Surrender and Patience


Like an old tree, deeply rooted and yet abandoned to the elements, we ecstatic contemplatives are drawn to let go of our worldly ambitions.

To the extent that our worldly ambitions wane, we are increasingly compelled to plug ourselves into the light-socket of self-arising bliss, joy and ecstasy, repeating this act over and over and over again… through many lifetimes, perhaps… until we realize that this is the only ambition worth pursuing.

How does one arrive at this realization?

Patience, Grasshopper….

* * *

When certain signs of absorption manifested in me during the early 90’s, it took several years to understand what was happening.

During those several years, it became clear that any previously-held expectations I’d had to become someone in the world had evaporated.

I was not going to become a Protestant Christian minister, as my father, his father and several other men in my family heritage had done.

I was not going to rise through the ranks in the music industry, despite the very real possibility that this trajectory would evolve.

I was not going to go back to school for a graduate degree, thereby borrowing time until a profession presented itself.

Knowing this — that worldly ambitions no longer interested me — did not initially bring peace or tranquility. Instead, I lived with the nagging sense that something was wrong with me. Should I not be working my ass off, buying a home, raising a family and saving for retirement?

The signs of absorption, meanwhile, were leaving me in a persistent state of bliss, joy and ecstasy. Without the benefit of human guidance, I meditated ten hours a day for a year or so… and then the pace dropped to an hour or two a day for weeks and months at a time, followed by sporadic meditation for another stretch (as I heeded the admonitions of various neo-advaita teachers who insisted that meditation is just a “diversion from what is”). Time passed during this “on the fence” phase, and I did the best I could.

Finally, a year or two into the new millennium, having connected with human teachers who guided me to meditation retreats and offered encouragement, my practice solidified into a true sadhana, and the signs of absorption stabilized into a constant state of saturation.

After another little while — on February 1, 2005, to be precise — I committed to a lifetime of rigorous and skillful meditation, come hell or high water. I built my worldly existence around practice, and I’ve seen my “day job” as a way to support this practice ever since.

By virtue of this formal commitment, I learned this: Not until I was ready to make a lifetime’s commitment to my practice, and was able to spend about nine months integrating a rigorous and skillful practice into my daily routine, did I begin to understand the importance of total surrender supported by die-hard patience.

Until the qualities of surrender and patience are firmly established, the contemplative is operating at a profound disadvantage.

The contemplative who has not come to the point of surrender, and who does not have the patience to stick with his or her practice for as long as it takes, is bound to be dismounted from his or her practice.

Without surrender and patience, the contemplative will inevitably compromise with his or her deepest longing, chasing the tail of ego-identity for Lord knows how long.

* * *

Have you not, since childhood, periodically come into a sense of the transcendent? A sense of something greater than your little self, some Intelligence tying this whole multi-dimensional play field together? Did you never play the “who am I, behind all this” game?

If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, then you know what it is to which we offer our surrender.

When it slowly dawned on me that, by God I am a jhana yogi and this is what my life was always angling toward — when I finally admitted to myself that an ego-identity chasing its own tail will never deliver true satisfaction or resolution — there was nothing left but to surrender to the divine energy that, in retrospect, has been guiding me throughout this entire lifetime.

My head, as the saying goes, is now in the tiger’s mouth.

There is no going back.


12 responses to “Surrender and Patience

  1. Hello Michael, I enjoyed reading another piece of your brilliant writing. When you wrote “To the extent that our worldly ambitions wane, we are increasingly compelled to plug ourselves into the light-socket of self-arising bliss, joy and ecstasy, repeating this act over and over and over again…” I was reminded of the moth and how it flies right into a campfire. I believe the moth’s suicide by fire, or light bulb, serves as an excellent metaphor for the mystic, who is compelled to complete annihilation in the ecstasies of absorption. We care not for name, fame, power, wealth or relationship. We just want the ecstasies and that is all.

    Love to all, jhananda

  2. Can you elaborate on the ‘signs of absorption’?

  3. Excellent metaphor, Jeffrey. Wish I’d thought of it myself!

    And thanks for the kind words….


  4. Hello pochp,

    You’ll notice that the first use of that phrase, “signs of absorption,” is a link to an essay on jhana nimittas. You could do no better than to read that essay, as it gives an exhaustive treatment of the subject.

    Briefly, however, when we refer to signs of absorption, we’re talking about charismatic phenomena that typically arise through rigorous meditation practice — although they’ve been known to emerge spontaneously, for no known reason. In the practice tradition to which I belong, we use these phenomena as the object of meditation, as they typically lead to deepening levels of absorption.

    Thanks for commenting here — good to have you.


  5. Thanks Michael. I wish to reach ‘absorption’ in meditation too.

  6. Lovely…

    An important reflection on the matter: we must be rigorous to observe when this gesture of surrender becomes yet another ego manipulation…has our need for a new Mercedes transformed into a need for spiritual ecstacy? Has our workoholic habits aimed at earning a bigger bonus transformed in rigorous spiritual practice aimed at earning a spiritual bigger bonus…

    Are we simply the same person with the same obsessions and attachments, but simply with a different costume?

    I certainlly catch myself doing just that!

    Surrender may mean letting go of enlightnement, spiritual ecstacy, and the whole spiritual “package.”

    Perhaps liberation and bliss can remain when we simply remain authentic and truthful; maybe that includes having worldly ambitions.

    God Michael, see what your post do to me…you got me going on and on…

  7. Hello Momo, and thank you for the thoughtful comment. Much appreciated.

    I will just say a couple of things. First, the Buddha himself said on several occasions (and I am sorry, but I don’t have Nikaya links at the moment — I will look for them) that the the one and only desire that should be pursued is the cultivation of jhana. Why would he say that?

    Which leads to my second point: meditative absorption (jhana/samadhi) is precisely the agent for uprooting obstacles on the path of liberation — including the obstacle of the path itself. The energy that manifests as jhana/samadhi is precisely what is needed for skillful and fruitful meditation — otherwise we’re just playing mind games, which is no different than an ego-identity chasing its tail. Surrendering to meditative absorption, then, is the one act that will actually bring meaningful transformation — and it happens in a self-arising manner, almost despite our individual efforts to follow a particular technique, etc.

    So, your gentle warning is a familiar one, but (respectfully) it should not stop us from becoming saturated in meditative absorption and using this as our platform for practice. It’s one of those things where, unless you’ve done it, you probably won’t be convinced, so strong is the orthodox attitude toward cultivation of meditative absorption.

    Many blessings,

  8. “When it slowly dawned on me that, by God I am a jhana yogi and this is what my life was always angling toward — when I finally admitted to myself that an ego-identity chasing its own tail will never deliver true satisfaction or resolution — there was nothing left but to surrender to the divine energy that, in retrospect, has been guiding me throughout this entire lifetime.”

    I like what you wrote. Briefly, somehow I have this feeling that my life have been compelled into this path in which I have no regrets. It’s interesting how one’s life can change. Like you , I have virtually no ambitions at all and slowly but surely I am becoming more detached. Like to read more of your writings. Good work

  9. Becoming saturated in meditative absorbtion sounds like “the” thing to do, if you ask me…what I’m saying is that we should observe our motivations and emotional charge associated with it so that it doesn’t become another one of those mind games.

    Overall it sounds like you have a powerful and deep experience with it…I guess that is the indication that what you do must be well aligned and right. I hope to hear more about it as you go along.

  10. Hello dear friend Sam,

    Yes, you are a kindred spirit and I am so gratified to have met you through the magic of the Internet.

    In my next comment to Momo, I’ll have something to say about the diminishing of ambition.

    Thank you for your kind words.


  11. Hello again new friend Momo,

    Thanks for your follow-up clarification. I take your words as wise reminders, and appreciate your willingness to “run them up the flagpole.”

    I wanted to say one more thing about ambition, coming from an experiential point of view.

    When I say that I have no ambitions, or that my conditioned ambitions have all but fallen away, this does not mean that I will now sit quivering in a corner with a thumb in my mouth, awaiting Nibbana. In fact, a whole new world of experience seems to be flowing forth from this practice. As jhana does its “whittling down” work, an openness to working with others within the context of practice seems to be evolving. In a few minutes I am going to a coffee shop to meet someone about a teaching gig at an archetypal psychotherapy school, and I will be offering my services specifically from the perspective of a jhana yogi. Also, right here in our international community of ecstatic contemplatives, I find myself be drawn into a more active role as a member of the teaching faculty at the GWV. It’s all just opening up — no resumes, no work applications, no poring over the classified ads. Through surrender and patience, life is being lived through me in ways I could never before have imagined… and it’s good.

    Wonderful to have you here!


  12. Wow. I truly appreciate you writing this essay and look forward to more. I have just begun my journey into meditative absorption and just joined this group. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us, Michael.

    in love,


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