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 …