For the greater part of my life I participated in the rat race. I believed in “ambition” as a core value, I strove to be the best in everything I did, I thrived in competition, and I didn’t take “no” for an answer. Having grown up in a Middle Eastern society that repressed my rights as a woman and my voice as a progressive, I believed that I had to fight to control everything in my life, from what I was allowed to study, to what I wanted to wear. I believed that being a warrior was perhaps my greatest asset.
When I left my homeland with my family at age 19, we were smuggled across many borders, robbed, and abandoned. We lived in refugee camps in Austria and worked hard to move to the United States. Upon arriving here, I quickly assimilated and subscribed to the American Dream. I was going to make it in this country and reclaim all that I had lost and much more; I was a warrior after all. I finally had control over my destiny and had all that was required to find security, happiness, peace, and joy! …or so I thought…
Many years later, I was on a solid trajectory to claim my share of the American Dream. I had the education, the drive, and a great career in the tech startup world. But as I climbed up the corporate ladder, earned more money, traveled to exotic destinations, drove the luxury car, and had all the comforts I had ever wanted, something deep inside of me wasn’t truly satisfied, happy, or in peace. I was living a fast-paced and stressful lifestyle and it seemed like the more I earned, the more I had to work to keep up. Somehow none of it translated into more happiness. It wasn’t long before my body gave out in an act of protest, and I was crippled with chronic pain.
In the course of the next three years I exhausted all of my resources in search of a cure – to no avail. I came to realize that not only was I not in control of my destiny, but all that I had worked so hard to accomplish was of no use to me as long as I was in pain. My warrior spirit was defeated beyond words. As I found myself drowning in the sorrows of defeat, I found a sweet new refuge called “surrender” that kept me afloat. Surrender was an alien concept to a warrior like me. As I learned to embraced this state of surrender to pain, many more layers of surrender unveiled before me. Through the next few months, I was ushered into a mind blowing journey to the depths of surrender. Surrender not just to pain, but to all of life; my sense of control over my destiny unravelled before my eyes in the most poetic and magnificent way.
Surrender is a lot like floating on water: effortless, liberating, and peaceful. But in order to float, you have to get over the fear of letting go, or you will drown. Little did I know that the moment I embraced the pain I was given, I would stop drowning, and new portals would open, leading me to heal my chronic pain. In surrender, I found a level of control that I hadn’t found in my life up until this point: the control over how my life experiences impact my inner peace. This was perhaps the greatest spiritual teaching from the three years I spent suffering from chronic pain. Mind…. Blown….
The most beautiful thing about this experience is that I get to carry this magic of surrender into other parts of my life. Regaining my health was like a new birth in many ways, perhaps best expressed in the way I’ve embraced and integrated the practice of surrender into other parts of my life. Accepting “what is” has proven to be the simplest path to cultivate the peace, joy, and happiness I’ve always sought. And as for the warrior, the warrior decided to go into early retirement, turns out she wasn’t in control after all….