Unbearable Surrender

Unbearable Surrender

Sometimes life brings us a challenge that is fierce. It can be a deep sadness or an agonising truth, and it can induce absolute helplessness.

This helplessness is not about fear, and it’s not about passivity, it’s about feeling, and settling somehow, into an unbearable surrender to what is.

Whether this helplessness has arisen from life circumstances, or through the ongoing practice of mindful awareness meditation which can expose things deeply hidden, being held in a safe space whilst experiencing this apparently insurmountable pain and anguish, is incredibly helpful.

As a mindfulness practitioner, holding a safe space with the right attitude and compassion for the distressed person, can be both challenging and healing to us both.


Yes, when someone is in such degree of agony there is an internal struggle to overcome our own protection barriers to be open enough so that we can ‘be with’ them. Open enough to sit calmly near yet deal with our mind as it wrestles with the uncomfortability of not immediately ‘helping’, not speaking to push back or stop what is going on, regardless of our internal drive to ‘do something’.

We too must experience this helplessness, and face a smaller, unbearable surrender. To let it be.

Apart from settling the mind we can also open the heart, again challenging in this situation, but it is this openness, this willingness simply to ‘be with’ them, that will ultimately help the person who is suffering.

As we sit quietly by, things may be said ‘It hurts so much …’ ‘I’m so scared … ’ this underlines the uncomfortable truth, the truth that we cannot control life.

In time something else may be said that is an opening for a gentle question. For me that once came when a person in an unbearable surrender situation said “Oh please, I just want this pain to go away …’ it was an entry to hold their hand and quietly enquire about their pain. This, in turn, opened a conversation that allowed the person to form a new relationship with what was causing so much pain.

By becoming aware of what she was experiencing, she was able to see things from a different perspective, allowing her to move into identifying and talking things out rather than suffering within the feeling.

Let’s not underestimate for a moment that for a person to feel this absolute powerlessness is profound. It takes courage to look, be with, and accept this great loss to our control of life, our sense of self, and our ego. 

And yet it is, in the end, most  strengthening and liberating.

Being aware of the situation rather than within a state of mind or feeling, allows us to perceive the dissolvable, impermanent way of things.

If even for a moment, this perception can lead to true liberation.

The presence of an open and non-judgemental other, silently invites a person in pain into the ‘safe space’ held, and allows them the freedom to move into the territory of their pain, and explore it.

Awareness of self and ‘being with’ another can be a first step to processing an agonising truth – the unbearable surrender, made just a little more bearable.

Being open to the joys and the sorrows of life, and the surrender to the impermance of life, is deeply connective to life itself.

Sometimes surrender just means becoming comfortable with the unknown.



Access helpful mindful awareness meditations here …


Firm Focus, Soft Gaze

Firm Focus, Soft Gaze

Ways of developing a firm focus, and soft gaze.

In Vipassana meditation, we open ourselves in a wide awareness of senses, with a soft mental gaze that allows us to notice whatever is happening. If something catches our attention, we then turn toward whatever it is – thought, sound, sensation, emotion and, with gentle curiosity, investigate it.

With the soft gaze of vipassana meditation a special vulnerability and openness develops that facilitates insight, acceptance, and compassion.

In a meditation that has a firm focus, for example a specific focus on the breath or sounds, when something else catches our attention, we note/acknowledge it, then allow whatever it is to fall into the background of our attention, allowing our focus to remain firm on the chosen object.

A focused meditation helps develop resilience, fortitude, and builds a form of mental clarity.

Recently speaking to someone in the throes of fear, I wondered which way they would choose to go, softly opening to it, or acknowledging it and gently but firmly letting it go.

Both ways of working with fear, or whatever else arises, are open to us all the time, the trick is to start at the same point, acknowledgement of what is present in you.

In our busy everyday life if something has triggered a negative thinking pattern or emotional reaction, we are operating on autopilot or under the motivations of the amygdala.

But, if we can learn to be aware of when our thinking changes, or our emotions rise, the very act of noticing, of acknowledgement is enough to bring the pre frontal cortex into play allowing the ability to consciously think and choose which direction to go.

There are many books and meditations available to help develop both the clarity of firm focus and the insight of soft gaze, including how to navigate challenging emotions and re wire mental patterns as you begin to uncover your unique triggers and motivations.

Right now is always a good time to start – so why not check out our awareness and working with challenging emotions meditations  in Health and Well-Being.