Surrender: Discerning the Power of Letting Go

Introduction: The journey of understanding surrender

It took me a long time to understand the true meaning of surrender. Up until early sobriety, I don’t think that I ever heard of or even was remotely familiar with the concept of letting go instead of fighting or opposing whatever came my way. If I didn’t agree with something, something went wrong, or someone argued with me, I yelled, disagreed, or sulked about whatever it was. Surrendering or giving in in any way just wasn’t something I or anyone around me seemed to ever do.

The first time I ever surrendered without an agenda, or without trying to control the outcome, was the moment my friend Tunde gave me the AA number on 23rd of July 1998. That day became my first day of sobriety over two decades ago. It was then that I gave up and surrendered to something unknown, a plan that I had no clue what it was or what it would be. 

Resistance was my default setting: Struggling in early recovery

But still, in early recovery I didn’t really act any different than before. I continued to resist. It was like a subconscious default setting. It was how I operated. If someone asked me to do something, I didn’t want to do it. If someone had an opinion, I didn’t want to agree. If something didn’t go my way, I would do whatever I could – yell, cry, throw tantrums – to get what I wanted. Since then, I have discovered that it was really a way to feel heard. If I made a fuss, then people would notice me. 

Living like this was so much work! 

As the years went on, what I learned in AA slowly changed how I perceived and reacted to life. My idea of surrender started to shift. First, I learned about Step Three, and at first, I really had trouble understanding what it meant. Step Three reads: 


“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”

Step 3, 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous


It is a basic teaching of surrender, yet so difficult to actually put into practice. I learned throughout the years that it is really crucial to have some idea of what God means to you before you can actually apply this principle. I didn’t. But I tried anyway; I was determined. And I just kept on moving forward and trusting that I would discover how to turn my will over to God one day. 

Learning simple tools: the 24-Hour Rule and Acceptance

We were also taught the 24-hour rule in AA: when upset, wait 24 hours to respond. For example, if you get an email that is upsetting, wait 24 hours before sending a response. By using this simple rule, so much friction and negativity can begin to disappear. It took time, but finally, this was a tool I could use and understand. 

Also, at meetings, I continued hearing one of the most important teachings of them all, the words: “acceptance is the answer to all our problems today” (Big Book 47).  Just as with everything else, it took me a long long time to understand and put those words into practice. Even now, when I no longer am as active in AA as I used to be, I think about those words each day. 

The Turning Point: A Moment of Realization

At about six years of recovery, I had a moment that I could call my bottom in control and lack of acceptance. I had been dating a guy for about two months when he broke up with me. I went into hysterics and sobbed for almost 24 hours. So much that he was afraid to ask me to leave. After 24 hours, he finally said, “I can’t do this anymore!” At that moment, I realized that I was crying to control him and get him to take me back. I wasn’t crying because I was heartbroken. The funny thing was, our relationship was really not very good. 

This experience was eye-opening for me, and in the years that followed, I started understanding more about how my own resistance was really the culprit in so many of my life difficulties. 

The Journey Continues: Building Spiritual Awareness

The more time I spent building my spiritual and meditation practice, the easier it became for me to have an awareness of my behavior, especially my reaction to life. Of course, the default setting, the resistance still lived in me, but I learned to pause and become more attentive of my thoughts and my actions. 

As the years went by, my outlook shifted, I didn’t have to always be right; I didn’t have to always have my way. I could accept and move on. I no longer wanted to try to manipulate or control anyone with my behavior.

The Book that Changed Everything: Letting Go, The Pathway of Surrender by Dr. David R. Hawkins.

But still, it wasn’t until many years later that I came to fully understand that in fact surrender is a state of being rather than something that I had to consider with my thoughts and with my mind. 

It was about 5 years ago when a book showed up in my Amazon suggestions that completely changed my life. It became my Bible. The book was Letting Go, The Pathway of Surrender by Dr. David R. Hawkins. I read it, and the concept made so much sense to me. Intellectually. I still couldn’t apply the principles without effort. I read it over and over until finally, my children started teasing me, “Oh mom, are you reading that yellow book again!?”

Letting Go the Pathway to Surrender Book

The Final Discovery: Surrender is a state of being

For some reason, I kept going  back to it, and in the end, I must have read it at least 13 times. That’s how long it took me to assimilate the teachings into my entire being, into my subconscious and unconscious mind. Grasping the concepts in a way that they were no longer actions or thoughts, they became a part of my being. 

Dr. Hawkins explains that in order for true surrender to happen, one has to recognize our own emotions fully, and let our feelings live their life and have their process. When a negative feeling arises, we have to consciously allow the feeling to surface and be acknowledged. The tricky thing here is to JUST observe those feelings without trying to fix or act or discuss them in any way.  It is key to let the feelings be, let them live their life span, and live out the needed process. The most important thing in this practice is that if something bothers you and triggers you, let it be. 

Unraveling the Cobwebs: Understanding Emotional Resistance Within

It was through my meditation practice that I was able to be ready for the process. Earlier on, my emotions and feelings were like cobwebs and clutter in an old attic, and it would have been impossible for me to single out one emotion to observe and have an awareness of. But after years of practice, I was able to treat each emotion as an object, which I believe was key to my practice of surrender. 

It was also important for me to reflect on why negative emotions and resistance existed within me. I would ask myself things like; what is it within me that is resisting right now? What is it that is triggered? I was able to witness the resistance, and become aware that it was actually happening. These days, I become immediately aware of this resistance in my body. I can actually feel resistance. Once this awareness is there, there is an opportunity for a shift. Once the resistance is recognized, I could begin the process of surrender. 

The process is hard physical work and takes time and practice. I started with surrendering smaller things and slowly moved on to the larger issues. For example, when I would be triggered and upset, sometimes I would force myself to sit down and just say, “I am angry now.” By saying how I felt out loud, I allowed myself to feel and bring awareness to my emotions. Gradually their hold on me would dissolve. 

The Inevitability of Emotional Dissolution: They Always Go Away

What I also discovered, as Dr. Hawkins describes, is that no matter what it is, negative feelings will reside; they always will. Depending on the severity of the emotions and how deeply ingrained they are in our unconscious, less stuck emotions dissolve more quickly. However, more deeply buried emotions can take days to dissipate. But – the emotions always do dissipate. This concept has really stuck with me. I’ve practiced it so much now that I know it to be true. Now, I expect it. In fact, most things are surrendered even before they enter my conscious mind. It’s like a muscle that has been worked over the years; surrender happens automatically. At times, it takes more conscious awareness, but there is a knowing, a trust, that I really don’t have to do anything. Whatever is supposed to happen has already been planned out, and I have no control over it.

Surrender: the ultimate door to Awakening

The surrender is already there within me, and it has become the natural state I live in. And through this process, I have finally grasped what Dr. Hawkins claims: surrender is the ultimate door to awakening. 

Meditation has paved the way for me to practice this teaching, and it also created the foundation I needed to trust the surrender process. In meditation, we discover that beyond all of our emotions and negative feelings lies and energy, a loving force that holds us and nurtures us. Without this piece, I don’t know if I would have understood how to let go. Now, I have something to surrender to and faith that everything will be alright and I will be taken care of. I understand that that energy had been there all along, guiding me, whether or not things turned out the way I wanted.

I could have never imagined that surrender would be the ultimate teaching for me – a state of being completely free and unattached to the goings-on of everyday life. And it’s not like I am detached and aloof; instead, I am more present and engaged than ever before. For me, surrender results in a place of presence that I can only describe as a feeling of home. It is a connection with the soul that I have been looking for my whole life, and I found the key in the practice of surrender.

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Abdi Assadi is unlike any other healer or spiritual teacher ever encountered. He is an expert in martial arts, and a dynamic healer practicing a diverse array of Chinese and Eastern Medicine, indigenous shamanic rituals, and meditation techniques. With a clinical practice in New York City for almost 4 decades, Abdi has accumulated a vast knowledge of real life experience working with several thousands of individuals, guiding them through the most difficult times, and teaching them how to understand themselves. One of the greatest things about him is he merges the human psyche with the spiritual psyche.

Steeped in deep wisdom and insight that is rare to find on this planet in these modern times, Abdi has an extraordinary ability in perceiving and comprehending human souls and their individual psyche. Guided by the divine, Abdi guides you to open up and see beyond your limited Self, into your own soul. His impeccable discernment enables him to unleash personal remarks that pierce through your veil, statements that you will never forget and in an instant alter your perception of yourself and your reality.

– Quotes from Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi:

All spiritual masters teach us that love is an activity before it is a condition – and that love is all-encompassing.
Page 18

It felt like I was coming off a race track and driving in a school zone. He knew, years before I did, that my speed was my way of suppressing my early childhood anxiety, and that only slowing down could heal it.

Why do you need to use all these words like God and spirituality? It is right here Abdi, all around you, all the time
Page 40

one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
Page 51

Ultimately it keeps grace out of our lives because we are using our will power to manipulate every event and person around us.
Page 74

His lesson, which I had begun to learn for myself, is that outside circumstances do not define our internal experience if we can surrender into them. Painful or undesirable situations will always arise; true suffering comes from our ego’s desire to resist life as it is.
Page 77

Note from Pernilla:
I met Abdi in the fall of 2014 and when I arrived in his office the first thing he said was, “It’s time that you stop carrying other people’s anxiety.” In the year that followed, my entrenched codependency patterns reared their ugly heads and I was confronted with a part of myself that I had never even known was there.

A few years later, Abdi said, “When are you going to start writing your book?”I looked at him in surprise. I was not a writer. My expertise was centered around creating crazy good Excel spreadsheets. However, I started writing and collecting notes about life issues and life experiences … and here we are a few years later.

Sally Kempton is a preeminent meditation teacher of our time.

She is an expert scholar in Hinduism and all Hindu texts especially in Kashmir Shaivisim. Formerly Swami Durgananda, she left monastic life in the 1980’s to teach publicly. She has written several books and is one of the most known and loved spiritual teachers in our time.

Note from Pernilla:

I met Sally at one of her workshops at City Yoga in LA in 2003. She had the most gentle and loving disposition, and I just wanted to always be around her. I was fortunate to have been part of her two year-long “Transformative journey” courses in 2006 and 2007 and many retreats ever since. She is the true representation of unconditional love and transmits intense shakti from her Guru Swami Muktananda.

Sally is the primary building block and foundation in my spiritual journey. Without her, I would have never found and stuck with meditation – the most transformative experience of my life. Without her, I would have been lost without a clue where to go next. Her wealth of knowledge of yogic philosophy and incredible understanding of the human condition is what makes her a force to be reckoned with.  She understands your depth and makes you feel seen, heard, validated, and deeply loved.