An Exercise In Surrender

(How many times have I mentioned my therapist lately?  More than once, right?)

My therapist has a sign on her wall, to the left of the couch where I sit.  It says “The Five Fold Path”… #1 is “Be Here Now”… #5 is “Surrender the Outcome”.   Those steps are the most succinct and memorable, thus they are the only ones I’ve committed to memory.

My therapeutic journey has been nothing short of fascinating.  With the help of M, I’ve delved into my childhood, my relationships with my parents, my relationships with my partners and my self in a manner that has allowed me to gain a new level of clarity.  I’m now able to see all kinds of *things* that I couldn’t before… patterns have emerged… certain thoughts and feelings have lost their significance… and I’m learning to find stability within myself amidst whatever drama swirls about in my daily existence.  (And I thought I was oh-so-enlightened before.  Ha!)

In one session, I was given a homework assignment:  construct a collage reflecting the words “Vulnerability”, “Asking” and “Receiving”.  I left M’s office with a sense of purpose.  It had been a long time since I embarked on such an art project and I excitedly planned the details in my head.  I reviewed my method of collage creation:  define a design, compile pictures, meticulously cut those pictures out and place them so that each piece of paper is both under as well as on top of at least one other item.  My plans were taking shape…

I gathered a bunch of magazines (acquired for free due to budget constraints).  As I set to work at finding pictures, I was surprised to discover that it was rather difficult.  The magazines were filled with images depicting perfection, empowerment and performance… if I wanted images about vulnerability, asking and receiving, I’d have to alter my perspective on what I was looking at.  So, I did.  With a little shift in perception, I was able to tear out many pages… oddly enough, many of them featured fruit.

The night before my next session with M, I prepared to put my collage together.  By that time, my new perspective extended beyond just the pictures I compiled.  Instead of purchasing a piece of posterboard, I decided to use an old sheet of cardboard that I used to protect the floor in my basement during a spray painting project. I’d been walking on it for months… so it was pretty vulnerable, right?  I hauled it up from the basement, placed it on my living room floor and considered it.  In its previous existence, the piece of cardboard was a box.  There were flaps on the edges; its shape was imperfect.  Instead of cutting it into a new shape, I decided to leave it as it was.  Next, I turned to my pile of magazine pages.  Again, I opted to try a new approach:  instead of using scissors and carefully cutting out the shapes, I ripped them (with the exception of one image in particular that I insisted be crisp).  As I glued the shiny paper to the cardboard, I followed no rules regarding placement.  I impulsively secured each item without strategy.  And I didn’t even use all the pictures I’d collected… some of them just didn’t feel right anymore.  I left crude edges and naked spaces.  I felt a little lazy and irresponsible… yet, I also felt free and creative.  Contrary to my initial intent, I wasn’t constructing a collage but rather witnessing a collage take form.

I was fully present in the moment and I had surrendered the outcome.

The next day, I marched into M’s office and proudly placed my artwork on the table in front of her.  I sat beside her as I pointed out certain images and chattered happily about what they meant to me and what I learned from the assignment.

“I let go,” I told her.  “I planned enough to make it happen, but I didn’t try to control every aspect of it.  And… the end result is OK!  I mean… it’s perfectly imperfect.” (just like me.)

M smiled.  “You really grew from this,” she observed.

I nodded.  “I did.  And I don’t think I’m done.  There’s all these empty spaces… and the other side… by handling it the way I did, I left so many open possibilities.  It has so much potential!” (just like me.)

We spent the rest of the session talking about how much we don’t know and how much we can’t control and how none of it matters anyway 😉

“Softness triumphs over hardness, feebleness over strength. What is malleable is always superior over that which is immovable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaptation.” – Lao Tzu

A Work In Progress


4 comments on “An Exercise In Surrender

  1. backonmyown says:

    Hi Tara. This post is a gem. First your quote at the end: “…controlling things by going along with them…” That little phrase is remarkably empowering for me. I imagine it is for you too; otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen it. And your collage–I love how you started with a plan and then went with a flow that must have felt very freeing and meaningful. You didn’t let your plan restrict you or dictate to you. There is just so much here. Food for thought. Thank you for sharing this intimate part of you. Sounds like your “work in progress” is moving from baby steps to giant leaps. Wonderful!

  2. Mandy says:

    I loved how your collage project morphed into a truly meaningful exercise. I hope you have it proudly displayed at home and do keep adding to it …

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