“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”
— Pema Chödrön
Self-transcendence is the art of radical responsibility: assuming ultimate ownership of our experience regardless of what our external lives may hold.
This is no small feat. And most of us buckle at the slightest indication that our circumstances are not lining up how we hope.
Orienting ourselves to be endlessly preoccupied with how to get life to submit to our small-minded hopes is not only a fool’s errand, but also a recipe to create a kind of hell.
Because even on the rare occasions when life cooperates with our vain wishes momentarily, it just as quickly wriggles away from our grasp the next moment.
There’s a mirage-like quality to the nature of external gratification: the moment we achieve what we desire, we are onto the next object of desire that offers us only fleeting (if any) respite.
While most of us recognize the futility of this state of affairs intellectually, we seldom reflect on it deeply enough to actually change our approach.
But a radical reconfiguration of our most basic assumptions about life is precisely what is required if we are ever to achieve any kind of lasting peace.
As a culture, our default mode tends to be a reflection of consumeristic programming: getting, attaining, and achieving as a feeble proxy for internal peace.
And while there’s nothing wrong with those things per se, the degree to which they are emphasized as the primary means to our wellbeing is deeply problematic and makes us sick.
In a way, this consumerist programming turns us all into addicts: the more we attain and achieve the more we need to attain and achieve to feel okay—like developing tolerance in substance dependence.
In this orientation, we are always mortgaging our well-being to the future—the next purchase, the next job, or the next relationship that we foolishly believe holds the promise of our long-desired salvation.
Why do we choose to live this way?
Other than deeply ingrained cultural indoctrination and the fact that this is typically the only option modeled to us (which are far from trivial forces), the reason most of us choose this is because the alternative is really, really hard.
But you know what’s harder? Living this endlessly addictive and unsatisfying illusion.
Most of us will never give up this futile way of being, in part because we believe that if we just try a little harder and have enough willpower, consumerism will finally deliver on its promises.
Rather than recognizing its ultimate futility, we double down on our ineffectual strategies in a delusional attempt to change the nature of reality.
The long and short of it is, our lives will not be different until we are different.
And changing ourselves in this way requires a paradigm shift and a fundamental reorientation of our approach to life, ourselves, and our circumstances.
This shift is primarily an internal one, though it emanates through every dimension of our lives and being.
It is far from passive. In fact, surrender can provide the solid foundation of agency and empowered action (more on this in future blogs.)
And therefore this external shift reverberates externally, ultimately shifting our outer circumstances, the subsequent outcomes, and how we relate to them.
Unconditional peace begins to develop the more we practice this new way of being because we recognize that what is indestructible in us cannot be threatened.
This creates a deep reservoir of unshakable peace and resilience that becomes a sort of internal touchstone to buoy us through even the most difficult trials and tragedies that life throws our way.
Realizing that every difficulty is a hidden invitation into deeper peace, liberation—and ultimately into our own greatness—is foundational to this aim.
Each blow life hurls at us shatters the delusion that we can somehow inoculate ourselves to the slings and arrows of pain through coercively controlling what is outside us.
Like most things, it is a dance and a dialogue that is honed as we tune in to life and develop an optimal tension between opposites: in this case, surrender and agency.
And, if we accept the invitation and apprentice ourselves to the gifts of our struggles, we discover deep and lasting liberation.
Stay true, brave, and kind.
P.S. If you want to book a free 15-minute consult call with one of our therapist, coaches, wellness team members click here.
Brooke Sprowl is the Founder of My LA Therapy, a concierge therapy practice, and My Truest North, a cross-disciplinary coaching and consultancy firm specializing in mission-driven entrepreneurs seeking greater integrity, spiritual awakening, and deeper ways to actualizing their higher purpose through collective service. With 15 years of clinical experience as an individual, couples, and family therapist, she is trained in a wide-range of approaches, from evidence-based therapy practices to peak performance and flow neuroscience techniques. Brooke is also the host of the podcast, Waking Up with Brooke Sprowl. She is passionate about writing, cognitive science, philosophy, integrity, spirituality, effective altruism, personal and collective healing, and curating luxury, transformational retreat experiences for people who are committed to self-discovery and using their unique gifts in service of the world.
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