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The highest aim of any spiritual path is surrender. Although you may associate the word surrender with defeat or weakness, it is the most powerful spiritual action, offering you infinite freedom and possibilities. Surrender is trusting that God, the Universe, or a higher intelligence can accomplish anything, even when you can’t foresee the outcome of a situation.
At the level of spirit, everything is always unfolding perfectly, and you don’t have to struggle or force situations to go your way. It is only your ego-mind that believes you are an isolated individual trying to survive in a hostile world. In truth, you are a spiritual being. When you surrender to Spirit and listen to voice of your deeper intelligence, you end the struggle. You free yourself from fear and doubt and release the obstacles your ego has created.
The entire spiritual path could be described as learning to let go, but letting go all at once isn’t possible. This is a path of many small steps, a process of replacing automatic reactions with deepened awareness. Here are the guidelines along the path that have proved effective for me personally and that I feel will work for many people:
1. Know your intentions.
Your destiny is to move in the direction of your soul, and the fuel that makes destiny move is intention. Each day, have the intention to let go a little bit more, closing the gap of separation that in only a delusion of the ego. Also unmask your false intentions, which take the form of guilty desires: I want someone else to fail. I want to get even. I want to take something that’s not my own.
False intentions can be elusive, but you can recognize them by the feeling-tone they carry, including fear, greed, rage, hopelessness, and weakness. Sense the feeling first, refuse to buy into it, and then remain aware until you find the intention lurking beneath.
2. Set your intentions high.
Aim to be a saint and a miracle worker. Why not? If you know that the goal of inner growth is to acquire mastery, then ask for that mastery as soon as possible. Don’t strain to work wonders, but don’t deny them to yourself either. The beginning of mastery is vision; see the miracles around you, and that will make it easier for greater miracles to grow.
3. See yourself in the light.
The ego keeps its grip by making you feel needy and powerless. From this sense of lack grows a hunger to acquire everything in sight. Money, power, sex, and pleasure are supposed to fill up the emptiness, but they never do. You can escape this painful illusion if you see yourself in the light. The only difference between you and a saint is that your light is small and a saint’s is great. You are both of the light.
4. See everyone else in the light.
Everyone lives in the same light. When you are tempted to judge another human being, no matter how obviously he or she deserves it, remind yourself that everyone is doing the best he or she can from his or her own level of consciousness.
5. Reinforce your intentions every day.
Everyday life is a kind of swirling chaos, and the ego is entrenched in its demands. You need to remind yourself, day in and day out, of your spiritual purpose. Some people find it helpful to write down their intentions; for others, periods of regular meditation and prayer are useful. Find your center, look closely at yourself and do not let go of your intention until it feels centered inside yourself.
6. Forgive yourself.
We all fall into traps of selfishness and delusions when we least expect it. The chance remark that wounds, the careless lie, and the irresistible urge to cheat are universal. Forgive yourself for being where you are. Apply the same dictum to yourself that you apply to others: I am doing the best that I can from my own level of consciousness. I like one spiritual master’s definition of the perfect disciple: “One who is always stumbling but never falls."
7. Learn to let go.
The paradox of being spiritual is that you are always wrong and always right at the same time. You are right to try to know God, but you are wrong to think that things won’t change tomorrow. Every stage of inner growth is good and is nurtured by God, but when it’s time to move on, don’t hesitate to let go.
8. Revere what is holy.
You may have been brought up to be skeptical of the sacred. In our society, few people spend much time delving into the world’s great wealth of scripture. But the saints and human representatives of God are an infinite treasure. Dipping into this treasure will help you open your heart. The words of a saint or sage might be the right fertilizer at just the moment when your soul wants to blossom.
9. Allow Spirit to lead.
Most people are addicted to worry, control, micromanagement, and doubt. Resist the temptation to follow these tendencies. Don’t listen to the voice that says you have to be in charge, that constant vigilance is the only way to get anything done. Instead, let Spirit try a new way and be willing to experiment. Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow opportunities to come your way. The outcome you are trying so hard to force may not be as good for you as the one that comes naturally.
10. Embrace the unknown.
Over the years, you have formed likes and dislikes and learned to accept certain limits. None of this is the real you. You can’t force the real you to emerge all at once, however. Because it is painful to strip away the thick layers of illusion, you have to allow the soul to reveal itself in its own time.
Be assured that the unknown is awaiting you – one that has nothing to do with the “I” you already know. The part of you that you know is the part that flickers out all too fast. When you feel a new impulse, an uplifting thought, an insight that you have never acted upon before, embrace the unknown. Cherish it as tenderly as a newborn baby. God lives in the unknown, and when you can embrace it fully, you will be free.
Deepak Chopra, M.D is the author of more than 65 books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His medical training is in internal medicine and endocrinology, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and an adjunct professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He is also a Distinguished Executive Scholar at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, and a Senior Scientist at the Gallup organization.