Usually, when I travel the world or explore life in my own country, I think to myself: is anything by chance? Or are our lives a sequence of curated events?
I’ve been reading a book called The Surrender Experiment. It has the shortest chapters, perfect for someone who loves to get lost in a reading binge, flicking the pages as fast as you possibly can. The words make you stop and ponder life, trying to make meaning of it by joining the dots with previous life events.
When you explore life like a curious adventurer, you discover the possibility of what could be. I’ve realised when our plans change by an external event, there is a knock-on effect and some things don’t happen. The result, however, can be flipped on its head. What if the result is that space is made available for other things to happen? Like a game of seesaw, life flows where you place your attention.
Do you focus on what could have been, with regret? Or gaze forward and feel excited about what is around the corner?
When we try to control everything, we are forcing an outcome that may not be aligned with our future. There is a simple truth we all need to realise; we need to practice becoming unattached to the outcome. I’ve learned when we go with the flow, sweet experiences happen. I am still learning—that is life. It’s a continued journey of discovery. When we practice nonattachment, life can feel a little out of control.
When you tell yourself, “Some things just weren’t meant to be,” you feel free to enjoy how life unfolds.
I once flew into the Greek Island of Crete to surf. In the end, I never surfed. I know what you are thinking, “Were you angry and annoyed?” Nope, life had other plans.
As I sat on the local bus to the surf beach, I received a text message from the surf school explaining there were no waves. “No waves,” I mumbled. Eek! I remember thinking “Should I just turn back? What’s the point in heading to the surf beach if there are no waves.” I am so glad I did; life had an experience it wanted to share with me.
I continued on the bus journey and met the surf lads for coffee, sat on a bench outside the closed surf school looking out at the baby waves. A calmness surrounded us. They paid for my first ever iced coffee, and we chatted with the backdrop of the ocean sounds. They were an interesting bunch—two firemen who taught at the surf school when off duty and a history teacher from Athens—on the island for the summer holidays where he helped out.
After the two firemen surfers left, I continued sipping my coffee enjoying big chats with the history teacher from Athens. We chatted about all sorts of things: finding your flow, overthinking stuff, putting expectations on life. He referenced a book as he explained how we can become prisoners of our own mind, but I couldn’t quite make out the name of the author because of his accent. Finally, he shared the history of the island. It was very complex and bloody, due to the conflict between Turkey and the Greeks, providing a perspective only a local could bring to their own history, a deeper awareness of this part of the world provided.
As I finished my coffee, he asked if I wanted to try paddleboard. I shrugged as the voice in my head said out loud, “Not really.” I politely explained that I was okay and had plans to head back along the route the bus took, but this time on foot along the coastline. He seemed confused I would walk that far, but to me, it was the obvious afternoon activity. A chilled stroll in the sunshine, with views out to the ocean where I could break it up with stops at some dreamy cove beaches to read my book—my most cherished possession on any travel trip.
I made it five minutes along the road when I was tempted in by the fresh nails sign of a local spa. It was a little out of the way from the holidaymakers part of the beach, so they weren’t used to a tourist strolling in. Soon, I was happily sitting on a chair ready for the full nail treatment to make my well-trodden feet pretty again.
What followed was a wild exchange with a passionate local lady.
As soon as she heard I was from Scotland, she proceeded to get emotional. It was all very unclear why, until I heard the word “Braveheart.” She watched the Hollywood movie so many times and each time she would cry; this was demonstrated very dramatically. She continued to explain her heart felt like it was going to break at the scenes where the English invaded the Scottish villages. You could feel her raw emotion.
She whispered, “Do you like the English?” I shocked her when I nodded yes. She replied, “How could you after what they did to your people?” In my head, I tried to find the right words to explain my thoughts because I knew she wanted me to hate the English. “What they did to us was our history and not our present or future.” She simply shook her head and shouted back to her colleague, with clear disgust, that I didn’t hate the English. What I didn’t explain (because I thought it would have been too much for her) was that I had been in a 10-year relationship with an Englishman. How could I hate an entire nation for something that happened in 1297. She explained that she still hated the Turkish for what they did to her people, as if for me to evaluate my position on Scotland and England. I shrugged and explained it was very complex.
After the spa treatment, I was feeling a little weary after the intense “Braveheart” discussion, so I took the first opportunity to sit down on a sandy beach with my book. As I glanced at the front cover of my ebook, I felt something—a feeling of familiarity, a goosebumps moment. The book I was reading, Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl, was the same book the surfer referenced to me earlier. It is a deep book based on Viktor’s experiences of the Holocaust and how he managed his thoughts in the hell that was the concentration camps.
I felt this connection, a moment where you realise everything in life is connected. We all have so much more in common, but we all bring different perspectives to life if we are open to hearing them and experiencing them.
I sat reading the book on the beach with the sun on my face, the wind in my hair—an appreciation for the simple things. Not the surf day I anticipated, but the coffee, chats, and connection made up for it. It gave me a deeper understanding of how we can all have the same experience with different outcomes.
When life doesn’t go to plan, don’t force the outcome; instead, enjoy what is presented next. I enjoyed that morning with the surf guys, the chance encounter with the spa lady, the reading and reflection on the beach.
Don’t be afraid to let go of the plan, the itinerary, and flow with life. Being open-minded and wide-eyed, grateful for what you don’t know and excited about what you may learn. Along the way, you will experience what you need to experience. So, surrender.
Why not try it? Each time you feel resistance to your plans changing, surrender to the feeling, the outcome, or the possibility. Let life flow.
“You must let life flow naturally, for life’s secret is patience; you must stop pushing for change and allow things to unfold.” ~ Leon Brown