May 24, 2011

Surrender: Week 4 of Rodney Smith's "Selfless Practice"

In Week 4 of his Tricycle Retreat, Rodney Smith talks about two different strategies we can use to deal with problems in our lives: adaptation and surrender. After discussing some of the limitations of using adaptation as a strategy, Smith considers the strengths of surrender as a means to end suffering.

Smith says:


If we just hold ourselves to this new paradigm for a little while so that we can begin to feel the benefits of being quiet, the benefits of not having the next step immediately known. If we can hold the momentary confusion of not knowing what to do next, if we can bear that momentary chaos that we might be going through—the same chaos in fact that you feel when you lose your car keys or you misplace something and you think "Oh, what did I do with them?" that moment in which the assured certainty of your keys isn't in place—the ego abhors that particular moment because it has no power within that. It's not in control and those are all the ways the ego objects to surrender.


Smith holds that surrender works as a method to end suffering precisely because the ego objects to it. The means and the goal are aligned with each other. Surrender is a theme that Smith also explores in his book Stepping Out of Self-Deception:


The more we surrender our separation, the quicker we complete the work of dissolving our fear. Patterns that hold less identification are quickly released, but eventually we have to confront those areas where we are still tied to the outcome, image, or expression of our personal pain. These are areas requiring great sobriety and maturity. We know awakening involves our total being, but we may still hold a little of ourselves in reserve. We dawdle, hoping for a reprieve. The sense-of-self plays its final card, its wistful need for nostalgia. Will we disappear like a hand through water, leaving no trace of our place on earth, no small monument to "me"?

Our faith has not fully ripened, and therefore surrender is not total—we still need to be convinced that something will catch us when we drop our final defenses. But no assurance comes, and we are left either pretending to be someone we know we are not or releasing ourselves totally without guarantees. Then something stirs our heart, and we realize there is no turning back. Our heart begins to tug with the force and power of knowing the truth, and this last vestige of "me" is released. There is not pressure to surrender; no one is demanding that we do so. Surrender is completed because of the compelling and unrelenting nature of the heart.


To participate in this retreat you must be a Tricycle Community Supporting or Sustaining Member. Below is a preview of Week 4 of the retreat.



Also, when you become a Tricycle Community Member, you can join a Special Community Discussion with Robert Chodo Campbell and Koshin Paley Ellison, the founders and co-executive directors of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.

Image: from the Flickr photostream of portobeseno

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shannonstoney's picture

Will we diaper like a hard through water, leaving no trace of our place on earth, no small monument to "me"?

I think this must be a typo. Or else really difficult poetry!

Monty McKeever's picture

Hi Shannon, it's been corrected (*disappear like a hand)

Thanks for pointing that out. Auto-correct strikes again!