The Shift from Control to Contribution

One of the most challenging lessons I have had to learn in my spiritual journey is my relationship to control. It was a tough pill to swallow, to confront how little control I have in and over life.

As human beings, we tend to seek control because we think it provides us with a sense of power. Superficially, this seems true. When we assert ourselves over others, when we get someone to act in a certain way, especially in a corporate environment, we can feel all-powerful. But is that true power? That is power coming from our status or position in that environment. What happens when we lose that status? A person can seem powerful as a supervisor, but the power comes from their role, not necessarily from them.

What is true power?

True power is a personal power that cannot be taken away from us no matter the dynamism in our surroundings. True power is manifested in our freedom to be ourselves without distorting or contorting ourselves to fit into any box of expectations. True power comes not from control but from agency, our own volition to partake in this life as active and living beings.

If we do not possess control, what else can we do? For many of us, our minds might present this false dichotomy rendering us powerless. We do not have control over everything happening externally, but we have control over our own thoughts and attention. Where we place our attention determines our experiences. Feelings of powerlessness arise from our perceived need for and lack of control, but we hold the power to direct our attention towards the whole of an experience instead of a part of it.

The power of surrender

Here is where surrender enters, the act of relinquishing the need for control, in acceptance of whatever emerges in the present moment. To not reject any experience, to let it in, and wash over me, leaving an impression on my soul. This is how we can taste life. We choose to taste all of life, not just the sweetness while rejecting the rest.

Surrendering may sound passive because the active parts of the process usually go unseen. The actions of trusting and being appear like non-doing, yet each of these is an active choice. We make an active choice to pause, to breathe, to relax, to welcome come what may, then to respond. The act of surrender is not about throwing in the towel. It is allowing us to meet ourselves where we are, to face the facticity of the situation and accept that our most desired outcome is not always feasible. When we can allow ourselves to come to acceptance, our fixation on the original goal dissolves, giving room for new possibilities. Various emotions may be triggered in the process. Can we also allow ourselves to feel those emotions, be it frustration or grief or others?

That said, having been practicing myself, I am aware how terrifying it feels to switch to this end of the spectrum because there is seemingly nothing to hang on to. Hence, considering the paradigm shift to contribution could afford us a gentler transition.

How might I contribute?

Considering how we might contribute to a situation or experience helps us get out of our perceived powerlessness. How might I contribute to a different outcome? There is no guarantee the situation will turn out drastically different but whenever there is a change in actions (input), there will be a change in results (output) no matter how minute they may appear. We also get to re-evaluate our issues. Having a picture of how we have contributed, intentionally or not, allows us room for change and growth. This is not about assigning or taking on blame either, but inquiring into our actions with sincerity and curiosity. In what way have I contributed?

The occurrence of any event is brought about by a plethora of contributing factors. Nothing is solely causal. We cannot completely determine an outcome, but seeing the areas we can contribute in places us on the path towards our desired outcomes. What is truly mine to do? Herein this question lies our volition, and possibly, vocation. At every moment, we have what it takes to change the course. How might I contribute? Perhaps given the circumstances, we cannot steer it to the course we want, but we do not give up, instead, we give in and attune ourselves to the flow of events, creating space for possibility to emerge.

Moving to the paradigm of contribution lets us participate in life more fully. From here on, we actively contribute by taking on the responsibility to put ourselves on the course towards what is possible, holding ourselves and getting ourselves the support we need to process our experiences. We are responsible for our emotions and thoughts, and by recognising our present ability (moment to moment) to respond to the arising situation, we experience more freedom and flexibility in life.

May we be open and attuned to the manifold possibilities we can be of contribution.

Rosslyn is a poet and a developmental coach who creates and holds space for repose, healing, and transformation through her words and being. Check out her debut book, “The Weight of My Soul: Uncovering My Significance.”


Photo by Karan Chawla on Unsplash

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