Developmental Pressure and Surrender
Mary Surrendering to the Devine
No matter what we look at, from a human being, to an organization, a country, the planet or even the universe, things arise, seemingly from nothing, they move toward the complete expression of their unique potential, and then they fall back into peace. So everything’s always in movement from nothing to completion, and then whatever the energy was that started the movement returns to stillness.
The unique potential of anything is always a mystery. We can never know what it is until it’s been expressed, but we often know when we’re aligned with it because we feel a greater flow of energy, the sense that we’re ‘where we belong’ despite the difficulties and even the quality of joy.
Simpler animals don’t have a problem with this, but we have the capacity to choose what we want to express or become. And we usually choose what we prefer, which often has to do with pleasure or pain. I don’t think the choice for pleasure is necessarily a problem, but when we choose to avoid discomfort we’re almost always in trouble.
There’s an innate intelligence in life, an ability to adapt in ways that ensure survival. That’s why we don’t put our hand on a hot stove more than once. It’s why we have fear and anger and desire.
But by the time life develops conscious self-awareness, the capacity to prefer one kind of experience over another acquires real muscle. We recognize what feels painful or humiliating or ‘makes me afraid’ and usually we seek to avoid those experiences. This is hard wired.
And yet, what is it we feel whenever we grow or reach for anything new—like taking a new job, falling in love, or, say, speaking in public about what really matters? Among other things, we feel fear, pain and even humiliation. And if we say ‘no’ to experiences that result in our feeling those things, we stop whatever Life wants to be expressed through us.
Now, Life doesn’t really care about our feeling these things, it just wants to flourish, to grow and become ‘more’. And because the movement of growth in life always includes some degree of fear and pain and sorrow, we experience Life wanting what it wants as a kind of pressure, what I call developmental pressure. Turning away from this pressure is one of the most potent forces in the way of whatever’s trying to emerge, both through us and our culture.
This would be a force even if we had the most loving parents or grew up in communities that actually looked after our well-being and stood by our side as we faced into the great mysteries of adolescence, adulthood and death.
And what’s more, when we turn away from developmental pressure, because we want to avoid these feelings, the most important thing to us—the organizing principal of our lives if you will—becomes what we don’t want. If we don’t want to experience waking up with fear in the gut at 3:00 in the morning—if avoiding that is the most important thing to us—we’re not going to commit to standing up in public and speaking that which really matters. And we’ll end up taking a pass on developing that capacity.
But if we commit to discovering what Life wants from us, then that 3:00 AM fear is something to simply find a way to be with. We’ll find a way to ‘surrender’ our hope to avoid the kind of pain we might face for the sake of what lies on the other side of that experience.
Turning away from whatever experience we don’t want is what ‘stuck’ is all about: it doesn’t happen to us, it’s something we actually have to do. Whatever the reason, if we intend to avoid those discomforts we’ll say ‘no’ to the movement of Life through us and instead of having a possibility in our future, we’ll be condemned to repeat the past. And the past, then, becomes our destiny.