I love it when my friends tell me exactly what I need to hear and I actually listen. Sometimes I ignore or resist their good advice, but now and then, it goes straight in.
This week a friend and I were talking about how change happens in life. At a time when things were shifting for her, a friend of hers said, “Well, you’ve gone over it mentally every way you can for months. Now all you have to do is give up.” She asked, “How will I know when I’ve given up?” Her friend said, “That’s when it will change.”
Though I’ve spent plenty of time resisting this truth, it’s still true. I also think we’re on God’s time, and we’re unlikely to give up ahead of the universal roll-out schedule. We still need to practice, though, so when the time comes, we’re ready to do it.
The spiritual journey is so odd when considered with the same lens we use to do the grocery shopping or complete tasks at work. We can’t rush it, we’re not in charge, but if we don’t participate, it doesn’t work. Participation mostly means practicing giving up.
I am of course not the first person to say this. Teachers in every wisdom tradition have been saying it for a long time. God’s will, non-action, falling into grace—it’s all the same thing: we’ll only find what we’re searching for when we give up thinking we’ll get there by ourselves. It also helps to realize we don’t even know where there is.
We need to strike out in some direction that we think is right— another strange twist—we just shouldn’t get too attached to the destination we’ve chosen. Julia Cameron describes this in her book The Artist’s Way. She says we go out looking for apples and end up with oranges, only to discover that’s what we wanted all along. But we never would have happened upon the oranges without leaving the house in search of apples.
None of this to say I’m particularly good at giving up. That’s why I write myself reminders like this; that’s why we practice.