I have just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. I was surprised by how good I found it. The last chapter (“The Meaning of Surrender”) seemed particularly resonant, not least the section below, which I hope he and his publishers will forgive me for reproducing. (It should serve as advertising for them, after all!) I have not changed the US spelling and punctuation.
Is nonresistance also to be practiced in the external conduct of our lives, such as nonresistance to violence, or is it something that just concerns our inner life?
You only need to be concerned with the inner aspect. That is primary. Of course, that will also transform the conduct of your outer life, your relationships, and so on.
Your relationships will be changed profoundly by surrender. If you can never accept what is, by implication you will not be able to accept anybody the way they are. You will judge, criticize, label, reject, or attempt to change people. Furthermore, if you continuously make the Now into a means to an end in the future, you will also make every person you encounter or relate with into a means to an end. The relationship – the human being – is then of secondary importance to you, or of no importance at all. What you can get out out of the relationship is primary – be it material gain, a sense of power, physical pleasure, or some form of ego gratification.
Let me illustrate how surrender can work in relationships. When you become involved in an argument or some conflict situation, perhaps with a partner or someone close to you, start by observing how defensive you become as your own position is attacked, or feel the force of your own aggression as you attack the other person’s position. Observe the attachment to your views and opinions. Feel the mental-emotional energy behind your need to be right and make the other person wrong. That’s the energy of the egoic mind. You make it conscious by acknowledging it, by feeling it as fully as possible. Then one day, in the middle of an argument, you will suddenly realize that you have a choice, and you may decide to drop your own reaction – just to see what happens. You surrender. I don’t mean dropping the reaction, just verbally by saying “Okay, you are right,” with a look on your face that says, “I am above all this childish unconsciousness.” That’s just displacing the resistance to another level, with the egoic mind still in charge, claiming superiority. I am speaking of letting go of the entire mental-emotional energy field inside you that was fighting for power.
The ego is cunning, so you have to be very alert, very present, and really honest with yourself to see whether you have truly relinquished your identification with a mental position and so freed yourself from your mind. If you suddenly feel very light, clear and deeply at peace, that is an unmistakable sign that you have truly surrendered. Then observe what happens to the other person’s mental position as you no longer energize it through resistance. When identification with mental positions is out of the way, true communication begins.