nor are the Steps themselves in any form a strictly linear thing, despite their being numbered. The 3rd step is something I do daily and surrendering is something I do far more often than that if I am doing the work I need to that day.
With that I will leave you with the traditional 3rd Step prayer as well as a re-worded version for those who are interested. Personally, I tend to go with the original but that’s just me. Until next time, Namaste and God Bless.
“God, I offer myself to Thee- to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
“Nameless Creative Power of the Universe, I offer myself to You- to build with me and to do with me as You would. Relieve me of the bondage of ego, that I may better do Your will. Take away all things that bind me and blind me, that freedom from them will bring forth those I would help with Your Power, Your Love, and Your Way of life. May I do Your will always!”