by Frank M. Wanderer Ph.D.
As spiritual seekers we sooner or later need to face an expectation–almost a commonplace now–to accept what is actually happening to us, surrender to the circumstances, since this surrender will be the foundation of our spiritual development. The question may, however, arise in us, whether that surrender and acceptance may really constitute the foundation of our spiritual development?
The acceptance of what is happening to us in a specific moment means that we are able to say yes to the things and circumstances that actually appear in our life. Acceptance, saying yes may, however, have two different backgrounds. One of these backgrounds is that when we internally say no to what is happening to us, but our behaviour and reactions suggest that we in fact say yes and accept what is happening to us or around us. There may be several reasons for that: we are compelled to do that, a sense of impotence, or cold calculation, a belief that acceptance and surrender will help us in our spiritual quest. But the pretended acceptance and surrender will only lead to further suffering and unhappiness.
Another reason for the surrender to circumstances is when accepting the circumstances is rooted in our inner freedom. Our inner freedom begins when we recognize the psychological background of saying no. It is because when we say no to some circumstance of our life, we most often feel free and intelligent. We unconsciously believe that saying yes would have been equal to submitting ourselves to that particular circumstance or the intentions of a person. In that case, we would have believed that our liberties were curtailed. The sense of intelligence is afforded by the fact that we often need to explain when we say no, with logical, complex reasons, whereas positive answers are usually accepted by our environment without any further explanation.
In the course of our life, however, most of us have recognized–through experience and at the cost of a lot of suffering–that the freedom of saying no is a mere virtual freedom that is only good for reinforcing our Ego. As separate Egos we often tend to forget the basic fact of life that existence is dialectic. That is, no joy may exist without sorrow, and no happiness may exist without suffering.
This forgetfulness is, naturally, understandable, since we all strive to be happy, to enjoy life, so we bravely say yes to these, but our answer to suffering and unpleasant experiences is generally no. This behaviour appears to be perfectly natural and human.
But how would we know that we are happy at a specific moment without ever experiencing sorrow in our life? Would we be aware that we are joyful at this moment, when we have never experienced sadness? Pleasure and grief, happiness and unhappiness are equally parts of the same thing, they constitute the two side of the same thing; that means that if we fail to experience one side, we will not be able to learn about the other. If we reject unhappiness, we will not have the opportunity to experience happiness.
Only when we are able to recognize this basically dual nature of existence, the fact that happiness is rooted in unhappiness, shall our inner freedom enable us to say yes with pleasure to the things that are happening to us.
Once we have achieved the ability to say yes, our internal resistance to the things that happen to us will also cease, and we become conscious and alert to the present moment, and events emerging from that moment. We shall readily accept anything and everything the moment brings to us, let it be joy or sorrow, because we will be fully aware that all these are parts of the same game. That is the only way of remaining quiet, open and ready to accept things, and in this way we shall be presented with peace of mind and the ability to concentrate our attention.
In that state of tranquility, our concentrated attention will show us what we need to do in the specific moment concerned. Our reaction will therefore be an intelligent deed. Only the readiness to accept things, rooted in inner freedom, and surrender to the circumstances may become the foundation of our spiritual development.