How To Surrender Through Gratitude (Part Three of Five)

Welcome back! Last time we chatted about transforming our Grief with Gratitude. Today we will discuss and meditate exactly how we are affected by the concept of sweet surrender.  


For many the concept of Surrender brings up tension.  

Do a quick body scan of your self right now. As you read the word SURRENDER, do you feel weightless? Or do you feel tension somewhere in your body?

We live in a hyper competitive environment, so for most the very notion of surrender implies they will cease to exist in some way and we get tense. Trust me when I say this couldn’t be more false!  

As a reforming uber- competitive “type A’er” I have come by this lesson very organically over the past decade when I really started this journey towards letting go in order to fully experience life.  Competition was the easy part for me. Surrender, falling into the void, really being present and in the moment, trusting in every part of the “plan,” that’s the part that takes work and dedication. Its reward though is something words can’t describe. You just have to trust me and try it for yourself.


1st step- TRUST

How do we get there?  You’ve all heard about fight or flight by now. We all know this is the part of our nervous system that wreaks havock on us physically when we are continuously there. It raises our blood pressure, our heart rate, impeded our sexual reproduction hormones, increases our respiration, and makes our blood clot instantly. All great if you need to run from a giant Gorilla, not so great just sitting at your desk.

Have you heard of Tend and Befriend?  It’s the antidote to fight or flight. Tend and befriend is the result of what happens when our brains release the hormone Oxytocin. And if you are a chick, you’ve got an extra head start!  Check out this excerpt from my teacher davidji’s newest book Destressifying. Of course this is reprinted with his blessing!

In addition to the fight-or-flight reaction, new research shows that there is actually a third response known as tend-and-befriend, introduced in 2000 by Shelley E. Taylor, Ph.D., and her research team at UCLA and first described in Psychological Review. In crisis, women are more likely to ask for help. (You know the stereotypical conversation when a couple is lost. One partner suggests, ‘Honey, why don’t you ask for directions?’ And the other responds, ‘No. I can figure this out!’) That’s not because members of the ‘fairer’ sex are weaker, but rather because they have a special relationship with the hormone oxytocin.

The word oxcytocin comes from two Greek words: oksys, meaning ‘swift,’ and tokos, meaning ‘birth’—essentially swift birth. Oxytocin is released in large amounts after distension of the cervix and uterus during labor, facilitating birth and maternal bonding and then the stimulation of the nipples and lactation.

Outside of the direct role it plays in childbirth, oxytocin is known as the love hormone, the feel-good chemical, and the bonding or attachment hormone. It gives you that special feeling of “oneness” when you are with someone you trust. Going back millennia, establishing social alliances helped us survive—but only with people we could trust. This hormone helps us determine whom we believe we can trust in the most primal way.

Oxytocin can be released in response to stressors that trigger what are known as affiliative needs, which include maternal tending, sexual connections, bonding with others, protecting our offspring, and seeking social support. Because women are wired to propagate the species and nurture their young, the oxytocin pathway in their brains has been more deeply carved. For someone (such as a mother) who is practiced in tending and befriending, oxytocin virtually forces affiliation under stress. These individuals reach back to their earliest, most fundamental needs of protecting themselves and their children and pursuing social contact to meet the innate maternal drive to shield, defend, and safeguard.

It’s theorized that oxytocin increases our desire to approach or avoid someone in a social situation. And research shows that it actually heightens our ability to pay closer attention to any social cues they might express, like body language, facial micro-expressions, and other forms of nonverbal communication. Oxytocin helps us intuitively determine another person’s relationship potential—their openness, friendliness, attraction, eagerness, and all-around ‘energy.’ In the subtlest way, it helps us identify relevant social cues and detect nuances in trustworthiness.

Reaching out for help is as relevant now as it was way back in caveman days. Our fear and anxiety responses were designed to protect us by garnering a little more support to help us overcome a challenge. And as we instinctively seek strength in numbers, the complex biological aspects of tend-and-befriend lead to an even greater likelihood that we will survive the potential threat.

When operating during times of low stress, oxytocin physiologically rewards those who maintain good social bonds with feelings of well-being. But when it comes on board during times of high social stress or pain, it may ‘lead people to seek out more and better social contacts,’ according to Taylor. She has surmised that ‘stress-related manifestation of oxytocin may produce physiological changes that then encourage people to seek contact with others.’

2nd Step -- Surrender to the Moment

About three years ago I had a profound experience.  Well, all experiences are profound, but I realized this one to be so in my reality.  I was sitting with a woman I cared deeply for, watching her actively fight dying. It went on for hours. It was so painful, for both of us. All I wanted was for her to surrender, to let go. I knew she would be supported and transcend. She, however, did not. Unfortunately, there was no reasoning with her in her advanced state of Alzheimers. I couldn’t use logic.  All I could do was surrender to the moment at hand.

I found myself energetically in the same space I was at many of the births I had attended.  Surrender was exactly what this situation needed and deserved, remembering Grace can’t come in if we don’t surrender.  As I sat watching, floating in my own state of surrender a funny thing occurred to me. Why wasn’t I in this state all of the time? If both birth and death required surrender, why wouldn’t all of the moments in between be benefited by surrender as well? Why had I spent so much time fighting with myself, the universe and every moment I had ever experienced?

3rd step- Accept & be GRATEFUL


Suddenly after my above experience I had a shift. I felt that I could be grateful for every single person, experience and feeling I had ever had in my life. Rather than having a judgment of like or disgust about every little thing that happened in my day, I began to simply accept each moment just as it appeared, to observe it, and to bend to it rather than fight it. Suddenly, my life got a lot easier and a lot less tiring. I had no idea how much energy I was using fighting every moment until I stopped, until I surrender.

The irony is that the ability to surrender, that thing I used to thing would kill me, is what helped me to really start living! So today, start small. Pick one thing that you could surrender to and try it. Trust that all will be ok, that you are supported, surrender to the moment it provides you. (Click to Tweet.) Accept it with grace and gratitude because it’s trying to teach you something! :)

Now, let's meditate!