Being rich in what matters means living counter to mainstream culture in key ways. One of those key ways is gracefully surrendering instead of frenetically fighting. I’ve tried both approaches, believe me. This series is about my lessons learned (that I’m still learning :))
Last week in Part I we looked at surrendering to our impulse to dance, our aging, our appetite for real food, the fact of climate change, and to the people in our lives who challenge us. This post completes my two-part series on ten things to happily surrender to.
Our work. It is so easy to resist work, even in our own minds, even in the middle of actually doing our work. Daydreaming during work-hours is an example of not surrendering to it. So is Facebooking or steadily texting with friends during work hours (see e-abstinence, below).
I confess that I often resist my work, despite the fact that I love my job (I coordinate and handle funding for rural transit in the stunningly beautiful region of Southern Oregon). There will always be things we long to do that are not work.
That said, yesterday I surrendered to the fact that I needed to work for 2 1/2 hours on a Saturday, to stay abreast of three special events I’m coordinating. I didn’t try to do anything else at the same time. I just gave myself to first one work-task, then another. It felt wonderful: peaceful and productive. The party I later went to felt much more fun to me than if I’d refused all day to do the work I needed to do.
However, if you are already a workaholic, then ignore the above paragraphs. If your problem is working too much (if you’re not sure, just ask the person closest to you) then pretend I just wrote about how great it is to surrender to play. Then surrender to play, instead.
Intimacy with people we care about. The biggest single predictor of people’s happiness is the quality of their relationships with others, whether family members, friends, spouse/partner/lover, etc. Do you surrender to your relationships, i.e. cultivate closeness, also known as intimacy?
If surrendering to emotional intimacy feels off-putting to you, keep in mind that intimacy is about being close, then pulling back and resting. Later you draw close again – it may or may not be intensely close, you get to choose – and then you rest again, maybe in solitude.
Intimacy is not about 24/7 contact. That wouldn’t be good for anyone, because you’d lose your sense of self. If you tend to have trouble with boundaries, take a look at these tips on setting boundaries.
A common barrier to intimacy is the fact that introverts and extroverts approach it differently. Here are tips on overcoming that barrier, and being close despite the differences.
E-abstinence, i.e. periodically abstaining from electronics. This would include email, the internet, Facebook, texting, video games, etc. While all of these can add value to our lives, too much of them leech value right out of our lives.
Addiction to electronics splits us off from real life. Specifically, the e-world trains us to expect instant gratification, when delayed gratification is the basis of civilized living. How would a baby or a crop get raised, or a house be constructed, or a person’s capacity to truly love others get built, without delayed gratification?
Carve out pieces of time, whether it’s half an hour, half a day, or a short vacation, in which you abstain from electronics. Instead, be present to the place you are in and the people you are with. Listen to your body, and your thoughts and instincts. What are your desire lines?
Another reason to surrender to e-abstinence is that electronics make us sedentary (and fat). Sitting is the new smoking. See tips on how to overcome Sitting Disease.
The need to rightsize. I say rightsize because some people need to take up less space in the world, and some need to take up more space in the world. Downsizing is often necessary to reach that crucial situation of living within one’s means. On the other hand, if you are already living too marginally or minimally (I did this for most of my decade as a self-employed artist) then rightsizing means expansion. Similarly, the friendly, dollar-poor gentlemen I recently served dinner to in my favorite Friday night gig need to live with more, not less.
Would you become richer in what matters by downsizing, or by expanding?
Death. Look at how we tense up at the sight or sound of this word. I urge us to lean into the fact of death, instead. Surrendering to the inevitable is so much more graceful than fighting it. It’s also more considerate of others. Have you made out your wills? How about an Advance Directives, so that you won’t be hanging around as vegetables? How about periodically reducing our clutter, so that those who survive us won’t have to deal with dozens of boxes of our old stuff, on top of their grief?
The deaths of those we love may be harder to surrender to than our own. Here is how to get through the death of a loved one. If you’re having trouble with acceptance of someone’s decline or death, here is how I surrendered to greater acceptance. Finally, let me share how my surrender to grief over my mother’s death, while painful, made me truly richer in what matters.
Remember: being rich in what matters means living counter to the culture in key ways. Graceful surrender is like a martial art of the spirit. It’s a cornerstone of a diamond-cut life.