Trust, Surrender, and Equanimity (17 December 2021)
Recently a friend was driving me to an appointment and we were talking about our experiences with two aspects of the 12 steps. The first was Step 3 – We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power as we understood It. The second was the first element of the Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
I have found the combination of these two practices to be a very effective way to live in ongoing acceptance of the present moment, just as it is. I remind myself of it constantly throughout the day, whenever anything doesn’t go as I had planned, wanted, or expected, and I am amazed at how the stress over these kinds of situations just vanishes when I, “let go and let God.” I love many of the teachings of Echkart Tolle, who is a master on the topic of present moment acceptance. I’m finding that the combination of these two principles from the 12 steps are making the kind of present moment acceptance Tolle teaches really click and work for me.
As we drove along together, my friend and I talked about how much more peaceful our lives are – how so much stress and suffering are eliminated from our lives, and how much more equanimity we experience – when we approach our day-to-day lives in this way. We were discussing both relatively small annoyances in the grand scheme of things, and larger problems. Examples included things such as the store not having what we want, or having a physical pain we couldn’t get rid of. We talked about how, in moments when things don’t go the way we planned or wanted, accepting what we can’t change and trusting the situation to our Higher brings peaceful equanimity.
Then my friend made a lane change. We had been in the middle of three lanes of traffic headed in the same direction, so altogether in both directions there were six lanes, plus a middle turn lane. As my friend changed lanes into the right lane, we were hit from behind by a very large truck with a trailer. The truck hit our car at such an angle as to cause us to spin in a circle – a full 360 degrees and beyond – before the truck finally stopped and we came to rest against it. As we were spinning I remember thinking that being totally out of control like that on such a busy, multi-lane road, meant that we were probably going to hit multiple cars before we came to rest. Miraculously, we didn’t collide with any other car besides the truck that hit us.
Luckily no one was hurt. My friend and I, and the driver of the truck, got out of our vehicles and waited on the sidewalk for the police to come. As we stood on the sidewalk we both commented, from a place of surprising calm given the situation, that this was just another opportunity to trust everything to our Higher Power and know that things will work out as they’re meant to. We acknowledged that we were both going to have a different experience now than the one we had planned for the day – I wasn’t going to go to my appointment, and my friend was going to deal with a tow truck and the insurance company. And that was completely fine with both of us. There was no problem with this change of plans. The equanimity we had just been talking about before the crash happened was still with us. I’ve been in a few car accidents over my life, but I have never experienced one with the calm, peace, and acceptance that I was experiencing after this one. It really was amazing.
A few days after the accident I was working on this website, and the website builder I was working in froze up. Multiple calls to the provider’s help desk could not resolve the issue, and it ended up being two days before they could figure out the problem on their end and fix it so that I could edit and add to this site again. This was another situation in which things didn’t go as I had wanted or planned, but I experienced complete peace and acceptance by putting these two principles from the 12 steps into practice. I was able to accept that the All (my concept of my Higher Power) meant me to do something else that day, and so I did, and that was just fine.
In the two days that I was unable to continue to work on my website, I’ve thought about some of the other things the All might be doing with this situation that I would have no way of knowing about or controlling. Maybe someone on the tech team that was working on fixing the website problem needed to learn a new skill, and this was giving them an opportunity to do that. Maybe I was getting too narrowly focused on some aspect of the website or the content I was choosing for it, and I needed a break from it to come back with a different approach. Maybe working on crocheting hats and scarves for the homeless during those two days (a project I worked on while the website editor was down) would end up with someone getting a warm hat and scarf on just the day they needed it the most. And maybe any one of those effects would lead to further causes and effects that I could neither foresee nor control, but that the All could..
The point of trusting my Higher Power – in my case what I call the All – is that being “the All,” It includes and is thus aware of everything. It is aware of millions of interrelated causes and effects all going on in the present moment that I cannot even begin to see or comprehend. Because of this, I really have no idea of what is best in any given moment or situation. Doing the best I can with my current understanding and perspective, and then trusting the All no matter what happens, makes it feel effortless to experience peace and equanimity when things don’t go as I had planned or wanted. I am grateful for how these two principles from the 12 steps are making this a reality in my day-to-day life.