Flags Of Surrender: The Wisdom In Wanting What We Already Have

{This is an edited transcript of the unedited talk above. I highly recommend listening to the original.}

"I was just watching the prayer flags out behind my house. I live right near this amazing view of the city, so if you go up the hill behind where I live you can see an incredibly massive view of the city I leave nearby. At the top of the hill there people have strung prayer flags. I was watching some of the prayer flags blowing in the wind and one of the strands of flags has been there for so long now that they’re nearly white in color. When those flags were first hung up of course, if you’ve seen prayer flags, they were super vibrant, really deep shades of orange, and red, and blue, and green—really deep primary colors with vibrant pictures on them. Usually there’s deities on the flags; I think they’re often Tibetan deities.

As I was sitting and watching these nearly-white flags blowing in the wind, I had a moment and it dawned on me how the act of these flags being exposed to the elements—the wind, the sun, even rain…that eventually the prayers, the intentions, the inscriptions on these flags dissipates—it’s purified, that’s the word that came to me. The prayer is eventually purified; it fades just through the act of being exposed to the elements.

I recognized something about my own experience in that.


Watching those flags in the wind I thought about how I too had prayers and intentions, and I still do, and I used to, and still often do put out these intentions about what I’d like to have happen. I send up and out these prayers, wishes of what I’d like to see transpire—what I’d like to have happen.

Much like, I’m seeing in those prayers flags, just through the act of living these intentions and living these prayers, in some regard they’re actually fading over time. It’s as though these prayers and intentions are—instead of holding fast or growing stronger, they’re actually being strangely purified from my being. It’s like, just through living out the intentions, putting out the prayers, they eventually fade, they eventually run their course. What’s left in their place is surrender, is these moments of profound surrender, kind of like the white flags I saw out back just a few minutes ago—the prayers and the intentions have been purified from my being somehow.

We often don’t acknowledge this aspect of intentions, or of prayers, or wishes, or goals. We tend to so often acknowledge kind of the opposite. It’s like: stick with it, if at first you don’t succeed try, try again, keep the vision strong, hold fast to your goals, eventually it will come to pass, eventually it will manifest, eventually it will come to fruition. If you pray hard enough or hold your intention in a steadfast way they’ll come to pass. This is the conversation that we hear most often—to not give up.

I totally understand the validity of that and I understand that sometimes that is the right approach, that is the right medicine—to stick with it, to stick it through and to not give in. That sort of approach, I get that sometimes that’s the right approach but what I’m finding more relevant to what I’m living and it’s a point of view or a conversation that we hear a lot less is something more in the realm of a let go that is so deep and so thorough that eventually those intentions are actually purified just through living them out and living them out and through holding to them that eventually, like the flags that turn white from being bleached in the sun, and being worn in the elements.

The organic progression may not be that the intentions manifest or that the prayers are answered or that the wish comes true. That may not be the way it goes. It may be more a case that if you live that intention long enough, if you see it through far enough that it will actually be loosened from your being or purified from your being and be replaced with a kind of surrender—this white flag kind of surrender.

I think I’ll speak a little more specifically about my experience with this and what I mean really past the theoretical so that it makes a little more sense and feels a little more personal.

As many of you know, I’ve been living with a chronic health condition, with chronic symptoms, mostly neurological—brain symptoms, that have been associated with chronic Lyme disease and the co-infections that come along with Lyme. My healing journey, as many of you know, have been very long and very arduous and I’ve tried many, many things, and seen many, many doctors and healers and specialists and have basically left no rock unturned in terms of addressing dietary stuff and lifestyle stuff, and supplements and herbal medication and conventional medication and looking at ancestral patterns and shamanic healing and energetic healing…. I mean, I’ve really, really given my healing a fair go and yet these symptoms still persevere to this day.

These symptoms have yet to integrate, or complete themselves, or resolve themselves.

All this while, it’s been over five years now, as you can well imagine, I have sent up prayers—thousands of prayers for my healing, prayers to feel better, prayers to have the strength to keep going, prayers for guidance, prayers for support, all kinds of prayers and I’ve also held very strong intentions in terms of seeing myself as whole and intending for well-being and intending for vibrancy and radiance and wellness.

While I still send up prayers and I still have intentions for wellbeing what’s also happening is a deep kind of acceptance where I’m coming to understand that what I want and what wants me may not be quite the same thing. What I mean by that is that living with these symptoms has provided insight and wisdom and tremendous growth. It’s woken me up more that I think anything else would have.

In that sense, when I stop arguing with reality I can see that the symptoms have a tremendous intelligence to them and I would even go so far as to say that the symptoms have a strange kind of benevolence to them because they come bearing gifts. They come bearing a very potent invitation for growth and for presence, and to expand my heart capacity, etc. etc.

What’s happening for me, as I said, while I still send up prayers and I still hold intentions for wellbeing or for these symptoms to resolve themselves, I’m also finding that in the living of this experience I’m finding deeper and deeper levels of surrender and deeper and deeper levels of acceptance and a greater ability to see the beauty and to experience the inherent wisdom in things as they are not as I wish they were.

I think so often when we say prayers and we have intentions it’s a lot about what we want and how things should be. Usually what we’re wanting is something that we don’t already have and in that sense the intentions or the prayers can be almost like an argument with what is.

It’s like, "I have X but I want Z so I’ll set intentions for Z."

I’m living ‘this’ and I wish I was living ‘that’ so I’ll pray for that.

I think what struck me so beautifully and so clearly looking at the flags was that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an idea of what we want or having desires, or having an idea of what we wish things were like, but I think so often it’s when we surrender to things as they are that we receive the gifts of ‘what is’ and ‘what is’ naturally completes itself.

So that we no longer have to make huge efforts to get something else because we just naturally, organically live into the next thing because we’ve surrendered, because we’ve let go.

I think if we’re fully showing up in earnest and we’re being present with what is that it’s possible that the living of it naturally purifies us, it naturally breaks us down eventually into surrender. Just like those deeply colored flags eventually through flapping and through weathering the elements they eventually become white.

They eventually become flags of surrender.

For me there’s something incredibly beautiful about that. It speaks to me of letting go of the desires of the personality and letting go into the destiny of the soul. So often, as I’ve lived with my own story, the destiny of the soul is not something the personality would chose. My personality would never choose to be ill and to have to take a long-term mandatory retreat… that personality part of me would never have chosen this and yet as challenging as it has been and as challenging as it continues to be it quenches something at a soul level. There is a truth to what I’m living into and to what I’m coming to in my healing process that I don’t think I would have come to any other way.

There’s an intelligence to what is and when I stop resisting what is I make myself available for the gifts that are wanting to come to me through my experience.

I think that’s what I wanted to capture.

I was just sitting out back there watching those flags and just finding that the weathered flags were so beautiful, almost more beautiful than the pristine ones. Near the weathered one’s somebody had strung up a pristine, brand new, colorful strand and while there’s of course a beauty in those as well, I was really moved by the weathered prayer flags. These flags that had been exposed and the way that life had had its way with these flags and that they had naturally turned into flags of surrender.

May this serve you and your process in some way. It’s my hope in sharing that you recognize a little bit of your own journey in mine or that my journey can inspire yours in some way and that we can celebrate our shared humanity, our shared human journey together in all the richness and all the complexity that comes along with that.

Yours on the path. Much love."


Words + Images: Copyright © 2016 Marie-Ève Bonneau