Surrender: The Practice of Ego Relaxation

Just sit there right now.
Don’t do a thing.
Just rest.
For your separation from God
Is the hardest work in this world.
Let me bring you trays of food
And something
That you like to drink.
You can use my soft words
As a cushion
For your


Surrender is the heart of all spiritual paths. It is what brings all four dimensions of Grace alive. Yet our culture equates surrender with defeat, losing, giving up to another ego will: “Okay, I surrender! You win!” Perhaps you are willing to surrender, sincerely desiring transformation from entrenched ego patterns and reactions. Yet surrender is often misunderstood as trying to amputate the frustrating habits of your personality that you think should not be there.

Surrender is the great conundrum of the spiritual path because the self who is trying to surrender is the one blocking the way. How then can we authentically yield into the ground of Grace?

Ego Relaxation, Not Ego Annihilation

To live into the promises of awakening, we must somehow turn the hard chunk of ice that is our ego fixation back into the fluid state of its origin. Up until very recently, most spiritual teachings, in both the East and the West, have been given from a masculine perspective. This has often lent itself to a macho approach of hacking away at our ego tendencies, like taking an axe to the ice. While this might break the ego down, it is hard work and can easily turn into aggression toward our humanity in the name of awakening. Ego annihilation engenders fear, creates unnecessary resistance, and can even build a more spiritualized ego, strengthening the delusion that you are in charge of the show. While dedication, rigor, and discipline are important, so too are compassion, mercy, kindness, and, most of all, love.

Consider how the fundamental substance of ice is still water, even though it may be hard, opaque, and dense. So too at the deepest level is your ego still part of the divine fabric of God—just frozen in fixed patterns and ignorant of its holiness. Understanding this nondual principle helps you recognize there is no enemy and thus nothing that needs to be hacked away. Rumi explained it when he said, “Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself.” True surrender is really a process of melting, yielding back into our primordial condition.

Just as the warmth of the sun will naturally transform the hard block of ice back to its original fluid state of water, exposing your dense, fixated patterns to the presence of loving awareness will melt the distortions. You don’t do the melting; Grace does that. Your part is learning to just be here, right where you are, relaxing the usual attempts to do something, get somewhere, become different, seek for something other, and relinquish what you believe should not be there. Your job is to be present and undefended, facing everything, while ceasing and desisting your efforts to rearrange yourself. This is the practice of ego relaxation.

Ego Relaxation Is Both a Transmission and a Practice

The transmission of ego relaxation provides a much-needed vacation from your story, silencing that bad radio station in your mind. Like a Zen koan, “Be nothing, do nothing, get nothing, become nothing, seek for nothing, relinquish nothing. Be as you are. Rest in God,” interrupts your frantic ego grasping and rejecting. It invites your separate self, which has forgotten that it is being lived and moved by the Grace of the universe, to submit to the true master: the vast heart. Yet ego relaxation is not just a beautiful state of Grace, it is also a potent practice of ongoing surrender.

Ego relaxation asks for your commitment to being present while meeting your direct experience fully, without trying to make it different. You might feel relieved to hear that Grace does not ask you to fix yourself or amputate anything. It does not ask you to fulfill some ideal of perfection; it just asks you to be here and relax your defenses. Perhaps you feel relieved: “Thank God. I am so exhausted by all that hard work.” Or perhaps you feel disbelief: “How could this possibly help me get past my bad habits?” Often, we do not trust that transformation can happen without punitive treatment and a ton of effort. Could surrender really be this simple?

Be Present and Open to Everything

Ego relaxation is indeed very simple because it is ultimately not something you do; it is something that you allow. However, it takes discipline to drop out of your mind and be present, letting your defenses relax. It also requires courage, for it will mean allowing vulnerable feelings and then doing nothing to cover them over, change, or fix them. This is how you get out of the way. Once you learn that you will not die from feeling hurt, fear, anger, disappointment, or any manner of things, you become more surrendered. You discover that what actually surrenders is not technically you. Rather, it is your self-image, who you have taken yourself to be, that gives way. Then you naturally forgive your ego, yet without pandering to it. This means that the deeper truth in you “wins.” Your wisdom can pour forth in ways that help and heal.

Adapted from The Way of Grace by Miranda Macpherson (Sounds True, 2018).

Miranda Macpherson, author of The Way of Grace and Boundless Love, and founder of OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation and the Living Grace Community, teaches an integrated and feminine approach to nondual realization.

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