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  • Writer's picturelizbutler

New year, new challenges and the art of surrender

The last few years have brought widespread and unprecedented challenges, challenges impacting various aspects of our societies and affecting many of us personally. Although some have been weighed down by more than a fair share of struggles whilst others seem to have got off lightly, all of us, without exception, will face difficulties sooner or later, it’s what’s known as Life. And although we may imagine we would rather live a life without challenges, a life where every day passes smoothly without any disturbance, if we ask ourselves honestly, an existence completely void of testing experiences, whilst restful and very appealing initially, would be deadening if it lasted forever.


You may be familiar with the idea of beneficial or positive stress, however what you may not know is that such stress is essential for life. You see, life is energy and energy is motion, but for this motion to occur, a force has to be present. Whenever a force appears, creating movement in a certain direction, an equal and opposite force will oppose it (this is a basic law of physics) and this equal and opposite force, or resistance, is what creates stress in a situation. Such resistance can be physical or mental/emotional. As a simple example, imagine you have decided to build up muscle strength as part of your new year fitness regime. Whatever method you choose, you will need to apply force to your muscles (your own body mass or external weights), and you will also need to resist this force by pushing against it and creating physical stress. The result of this effort will be an increase in your muscle mass and strength, because stress requires the body to adapt and this equals growth and/or evolution. The same principle applies if the stress is mental/emotional. Let me give another example. A proportion of the population will have started the new year feeling frustrated due to finding themselves a little heavier after the Christmas indulgences. The stress in the situation comes from resisting the reality of the disturbance (the force), in this case the concept of weight gain, but, just as with physical stress, the emotional stress will call for adaptation – perhaps a change in lifestyle or change in thinking, and such adaptation will once more lead to some form of growth and evolution (physical and/or emotional).


Now, I know what you’re thinking. What about the person, who has gained weight, is feeling miserable, but can’t bring themselves to do anything about it, remaining in a state of frustration? An important question, and it leads me into the fascinating difference between positive stress (labelled ‘eustress’), and negative stress (what we may refer to as ‘distress’), but, interestingly, it’s not the stress that has changed, the only thing that’s different is one’s reaction to it. Stressful situations, whatever they are, can be used as a trigger for growth and evolution, alternatively the call to adapt can be ignored causing one to remain in a condition of distress. Again, I’ll take a guess at what you’re thinking – what about the unavoidably distressing situations such as bereavement or other forms of deep loss, is it a negative thing to feel awful in these moments? My answer to that is absolutely not. Feeling the emotions that naturally arise in any situation, good or bad, is always a healthy thing (supressing them can be damaging, on the other hand). However, after a period of emotional release and processing, and how long depends on the situation and the individual, there will come a point when the energy will shift, a gap in the clouds will appear, and a choice will present itself – do you choose to look for the ways this situation is inviting you to grow and evolve, do you make a decision to contemplate the lessons gifted to you, or do you choose to ignore these valuable nuggets and stay as you are?





It's not always easy to go with the first option, and many people will fail at their initial attempts, but if you don’t choose this option you may remain distressed for some time, and it’s this ongoing distress that is negative, with many detrimental physiological and mental effects associated with it. Conversely, choosing the second option is, by its very nature, transformative, and will often lead to changes that have a profoundly positive impact on one’s life. And although choosing the first option can appear difficult, it becomes far easier when we start to understand we are not alone in this. I believe we are co-creators in this Universe, always working with our Higher Selves, or Spirit (mostly on a sub-conscious level) to manage our lives. When we say ‘yes’ to the call to learn and grow from a challenging situation, we send out an invite to Spirit to support us in this endeavour, and, in my experience, there is often a very clear and fast response.


For many years I have been practising the art of ‘letting go’ when challenging situations arise, handing over to Spirit, who I trust infinitely. And it is through this process of surrender that I have experienced many little ‘miracles’ as amazing solutions have appeared out of the blue. I will say again, it’s not always easy, and there are parts of my life where I find it more difficult to relinquish control than others but the path of surrender is one I am wholly committed to, because I see in my own life, and in the lives of those I coach, that this the fastest route to peace. There are many great spiritual teachers, past and present, who speak of the power of surrender, but one of the contemporary teachers I find most inspiring is Michael Singer, author of the excellent book, The Untethered Soul. In his most recent book, The Surrender Experiment, he speaks of his own journey of ‘letting go’, something he’s practised faithfully throughout his incredible life.


Towards the end of last year, on the 21st December I was handed another one of life’s opportunities to ‘choose growth’. I can think of it now as an early Christmas gift, but it didn’t feel that way the moment I received it. At midday on that darkest day of the year, just a couple of hours after I had closed my laptop until January, switched my mind from work mode and started to relax into the holiday season, I took a call from my neighbour who was keeping an eye on our house as my partner and I spent time in London. I was surprised to hear her sounding so grim as she began speaking but it soon became clear why. She preceded to tell me that the water tank in our attic had overflowed and water had been gushing (probably for days) to such a degree that ceilings had collapsed and the whole house was flooded. As you can imagine, there was initial shock as I heard those words and immediately my mind started racing ahead in all directions, especially towards the question of what to do about Christmas plans - we had family arriving from the UK and abroad in 2 days’ time, but it was only a few moments before I remembered one of my core stabilising beliefs, a belief that has kept me calm in many a troubling situation – ‘there are no accidents in life, everything happens for good reason’. As I reminded myself of this, I let out the breath I’d been holding on to, allowed my shoulders drop and sank into the realisation that ‘all is always well’. And there I have stayed ever since.


I won’t take your time with lengthy details of what happened next, but as soon as I let go of the resistance to the force that had presented itself, as soon as I made the decision to use this stress positively, I could feel the Universe supporting us, and as evidence, perfect solutions started appearing from all over the place. As I observed these with gratitude and kept my attention focused on the silver linings, and there are always silver linings in any situation, my trust in the infinite power of Spirit deepened. What a gift. In the end, Christmas was wonderful, our guests were still able to join us in a lovely home we borrowed from friends as they holidayed abroad, and although we’re now looking at many months out of our house, with no temporary accommodation yet confirmed, this state of not-knowing is becoming more comfortable as I practice releasing the false sense of control (because it’s only an illusion anyway), that many of us cling to. From the vantage point that comes with soaring above the need to control, I’m also able to reflect on the possible messages contained within this challenging scenario, as I mentioned, a core belief of mine is that these testing situations are sent for important reasons, reasons we do well to explore.


And so, I tell you this story now because although it would be easier to simply wish you a happy new year, sending my hopes that 2023 is filled with your heart’s desires, this, on its own, feels a little inadequate when the consciousness shifts taking place on our planet, leading to disruption on a global and a personal level, look set to continue this year. What I hope then is that this article and my personal story, whist not promising the spiritual path will take away your difficulties, will plant a seed or perhaps deepen an already present recognition that Life presents us difficult lessons sometimes, not to destroy us but to encourage our evolution and deepen our faith.


“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Julian of Norwich
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