The Surrender

As told to me by my Uncle Bill, a supremely quiet and gentle man.

“It must have been mid-June the day my brother Tommy and I and Paddlefoot went swimming in the irrigation canal behind our barn. It was so early in the year, that the water was still too high and cold for swimming. But, we went anyway. We thought we were pretty much grown up enough to make our own decisions. Tommy was twelve. I was ten. Paddlefoot went wherever we went because as our dog, that was kind of his job. He was probably the smartest of the three of us. He did a lot of whining and pacing his giant feet around when we got to the ditch bank road. If he was trying to talk us out of it, it didn’t work, because after a bit of pushing and shoving each other, we were both in that cold, fast water.

We’d do cannon balls off the bank and the water would carry us down stream a pretty good ways until we could get to the side and pull ourselves out. I remember how good the sun felt. How  we’d lay down on the sandy ditch bank to warm up before jumping in again.

And then it happened.

I jumped in and the water was carrying me just like it had ten times before. I was trying to swim to the edge to get out, but it seemed like the water was going faster now, pulling me toward a head gate where the water was going out of the ditch into a culvert under the road.  It sucked me into the culvert and the gate slammed down behind me. Cold darkness surrounded me. Panic filled me. I was under the road with both head gates closed. The water was still in there. Quiet. All I could hear was my heart pounding in my head.

I grabbed the bars of the gate and shook them as hard as I could. They didn’t budge. I kicked. I pried. I braced myself against the wall of the culvert and pushed as hard as a ten-year-old boy could push. But nothing I did was making any difference at all. I was trapped. My lungs were on fire. I was so cold I couldn’t feel my body anymore. I thought about Tommy. Paddlefoot. And my mom and dad. I was terrified that I would never see any of them again, so I used every ounce of strength I had left to shake that iron gate. But there wasn’t even a hint of movement.

I realized there was nothing left for me to try. I had no strength left to try anyway. My time was almost up. I was going to have to take a breath. I knew I was at the end, and I relaxed. I let go of the gate that had imprisoned me and the most amazing thing happened. It opened. And with a whoosh of water, I was back out in the canal, coughing and gagging, swimming for my life. It was like the minute I relaxed, the gate opened.”

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Uncle Bill told me this story when I was in my thirties. It was memorable because he was such a quiet man. I was visiting them for an afternoon when Aunt Bert excused herself to the kitchen leaving us in awkward silence. And then out came this story of the power of surrender. I used to wonder if I had hallucinated the whole thing. It was so out of character and seemed so random.

I mentioned this story to my cousins over a decade later on the day of Uncle Bill’s funeral. None of them had heard it before.

I’ve always been so grateful for this strange moment, this extraordinary gift. Whenever I’m faced with something that I’m fighting against with all my strength, I remember…

“The minute I relaxed, the gate opened.”  (William Thomas)

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Unlikely Doors To Awakening

When I was seven, my whole life changed. It sounds dramatic, I know. But it’s true. Not because we moved to a different place, though we did. Not because my mom got clean. She did. And not because my dad lost his mind, which he most certainly seemed to. Any of these things is life changing for sure. All of them together still would have been manageable but for one thing. The thing that really changed my life…

I forgot God.

It happens. It happens by design, allowing us the process of remembering God. This is the way we “succeed” here. We find our way back to God, the Universe, Divine Love, Source, our Higher Power… whatever we call it. We find our way back to Who we really Are. We find that God is actually in us. That we are part of Him and She is part of us. See what I did there? Don’t let it blow your mind. What? God is transgender?  God is definitely male. And God is most definitely female. God is definitely All genders. All ethnicities. All ages, all, all, ALL…

Divine Love is All. And yet…

There’s this existential angst. There’s the searching and the constant feeling of failure and coming up short. Good Gawd, it’s exhausting!

Remembering is simple. But it’s not easy. It wouldn’t be a grand design if it were easy. But believe me when I say how utterly simple it is.

Remember being a kid? (Before it got messy) When being a kid meant that you did things because they made you happy. And unhappiness seemed to only last a few moments. And then bam! Happy again. That’s pure magic. It’s letting the emotions be. Just be. Happy, sad, angry, bored, scared. And “happy” didn’t have a bunch of shit attached to it. It didn’t mean “successful” or “debt free” or any of the multitude of things “happy” means to us now. Happy was just our natural state of Being. When we were kids, we weren’t anybody. We weren’t trying to be somebody. We didn’t have impostor syndrome and we weren’t seeking our purpose. We didn’t sulk around trying to find ourselves. We already were. Well guess what? You still Are.

And if you’re in the state of searching and seeking for what else is out there besides all this angst, good for you! Not everyone is ready for the notion that there’s more to this life than birth, work, and death. The fact that you are curious about true meaning is a nudge from the universe that you’re here to wake up.

Now, slow down. Take a deep breath and hear this… It is not as complicated as your big, beautiful brain is trying to make it seem. By the way, your brain lies. It makes shit up, so it has something to solve because that’s what it’s designed to do; solve things. It is not always your best resource. Keep that in mind next time you’re awake at three a.m. with your mind going all Armageddon on you.

There are many roads to remembering. Doors leading to our Divinity are always being opened for us. I went around trying different doors for a long time because I could just feel a truth begging to be known. One of the things that really opened me up to my true nature was the suffering of my childhood. I believed there had to be purpose in that much screwed up-ness. My childhood always felt like some kind of puzzle to be solved. As if the answer to the question “Why am I here?” was hidden in the life I had been born into. And it was. Not quite in the way I imagined. It was actually much simpler than what my imagination came up with.

We all come out of childhood with wounds to heal. The mistake that we can make is thinking that someone else can heal our wounded parts. The truth of it is, we have to do it ourselves. Which is really okay because when we were kids we all said at some point “When I have kids, I’m going to tell them they’re smart and beautiful and can do anything they choose to do…” Well, now you have a kid. The kid that needs you the most. The kid that didn’t feel loved or encouraged. The kid that wasn’t allowed to be thoroughly pissed off… The dreaded inner child. Joke if you must, but she’s the real deal. I cringed at the thought too. Turns out she was the gateway to freedom. So maybe just leave this particular door cracked open in case I’m right.

If you can operate in a state of suspended disbelief and accept the suggestion that you too, have an inner kid, then you get to be the parent to yourself that you never had.
Believe me when I tell you she’s in there. She’s waiting. Maybe patiently. Maybe not so patiently. You’ll recognize her by the emotions that are the most familiar to you; the places where you feel stuck. The places you feel the least lovable. Start looking there. And when she shows herself, don’t assume anything. Ask her what she needs from you. And then… listen. And trust the answers you get. Be as honest as you can with her. Tell her you’re going to learn how to take care of her.

I know my inner kid is alive and well because I wasn’t going to write about this today. I was going with a title closer to “Compassionate Discipline”. What happened was that while waiting for inspiration to strike, one of my inner kids reminded me that the reason it’s a topic of interest to me, is because she’s trying to figure out the difference between discipline and punishment and where compassion enters into it at all.

So, if you were to ask me how to begin parenting that inner kid, I’d say this; listen. Be still. Pay attention to, and really feel what you’re feeling. Because it might just be what your inner kid is feeling. And then, as weird as it sounds, you have to start a dialogue with that kid. Expect it to go well because you’re an optimist. When it doesn’t go well, don’t worry. Inner kids can feel pretty unappreciated at first. It could take some time and effort to really get to know them.
Persist. Persist because when your inner kids feel heard and loved, the whole world opens up. When you parent yourself, you are awakening the God energy within you. You open a portal to Divine Love that is everything that you forgot all those years ago.
I was a seeker once. I was looking for my purpose. I knew there was more. I never imagined finding it would start with a conversation with seven-year-old me. Now, I don’t really seek anymore. Not outside of myself, anyway. I listen more. I pay attention and watch for the moments where I feel that familiar twinge of abandonment, oppression, unworthiness. Then I grab that kid up in my arms and I love her, and love her, and Love Her.

Post Script… If you want some great insight on awakening to your inner Divinity, working with the inner kid, and learning how to live your life Outrageously Open, visit Tosha Silver’s website I am a student in her school of Living Outrageous Openness. Inner kid work is only a part of the curriculum. She offers many, many more tools to support you while you learn to live your life with a greater sense of peace, joy and purpose.