Squid or Jellyfish? Resistance vs. Surrender
Are You a Squid or Jellyfish?
Resistance and Surrender in Life and Creativity
“It’s only when there is complete surrender to the now, to what is, that liberation is possible. I do not believe that a (spiritual) practice will take you to complete surrender. (That) usually happens through living. Your very life is the ground where that happens. ……the willingness to let go is surrender. That remains the key. Without that, no amount of practice or even spiritual experiences will do it.” –Eckhart Tolle
Being a Squid
Reading this quote, I sense how much I am not willing to let go of—anything! Like a many-armed squid, I am holding onto my life as it is; grasping my beloved husband, friends and family close; clinging to my ideas of who I am or ought to be; hugging to my heart the beauty of mountains, deserts, forests, the ocean, flowers, animals, bees and bats—the whole doggone world!
The thought of being “willing to let go” of any of that makes my ‘tentacles’ tighten even more. This resistance happens every time I’m on the edge of anything new, especially when I start a new painting or begin to write a new chapter. I feel as if I am standing at the edge of a cliff and being asked to jump into the abyss Carlos Castaneda wrote about: “I cannot guide you, but I can put you in front of an abyss which will test all your abilities. It depends on you, whether you hurl yourself off it to fly, or run to hide in the security of your routines.” Oh, the ‘squid’ surely does want to cling to my routines, my usual sense of who I am, the “safe” path. It resists any real transformation of my identity, my world-view, my life.
It’s so frustrating! There’s an impatience and vexation in my soul, even in my body, with all this attachment and clinging. This struggle—to preserve things as I demand that they be—is exhausting. I just want to drop all my demands and ideas and fears, and be free! This frustration with myself, with my stuckness, reminds me of a poem I wrote years ago.
The Seeker’s Voice
Someday I’ll break away,
change my life,
take that radical leap into the Void,
trusting there’ll be strong Arms
to catch me.
Going beyond on the off-chance
that Fools are Truth-tellers.
Seeking another reality
where only the Dancer lives,
where only Love is,
and suffering is the mystery.
Someday, I’ve got to break away
from this good life,
go wild, running
through the world,
God or Liberation: I’d settle for either. Both would be good! But, guess what? I have to be willing to let go—not in order to get either one. Just to let go, to surrender, period. Sigh. How do I get there when my ‘squid-self’ is made up of resistance?
“How do you get there? … it simply means to say ‘yes’ to this moment …a total ‘yes’ to what is.” –Eckhart Tolle
Becoming a Jellyfish
At times, I have tasted what it is to “say ‘yes’ to this moment.” My mind stops demanding, wishing and complaining, and I can Be Here Now, as Ram Dass suggested decades ago. My whole body relaxes, and I breathe deeper. My sense of who I am expands or disappears. I feel like a jellyfish, peacefully drifting with the flow. It’s so refreshing!
What is the key to this lovely surrender into the moment? For me, it is the willingness to be with whatever is arising in me, whether it is frustration, grief, anger, fear, or despair. To simply sit and endure my own resistance to how I am feeling, without trying to escape or change anything. Ugh! My squid-self hates this idea!
Yet, when I do manage to simply sit here with whatever I am experiencing—for example, right now, the burning and tears in my belly, the tension in my jaw, the frustration, the anger at God, the judgments, the demands, the soreness in my foot—a shift happens.
A smile rises to my lips, along with love and compassion for my earnest, efforting ego-self. This compassion softens that burning, those tears; softens my rigid edges held against the world as it is. That burning turns into relaxation, even pleasure. I smile at my frustration and resistance. They are part of what is, too. And so am I. For the moment, I am a peaceful jellyfish, drifting with the currents, trusting that what I need will come along without effort on my part, maybe even opening up to feeling at one with the whole ocean.
Try this when you feel stuck in your life or creative work. Just sit with your frustration or stuckness, anger or sadness, without trying to change anything. If you can avoid falling into your emotions, and simply notice what is going on in you, a shift can happen. The ‘squid’ lets go, you feel more relaxed, and may even see the block or problem in your life or creativity from a new perspective. Then you can more easily open to the creative flow in your writing, painting, parenting, dancing, or whatever your creative work is. I know for me when I do this, my frustration or resistance evaporates once I accept it, and soon I am lost in the creative process.
Don’t miss my next two posts on Creativity and the Inner Life!
Discover how to open up your life to greater inner peace and vibrant creativity!
I’ll be sharing the methods and resources that have allowed me to be more comfortable with surrendering to the unknown in my own inner work, with my psychotherapy clients, and in my creative writing.
To begin with, I recommend the approach to inner work called Focusing. It’s simple and very helpful. This method helped me more than any talk therapy to loosen my “squid” grip on my old, outdated identity and move into becoming who I really am. It can help you too! I hope you will try it, and let me know how it goes for you.
Recommended Reading: Focusing by Eugene Gendlin
This book describes a research-based technique for being with yourself without resistance, and allowing that inner shift to happen, usually in small ways, but sometimes a big shift into a more expanded sense of who you are. There are trained Focusing facilitators and therapists who can help. www.focusing.org
Are you mostly a squid or a jellyfish?
Do you cling to your ideas of how you or life should be?
Or can you let go and “say yes to the moment?”
I’d love to hear about your experiences of being a ‘squid’ and/or a ‘jellyfish.’
Please share on Facebook or in the Comments section of this blog post.
If you have any questions, go to my Contact page to write me a message.
Note: No disrespect to squids intended. They are marvelous, intelligent creatures, far older than we are. Actual squids are great at both holding on and letting go.
Quotations are from “Ripples on the Surface of Being: An interview with Eckhart Tolle” by Andrew Cohen