The Key to Surrender: A Life Lesson from a Puppy


I’ve been thinking a lot of about the idea of surrender. What it means. What it is, what it isn’t. I didn’t start out with an intention to explore surrender. But the signs that I needed to explore the idea were everywhere. In my social media streams, on my bookcase – the messages felt like they were hitting me over the head. “You need to understand how to surrender.” To what I'm not sure, but I figured – "Ok then Universe. I know how to take a hint."

Or at least I thought I did.

I was watching my puppy. This 7-month old bundle of exuberance and symbol of abundance fell asleep right before my eyes and taught me what I think may become the key to understanding surrender.

But first, what is surrender?

Merriam-Webster defines surrender as:

1a :  to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand surrendered the fort b :  to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another 2a :  to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner b :  to give (oneself) over to something (as an influence)

I’ve got a different take.

Surrender is not about giving up or giving in. To me, to surrender is to be aware of resistance and then allowing yourself to release into it instead of away from. 

Think about it. Most of us feel resistance in our mind or body and try to ignore it or make it go away. In many cases, that tension – be it figurative or literal – comes back eventually. Sometimes even stronger.  But to surrender, we practice a deep type of acceptance.

Surrender is pro-active rather than reactive.

I love what Michael Singer writes about surrender in his book, The Surrender Experiment.

Surrender means being "brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown."

And while we could probably take a very deep dive into all things surrender related, I realized there is a crucial element to even being ABLE to surrender as I watched my puppy. And that crucial element might be even more important than thinking about what it is I am surrendering to. 

Life lesson from a puppy

If you’ve ever watched a puppy, you know that they are going-going-going one moment, and then plopping down into a deep sleep the next. It would seem that they can release – or surrender – at the drop of a hat.

But as I watched Jupiter, I realized that he didn’t just plop down anywhere. His surrender is always supported. By a piece of furniture, by a wall or door and even by the side of a human leg or foot. Even if he falls asleep in an open space, at some point he rolls over to a spot where there is physical support.

As I started to notice this pattern, it started to hit me. What if they key to surrender was to have support? Physical support, emotional support – knowing that figuratively and literally you can release your resistance because someone or something has your back.

And what if not only does one need support to be able to surrender, but one has to TRUST.

Because acknowledging the importance of support is very different than trusting you are supported. And this is where my eyes really opened up.

The key to surrender

Jupiter can release and surrender because he feels the support. The love. The nurturing. The connection.

The idea of trust – in yourself and in others – does not always come easy. Or at least, it has not been an easy process for me. I’ve struggled to trust myself, my worth and my relationships or connection to others. I was never good at asking for help when I was sick because I wanted to be able to do it all myself. Later in life I learned to be self-sufficient and independent when I divorced my first husband and had to learn how to lean on and accept that it was ok to need someone else when I got remarried.

It was not until I looked into the eyes of a horse last fall that I realized that I have to trust more if I want to truly be seen by myself and others. (That is a whole other story for another day.)

And now, my labradoodle puppy was teaching me that trust and support are even more important than I’d realized.

I’m not a mathematician, but the equation looks something like this:

Trust + Support = Surrender

Yes, you can surrender with your breath. You can surrender by letting go. You can practice acceptance of what is in the moment.

But to truly release resistance to the tension that lives deep within your soul, you actually need to BELIEVE that you are supported by a foundation that starts within from inside you and is strengthened by your relationships, your life – and ultimately, from the universe.

Everything starts and finishes with trust. With support. With connection.

To your essential self. To those that you love. And to the universe.

Imagine if you could notice resistance and tension and then release into it – fully, madly, deeply – trusting that the universe had your back.

How lovely would that be?