Finding and Creating Balance in Our Lives

By Sarah Carter, LCSW

“Here you are! In the sacred present. I can’t heal you—or anyone—but I can celebrate your choice to dismantle the prison in your mind, brick by brick. You can’t change what happened; you can’t change what you did or what was done to you. But you can choose how you live now. My precious, you can choose to be free.”― Edith Eger, The Choice

Acceptance and surrender are the hardest concepts to which to connect. Ultimately, the reason for this is that we surrender to life and the experiences we have without trying to control, negotiate, or stay in denial. It is the last stage of a grieving process and is counter-intuitive to our protective defense mechanisms. So why is it so hard, and why so relevant to our human experience? 

Our brains are hard-wired to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. We know that our emotional experience/trauma/life transitions create trauma. Our mind protects our psyche in cases of crisis/traumatic experiences. The problem is that we, at times, need to move past our defense mechanisms to experience life fully. Our brains can protect our psyche and warn us of danger so that we can survive. However, if we stay in shut down mode and continually seek pleasure
to avoid pain, we miss out on critical human experiences. 

In Edith Eva Eger’s Book, The Choice, she shares experiences of how she survived losing her parents, survived a concentration camp, and the horrors associated with that experience. She shared how she was able to find a place deep in her psyche to protect her from starvation, brutality, and the horrors she experienced. She loved to dance, and she was able to defend against pain
and remember a time that brought her immense pleasure, connection, and joy. Amazingly, our brains have these protective abilities because it saved her life. Instead of giving up on life, she chose to survive, and her mind had the neuropathway to help her.

The practice of life is to engage. Notice when we are self-protecting from a place of fear and refusing to adapt to life, we can create anxiety as we become fearful of participating in our experiences. In The Choice, Edith shared that you can be living in a concentration camp of our mind. We can create prisons when we become rigid and refuse to accept and surrender to adversities. Healing from trauma and past pain is critical to bringing ourselves to a place of acceptance. Until we heal our wounds, we may stay stuck in self-protection and have difficulty adapting to change because we need to meet our most basic needs of safety and security. As we heal from the past, we can increase our ability to let go of what we cannot control in our lives and experience life as it unfolds. We choose to learn from experiences of pain and move forward as we heal or stay stuck in patterns of disconnection. 

Acceptance is a practice of engaging with life and choosing to accept our life as it is, moment to moment without controlling the outcome and getting stuck in fear/anger. Fear and anger are both helpful emotions to experience. They propel us forward and help us to learn from experience. Getting stuck in fear and hatred keeps us in the past and prevents us from moving forward. It requires connection, support, and helps to move past these emotions/experiences as we learn to practice acceptance. Acceptance isn’t a one-time event but a daily practice. It is a regular practice of acknowledging what we can and cannot control and choosing to engage with ourselves on our self-discovery path. 

Surrender is a daily practice of courage, gratitude, accepting our higher purpose, and learning from the lessons that our life has to offer us. In yoga philosophy, surrender is the fifth Niyama, which means surrendering our ego, what we want, and even our focus on an outcome. Ishvara Pranidhana is the surrender of the ego to a higher purpose. As our ego stops fighting, life can begin to feed us in surprising ways. As we let go of our ego or control, we begin to become aware of what nourishes us and contributes to our wholeness, and we allow ourselves to feel through pain and find a meaningful connection. Surrender allows us to practice engaging with our qualities of the heart:
strength, bravery, intuition, truth and invites us to be soft enough to flow with the current of life instead of fighting against it. 

Ways to Practice Surrender: 
1. Notice what in life you are fighting against instead of letting flow or happen in your life. Identify your strengths and the lessons that experience is teaching you. Engage with those positive attributes, practice letting go of the outcome you want and watch life with curiosity.
2. Notice any tension that arises in your body when things aren’t going “your way.” Notice what emotion and body sensation you are feeling and breathe it out. 
3. Notice your responses to the moment: Are you fearful, angry, frustrated, and annoyed? Notice how you can practice more self-compassion, and non-judgment at the moment.
4. Engage in activities that increase your connection with yourself and others, practice creativity, connection and joy. Maybe this means sitting down and journaling or reading a new book or learning a new skill. Find the things that bring greater connection in your life.

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