Surrender is a fine art that, like any art, requires practice and patience, particularly given the power we’ve already surrendered to our personal will in a vain attempt at flow control. The river has its own destination and will not be dammed. We can choose to relax and float or struggle and sink. The only difference is in how much suffering we will have to endure. -Robert Riversong
How many times have you said, “I WILL do this, I WILL make it happen!”? Lawyers are known for their ability to get things done. We can be bulldozers, even when it stresses us out and takes a toll on those around us. We are strong-willed and proud of it.
Being willful can show up in a lot of ways. For most of us lawyers, it is an invisible, constant companion. If we want something done, we can MAKE it happen. We’re the royal family of Can-Do. We will work the long hours, we will do what it takes.
Even so, sometimes others do not respond as we would like for them to.
I have a lawyer friend who does amazing work. She’s designed a transformational program, hired marketing experts to give herself the very best advice, and she markets herself everywhere she goes. Yet, she doesn’t have the level of business she wants.
Do you remember the insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson, in the movie “Groundhog Day”? Ned accosts people on the street and tries to sell insurance. It is easy to imagine that even people who need insurance run the other way when they see Ned coming. Ned and my friend are trying to make something happen, using their Will in a self-serving way that doesn’t honor the flow of what wants to happen anyway.
A few years ago, I decided it was the year to make something happen. I reached out to some celebrities in other fields – authors, peacemakers, and healers who weren’t lawyers, and who had an international following. We scheduled a series of joint events. They were excited to be better known by lawyers. I was going to reach the lawyers who were already in those more conscious communities. The itinerary: January in California. February in Colorado. March in Chicago. Early April in New York. I left a hole in the schedule for late April and May and I had a teaching gig for the summer. It appeared to be a year that was well-planned.
I went to work. Other people went to work. We worked hard to create websites, marketing campaigns, etc. I have taken all the internet marketing classes, know the tricks, know who to ask for help. We followed all the rules and pushed and pushed, being the good lawyers that we are. We worked long hours, held conference calls at midnight, and pitched everyone we knew. My Will was in full force and it had the company of other lawyers to encourage its full expression.
One by one, the events fell apart or just didn’t work out. My partner for the January event turned out to be someone who wasn’t quite who I thought he was. I attended another program he offered and was sorely disappointed at the content which mostly consisted of how great he was, couldn’t we all see how great he was, we should trust his greatness, and we ought to give him all our money. I ended that association and our joint program did not happen.
The co-leader of the February conference just up and cancelled, without discussion, a few weeks before the event. Everyone who had registered was someone from my community. His name and community contributed nothing, but he was handling the registrations. He just emailed everyone and cancelled. At least he refunded their money. I was left to clean up the mess with the hotel and participants. I spent the next year repairing relationships with the registrants who had made non-refundable airline reservations.
We held the third event which was a financial disaster. Not only did we lose money, I paid more to be there than the participants paid for the workshop, while missing my nephew’s wedding. The chaos of the event harmed a long-term friendship; years later, it is only beginning to recover.
And, with the writing clearly on the wall, the fourth event was cancelled before it added to the mess.
All my Will was wasted. I was exhausted. I was stressed. My resources were depleted. I wasn’t having fun. I was working as hard as I ever had as a full-time lawyer and getting no positive results.
Meanwhile, I’d gotten several spontaneous invitations to speak along the cross-country journey. Columbus, Ohio was one of my favorite places: who’d have guessed? I wouldn’t have known enough to make that one happen. A visiting prof from Down Under invited me to speak to her classes in Ontario. In a synchronistic chain of events, I was interviewed for a podcast by the guy who had just been asked to find a speaker for a conference — they needed a holistic lawyer to give the keynote – in Australia! The dates exactly matched my open dates.
At the end of the year, I was reflecting on the fiasco of failed events. I noticed that those I tried to Will into existence were flops. Those events were focused on making something happen, including making me “famous” by association. The events which I allowed to unfold were much more fun, less work, and generally paid more.
I decided to embrace Surrender.
Several lawyer readers just passed out. A few others have taken up arms. Surrender?!! Never! This was not in the law school curriculum!
Take a deep breath. Maybe two deep breaths.
Surrender is not a bad word. Surrender can be the same as “Go With the Flow.” Rather than fighting the current, I decided to embrace surrender as an experiment, to let my energy go where it wanted to go, and to ignore those demands of what I “should” do to “make” it happen.
Surrender became my practice. I stopped pushing and allowed things to unfold and amazing things did start happening. Not only did I go to Australia that year, I was invited back and I’ve been several times. Soon, I was invited to South Africa for the first of many times. I’ve always dreamed of traveling abroad and I found myself circumnavigating the globe several times over the next years. Amazing serendipitous meetings happened when I listened deeply and aligned with the pulse of life.
I must admit that it can be tricky. I can’t quit every time I hit a rough spot, using the excuse that the Flow isn’t working out. When do I take the barrier as a sign that I should quit or when it means that I have a lesson to learn if I push through some obstacle? My discernment has not always been perfect. I keep practicing.
After spending three years focused on the pure practice of Surrender, it seemed that I had learned enough to move to the next level. I was ready to experiment with my Will again. How could I use those powerful skills in service of the Flow?