March 20, 2014

The Ecstasy of Surrender. {Book Review}


When you think of the word surrender, what comes to mind?

For me, it is a juxtaposed series of images and thoughts…waving the white flag, giving up, laying down arms, admitting defeat and releasing fears and dysfunctional beliefs, letting go and letting God, giving over; the Nestea’ Plunge; falling into the waiting arms of all that is, trusting that I will be safely caught and cradled.

It is a daily practice for me to be in surrender mode, remembering a poster of a kitty cat hanging on a branch with the words attributed to David Foster Wallace:

“Everything I ever let go of has claw marks on it.”

Dr. Judith Orloff, a board-certified psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA has penned a guide to navigating the waters that sometimes feel tidal-wave tumultuous and easing the reader into a calm tide pool into which we can float with greater grace.

Her latest book, entitled “The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life” (Harmony Books, 2014), describes the power of letting go in everyday life, health and wellness—an enlivening and sane alternative to pushing, forcing and over controlling people and situations.

In addition, her struggles acknowledging and then finally embracing her gift of intuition are chronicled in “Second Sight” (Warner Books). Her second book, “Dr. Orloff’s: Guide to Intuitive Healing” (Three Rivers Press) shows how breakthroughs in healing our body, emotions, and sexuality can be accomplished by listening to intuition.

Positive Energy” which has been translated into 23 languages, takes a probing look at the American epidemic of exhaustion and how we can reverse it using specific strategies to build energy and combat draining people. Her New York Times Bestseller, “Emotional Freedom” describes how to transform negative emotions into positive ones with specific techniques.

I was struck initially with how vast a topic this is and the ways in which it encompasses every aspect of life. The book opens with an explanation of the Sanskrit word for surrender which is samprada, described as  ‘to give completely or  deliver wholly over.’ 

When I looked at that word again, I saw it as ‘holy’ as well, since there is a profound sacredness to surrender.

To set the stage, Orloff asks the reader to complete a Surrender Test that gauges a baseline for the areas in which it may be challenging to relinquish control.

When I took it, I answered in the realm of a very high level of surrender, and yet, I know that there are times when my inner control freak just ain’t gonna let go, because she wants to be right.

As a tour guide into what may feel like vast and unknown territory for some, Orloff invites gradual immersion, not diving in head first. She breaks the larger concept down into five easily digestible sections, labeled:

1. Power and Money

2. Reading People and Communication

3. Relationships: Love and Sensuality

4. Mortality and Immortality: Cycles of Light

5. Embracing Ecstasy

As a psychiatrist, naturally, Orloff is fascinated with human behavior and relationships. It is evident in the sections of the book that speak to communicating with narcissists, anger addicts and guilt trippers. Know anyone who would fit into any of those categories?

She offers step by step instructions based on decades of experience with patients and gleaned from her own life; both which she shares generously in the form of case studies and personal revelations.

The book also contains meditation and yogic practices,  as well as suggestions that laughter truly is one of the best medicines; speaking of each of them as ways of aging and saging spiritually.

As it does in the  life cycle, the book ends with a conversation about death which is the ultimate surrender. Orloff’s sign off which is also a call to action is simply this: “Let’s dare to surrender to anything that stands between ourselves and our joy.”

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Judith Orloff

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