Tiffany’s Take: The Lesson

Tiffany’s Take: The Lesson
Image by adifferentbrain via Flickr Creative Commons

By Tiffany A. Potter

Someone recently asked me what the biggest, most profound, most life-changing lesson is that I have learned, to date. Which was curious to me given that I had just (“just” as in, days before) written in my journal about this very thing.

In the last decade that I have been on my mindful path of self-discovery, going forth in trying to answer life’s big questions that could appease my unending curiosity (ya know, “Why am I here?”, What’s life’s purpose?”, “Is there truly a reason for everything?”, “Am I am who I am or am I here to change?”, etc.) I’ve struggled. As I suppose we’re all supposed to do. I mean, evolving isn’t supposed to be easy, right? But the one concept that always challenged me, the one word whose definition I couldn’t receive and feel in my bones let alone successfully apply to my life, was the idea of Surrendering (capital “S”). It’s a word that I heard every single spiritual teacher say time and time again. Surrender… All you have to do is Surrender… Just surrender.

And there have been times that I was sure that I got what they meant, that I was so dialed in to this concept that I was so on the right path. “Learned the Lesson of Surrendering?” Check! Now I could move on to the next big life lesson, check that one off of my list, and keep going.

The problem was, speaking honestly, I wasn’t as dialed in with this concept as I had wanted to believe. To surrender to something that I really really (like, really) wanted actually meant that I was still white-knuckling the idea of letting go. I would play this silly little reindeer game with Mother Universe of which I’m quite sure she got a chuckle out of it and of me. I would do what I was told I should do…I meditated, I held the vision of my wish or desire, I spoke of it in grateful terms as if it had already come true, I would give it all that I had (read: I would still try to control the situation and outcome), and then be pissed off when “it” wouldn’t happen or come to fruition. But, sonofabitch, I held the vision! The universe hates me was clearly the only conclusion I could come up with.

Frustrated that, once again, what I wanted didn’t work out I was completely flummoxed. What was I doing wrong? Nothing? Everything? Did my way of “surrendering” just need tweaking and I couldn’t see it?

Then one rather random, unspecial, seemingly unamazing, day it dawned on me—there were times that I had done it correctly, I was just unable to dissect what it was that I had done differently, I couldn’t see it for the longest time. But the truth was that I had surrendered— properly—and my life was better for it. It was a fluke, but it still worked. I had taken baby steps in my evolution and the way to surrender had been right in front of me all along. I had cracked the code. I had uncovered the magic. I had seen the man behind the green curtain. It was, in fact, this very moment that altered my life. It was as if Mother Universe had handed me a glowing gold ball of peace to carry with me everywhere that I go from that moment on.

Here’s the secret (that I wish someone had told me but that I know I had to learn on my own): to surrender means that you know you’ll be okay whether it (whatever “it” is to you) happens doesn’t. Whatever the outcome you trust that it will serve your best interest. You identify what it is that you want or wish for, you meditate, you hold the vision, you speak about it to those who will handle your dreams with compassion and support, and then you detach, continuing on with your personal adventure of simultaneously hustling and resting. You release it. Without a set time that you want, or need, it to happen. Let it go. Carry on. Keep moving forward.

Here’s why this was so hard for me to wrap my brain around, it is fundamentally my nature to be controlling. I have always known this about myself, and going through my divorce only exacerbated the problem. The bottom completely dropped out from under me in a way that I had never experienced before, and I swore to myself that I would never allow that to happen again. It was, at the time, proof that no one was really reliable and I was the only one in my life who would take care of me. So, I am most comfortable when I feel as though I am in control of surroundings, my reality, my future, my opportunities. I struggle with the concept that “no one can do this better; I know how it should be done and I know that if, given the chance, I’ll do it better than anyone.”

Happily, I have learned to release the need to control the people around me (who wants to be around someone like that), but I was so sure that if I went after what I wanted so fiercely, so much more than anyone else, that surely I would be the one to get “it.” The truth is, it was my pride, my ego, that was driving this train I call my life.

There’s an old Buddhist quote that says, “Relax. Nothing is in control.” And there is such a freedom in truly knowing that to one’s very core. I once believed that if I wasn’t able to control my destiny that I would fall off the edge of the world. My world would crumble, I would be lost, wandering around aimlessly with no real compass. If I “just let things happen” then what would I do with myself ? I couldn’t reconcile this concept of really, honestly letting go—until I did.

Once the light bulb came on it was as if everything in my life prior to, came into sharp focus. I realized that everything, and I mean everything, wonderful that had/has come to me in my life came to me via “hustle and surrender” (my phrase, but you’re more than welcome to use it). I knew/know, at the core of my being what I want in my life so I work hard toward the goals, I put myself out there for love, I commit to doing and giving my absolute very best. But I equally surrender to the outcome, knowing that whatever happens is for my ultimate best (it’s happening for me, not to me). I detach. So I didn’t get that job/gig/car/ house/friend/love—that I swore was the love of my life who would cure all of the heartache, rejection and ailments that came before him if—it’s okay. I know that I did my best, and whatever happens from there will only prove to be better for me in the long run even if it initially feels like a loss or a setback.

At the end of the day, we have absolutely no control over anything outside of our own evolution and how we react to the world around us. But we can do our best and then know (trust!) for certain that we will be absolutely okay, no matter the outcome.

And remember this, fellow lovers of control, if we could control everything then there’d be no room for the universe to surprise us. A lifetime with no great surprises? No thank you.

“Remember, that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”

—Dalai Lama


Tiffany is a disability consultant, entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and change agent. Find her at on Instagram: Tiffanys_Take.columnist or Twitter: T_Tcolumnist.


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    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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