Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Surrendering to God: 3 steps to transcend your ego

Surrendering to God means unconditionally accepting His will. It means acknowledging that God’s ways are beyond us. He is all-knowing and all-powerful; He is the Almighty. Surrendering is not about giving up. It is about realizing our limitations and that God has none. Surrendering to a loving God who only acts to benefit us is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. Instead of fighting with God – a self-defeating battle – we surrender to His will and triumph.

Whether or not to surrender is not the question; we all surrender, either to God or to our ego. The question is to whom will you surrender?

We have two voices in our head: The voice of our ego and of our higher self. The ego is rooted in the body and focused on physicality. Our higher self is rooted in our soul and focused on spirituality. Our higher self encourages us to live an elevated life, fulfilling the purpose for which God created us.

Frequently, there is a conflict between our ego and our higher self; we exercise free will by deciding to which voice we will listen. We surrender to the ego when we follow its will. We surrender to our Creator when we listen to our higher self and follow God’s will. The more we surrender to our Creator, choosing His will for us, the happier and more peaceful we will be. After all, who knows better than our Creator, the optimal way for us to live?

3 steps to surrender to God:

Step one: Identify your ego’s will. Pick an issue with which you struggle. Identify your ego’s will by listening to the voices in your head. The ego’s voice is generally phrased in the first person, e.g., “I want___. I need it.” It is self-centered, materialistic and focused on instant gratification. There is an emotional and immature quality to it, like the voice of a toddler.

The ego is what makes us human and not angels. It is the part of us which feels worried, down, angry, bitter, jealous, etc., normal human emotions we spend a lifetime learning how to transcend. The ego serves a key purpose; without it, there would be no challenge to live a spiritual life. But once the body dies, so does the ego; it is no longer needed, with only the soul living on.

In contrast, the voice of your higher self is usually phrased in the second person, e.g., “You don’t need that, you already have____.” It is considerate of others, spiritual and focused on the big picture. There is a rational and mature quality to it, like the voice of a wise elder. When we are in touch with our higher self, we feel clarity, acceptance, joy and peace; we sense that good will come from every life challenge.

Step two: Identify God’s will. Once you know what the ego is telling you, compare the ego’s short-sighted will to God’s Omniscient will. Determining what God’s will is can sometimes be tricky. When the issue revolves around what is the appropriate and spiritual way to act, ask a rabbi you trust; he will guide you based on the wisdom of God’s Torah.

When the issue revolves around a life challenge (see the example below), realize that as long as you are doing your best, seeking advice from those you respect, and asking God for help, then the way the situation currently is, is God’s will. (His will is also that you grow from and overcome the challenge, as best you can.)

Step three: Speak to God. Speak to Him out loud and say, “God, my ego says____, but I know Your will is____. God, I accept Your will. I surrender to You.” Take a deep breath in. As you exhale slowly, relax your body and let go of the ego’s will; allow yourself to completely surrender to God. Do this for at least two exhalations.

To illustrate how this process works, here is an example of surrendering to God, regarding a life challenge. Let’s say you’re single. You’re trying desperately to get married and you’re beside yourself with worry that time is running out:

In step one you identify your ego’s will. The ego is the voice in your head saying, “I need to get married now. I have to. I can’t live a meaningful life while single.” When you listen to this voice, you feel anxiety and despair.

In step two you identify God’s will. As long as you are making reasonable efforts to get married, seeking guidance from a qualified mentor and asking God for help, the fact that you are currently single is God’s will, for reasons you do not understand.

In step three, you speak to God and say, “God, my ego says that it’s terrible that I’m not yet married, but I know that right now, Your will is that I be single and grow from this challenge. God, I accept Your will. I surrender to You.”

To whatever extent you are able to be accepting of this challenge, even as you work to overcome it, the more you are listening to the voice of your higher self and the more you are surrendering to God.

Once you become adept at surrendering, you can do mini surrenders throughout the day. Two examples:

(1) You hear some juicy gossip that your ego cannot wait to share, but you know it is forbidden. Instead of sharing it, you say, “God, I accept Your will. I surrender to You.”

(2) Something does not go your way and you feel your frustration rising. Instead of erupting, you say, “God, I accept Your will. I surrender to You.” Then, you do your best to both accept and address the situation.

Another way of surrendering to God when you experience a difficulty, is to think while slowly breathing in, “This is God’s will,” and while slowly breathing out, “I surrender to God.”

If there is a particular challenge in your life which you are having trouble accepting, try surrendering daily. It can help you make peace with the difficulty, even as you do your best to improve the situation.

How do you know when you have completely surrendered to God?

When your greatest desire is to cling to Him (in Hebrew, devekut). You say to God, “…When I am with You, I do not desire [anything] on earth (Psalms 73:25).”

Here are 30 ways we can experience the release and oneness which come with surrendering to God.

You surrender to God when you…

1. acknowledge He is infinitely wise and acts for reasons beyond your comprehension.

2. accept your challenges, even though you don't understand why He gave them to you.

3. realize that even when things aren’t going your way, they’re still going God's way.

4. let go of insisting things happen when you want them to and accept that everything will occur precisely at the time He ordains.

5. rely on Him to give you what you need, when you need it. (Just do your best and ask for His help.)

6. welcome every experience, trusting that whatever happens is for your eternal benefit.

7. embrace the life and opportunities He gives you, even when they’re not the ones you asked for. (Your Creator fashions every aspect of your life to bring out your maximum potential.)

8. let go of your worries, because God will only give you challenges you can handle.

9. unburden yourself to Him, sharing your deepest fears, hopes and longings.

10. give over to Him your problems and ask for His help.

11. believe He will answer your prayers at the optimal time and way.

12. ask for His forgiveness, even if you doubt your ability to do better in the future.

13. follow His Torah as best you can, because it is His will, even when it’s challenging and even when you don’t understand the reason behind a commandment.

14. ask, when faced with uncertainty, “What’s the elevated, Godly way to act? How does my Father in Heaven want me to act?”

15. focus primarily on doing His will; everything else is secondary.

16. only want what He wants you to have.

17. forgive others, because you realize that ultimately everything comes from Him for your highest good.

18. let go of pettiness to pursue peace.

19. set aside your wants to take care of someone else’s needs.

20. act kind and charitable, even at personal sacrifice.

21. act honestly and ethically, even when it costs you money.

22. return money and possessions that do not belong to you, even when no one is forcing you to do so.

23. hold back from harming others and causing them distress, even when the urge to do so is great.

24. refrain from saying whatever comes to mind, saying only what is dignified, considerate and beneficial.

25. apologize and make amends for the harm you caused others, even when this is very challenging to do.

26. make sacrifices to live in a community and associate with people who help you come closer to Him.

27. let go of trying to be perfect – only God is perfect. (Instead, find satisfaction in achieving what He enables you to.)

28. accept and love yourself – with all your flaws – because that’s the way He created you, in His infinite wisdom.

29. accept and love others – with all their flaws – because that’s the way He created them.

30. realize that all your challenges and flaws are custom-made for you by your Creator, and by overcoming them, you best fulfill your life’s purpose.

Adversity is often the catalyst for our most intense surrender. Suffering humbles us to our core, bringing us to our knees. When life humbles you, say to your Creator, “God, I am yours. I can’t do anything without You. Please help me. Please help me do Your will.”

Don't hold back; utterly surrender to your Creator. The more you surrender to God, the more you will feel one with Him.

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  1. Yaakov, this post has obviously hit me somewhere very deeply, so I have a follow-up question for your consideration: The will of the creator or God, which you speak of, that comes out in the, "You need..." or "You must..." could that even show itself in our lives when we interact with other people? Say I tell someone that they need to give up something or need to do something, is that actually advice that we should be considering instead of advising others to do so? What are your thoughts on that? Thanks! Jason

    1. Thank you Jason for your kind words.

      The Sages teach that every day God sends us signals and hints to help us improve, grow and develop a closer relationship with Him. We often don’t recognize those hints and you don’t want to try to read into everything, but if something happens to you which you think contains a message, but you’re not sure what, pray to God to clarify the message and you can ask a spiritual mentor what they think. The key is to use life events as catalysts for spiritual growth, you can’t go wrong with that, and not get bogged down on exactly what God is trying to teach you.

      The Sages also teach that when a person points out the flaws in others, frequently that individual stumbles in similar flaws himself. So, we should think about the behaviors of others which push our buttons. Often, although not always, we struggle with similar issues. We would be wise to first correct our own behavior in that area, and then, if appropriate, share with others what has worked for us.

      All the best,

  2. I love this! Can I repost this to my blog? (With attribution, of course.)

    1. Thank you!

      Instead of reposting the article, can you please post a link to it?

      If that won't work, you can contact me at thechazakplan@gmail.com with your blog address.

      Thank you,

  3. I think I can link it. I like how you have made a complex concept so accessible and concrete. Thank you for responding.

    1. Thank you. I put a lot of effort into this article and I'm glad you liked it.

      May God guide us to truly surrender to Him, silencing the ego and its self-serving form of worship; enabling us to serve God with truth, no matter where the truth leads us and no matter what changes we will have to make to get there.