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by Karen Tate
Writing my current new book, Walking An Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth, required that I look back over years of happiness, sadness, revelations, success, disappointment and patterns. One of those patterns was my relationship with surrender and my belief in universal wisdom.
Surrender was not a concept I easily related to or thought much about. Instead like so many others in denial about their illusion of control or with a penchant for perfectionism, I believed I staved off chaos and fear with organization, attention to detail and lists. These tools help, of course, and lists made me feel safe. I have daily lists, weekly lists, monthly and annual lists. Nothing makes me feel better than an entire list with big fat red lines through all the things that have been completed. And throwing a list away – everything finally complete – well, now that’s almost orgasmic! But sometimes the best planning does not guarantee our perception of perfection, success or our vision of where we hoped things lead.
Let me explain. Thoughts of surrender were the farthest thing from my mind many years ago as I departed for Ireland to meet Lady Olivia Robertson, one of the founders of the international Fellowship of Isis, in person, for the first time, and be ordained at Clonegal Castle. Before leaving the States, I’d meticulously taken care of all the preparations – not just for my sacred journey, but for a group tour I was arranging going to Egypt in a few months. Months and months of hard work – imagine the number of lists that involved! But when I was in Ireland I heard the BBC telecast about the tourists in Egypt that had been gunned down. I knew cancellations would begin to flood in.
Demoralized and disappointed, I sat at the breakfast table of my B&B just outside Clonegal Castle, head in hands, and cried. Then, like a fairy from the emerald meadows outside my window, Bridie the proprietress sat down next to me and began to talk, and talk, in a soothing voice. She said how business had been bad this year for her family and things looked really bleak. Sometimes she was really scared and heartbroken. It was hard, but she had faith things were going to turn around. She told me she just kept trying and wouldn’t give up. Bridie’s generosity of spirit, compassion and kindness touched me on many levels and my angst began to diminish. Before too long I gathered my emotions, picked myself up and made some calls to the States to keep the threads from unraveling further on my group going to Egypt. By the time I returned home from Ireland, things had settled down in Egypt and the media and though the complexion of the group and tour was very different than I originally visioned for the journey, the group departed for Egypt and had a memorable journey. Disaster averted, I soon forgot about Bridie’s wise words in Ireland.
Time passed and as one might expect, life often deals us all sorts of challenges. Disillusionment and disappointment threatened to drive me from this path, the shadows seeming a much more comfortable place to be, but just as Bridie had appeared during dark times in Ireland, help came in the guise of the lion-headed Egyptian Goddess, Sekhmet, whose essence and archetype challenged with lessons of tenacity and strength. In time, not right away, I even realized the obstacles being presented to me were in fact important detours and guideposts, forcing me down new paths I might not have imagined were my life’s journey. And when we are happy and fulfilled, we sometimes, again, forget the lesson that things are often beyond our control, that we cannot always see the good reasons behind seemingly bad things, and outcomes often are not in our hands. And most importantly, we are measured by how we react and respond to the challenges we’re faced with. We are measured by the work we get done.
Fast forward. I received an email out of the blue. Six-hundred fifty pounds of new books were about to arrive and they needed to be accepted, signed for, unloaded and stored. So what do I do? I begin making my lists, of course! I make arrangements for labor to move the cases, for UPS to deliver on a certain day. I even discovered the shipping labels on all 22 cases of books were wrong and fortunately caught the mistake before a mis-delivery. Surely now all I needed to do was clear some storage space. But guess what? Despite all the careful planning, I came home from a weekend trip to find those 22 cases of books had been delivered two days early and had been sitting in the hallway of my apartment building. Sigh. Surrender. It was all good.
So, I took a deep breath and sat down to look at a long awaited copy of this new book. Within a few minutes I felt that all too familiar snake-like creep of panic and anxiety inching up my spine. Not only were there blank pages in the new book, but after all the extra time double checking, triple checking, list making, and email exchanges with the publisher, the final edits didn’t make it into this printing. Damn!
But then, much more quickly than ever before – not in days or months, but within minutes, the upset began to dissipate and remembering kicked in. It was as if a light came over my mind and eyes. The lessons of Ireland and Bridie, of Sekhmet, of the book delivery, of other times of dark clouds with silver linings, all came back to me in a wave and I actually began to laugh out loud. Like a lightening bolt a voice was in my head…
“You cannot control everything. You can only do the best that you can do then you have to surrender to what is to come. Have you not learned this lesson yet, Karen? Have you not truly benefited from life’s curves and challenges? You must put away fear of criticism, fear of failure, fear of imperfection. I don’t ask that you be the smartest or the best. I only ask that you do your best and allow your faith to make you fearless.”
So what did I do? What any woman does… I called one of my sisters about the revelation. I tell Lora about Bridie in Ireland, Sekhmet, the 22 cases of books and about the botched printing of a few copies of this newest book! We laugh together at this concept of the liberation of learning surrender! We realize it’s learning to trust in the wisdom of the Universe – or Goddess. Then Lora tells me I have to read to you what just today came across email from my Messenger’s Circle.
“On this day of your life, dear friend, I believe God/ess wants you to know… that perfectionism is the enemy of creation. Nothing stops the forward march of any creative endeavor like the need to do it absolutely perfectly. And who is to judge what is “perfect” anyway? What I have judged full of flaws so many others have called terrific. Maybe the definition of Perfection is something that actually gets done.”
It felt like another validating voice from heaven and laughingly we swore to make this our mantra and tape it to our computer desks. In jest, we contemplated bumper stickers too!
But, I was feeling what was really important besides our personal epiphanies was I had to lay my soul bare, risk my soft under-belly, and share this with everyone – that we all have so much we can do and there is so little time. So many of us have much we want to share – no matter our calling – but something hinders us and holds us back. We are afraid of not doing it perfectly or that others can do it better. Or we are waiting for someone else to step up. I’m suggesting you must be fearless and just do it. Not one of us can afford to hide our light under a bushel because of the fear of success or failure. We cannot be paralyzed by things that may happen beyond our control, or fear of our imperfections or the criticism people might and will heap upon us. We must do our best. We must strive to liberate ourselves and surrender in faith to the part we play in this macrocosm. We must honor and trust in the wisdom of the Universe to provide exactly what it is we need. We must remember we are each powerful players in the dance of creation.
So, I am sharing my hard learned lesson with all of you. Go out into the world and do!
Postscript: The problems with the new book were easily remedied. Purchasers need not worry about problems of books with blank pages. And this lesson of trust, surrender and the wisdom of the Universe is being circulated to inspire faith in oneself and in our doing.
Karen Tate is an independent scholar of the Sacred Feminine, speaker, published author, ordained minister and radio show host. Her first book, Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations, was endorsed by the Joseph Campbell Foundation. Her second book, Walking An Ancient Path; Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth, a spiritual, socio-political look at how to mainstream the emerging revolution of thought – the Feminine Consciousness, is out in bookstores June 2008. Her radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine, airs every Wednesday evening. For more information, go to www.karentate.com