Surrender to Heal

April 2015

Judith Orloff, M.D.

Judith Orloff speaks on healing and comfort

Dr. Judith Orloff is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life, upon which this article is based. She will present a retreat at Awaken Whole Life Center at Unity Village, Missouri, in August. Learn more at

As a physician, I see people ill or in pain manifest fear, self-loathing, and negative self-talk. This creates stress hormones that impair the defense systems in their bodies. 

What helps us to heal is to surrender our fears and negative patterns. Relax through meditation, prayer, and tuning in to the body. This helps increase endorphins—the blissful neurochemicals that promote healing.

Many patients are suddenly put in a situation in which they’re forced to listen to their inner wisdom, and that is amazingly positive. This is sometimes the lesson of illness.

Instead of raging at our situation, we bring ourselves back to the present moment and ask, What can I do today to improve my situation? How can I enjoy my life just as it is?

We surrender to the idea that everything we’re given is part of our spiritual journey, including difficult passages such as illness or pain. We learn that when we are ill, we haven’t done anything wrong. It is just a very intense spiritual challenge. That is how our hearts grow and we become more loving.

A friend whose husband went through a very big health challenge told me: “We’re coming up the icy cliff, but I can still see little red flowers.” We have to search for those tiny flowers when we are ill. We have to find the beauty even in the pain. 

If the situation is too difficult, we can let go to the healing power of tears and release the tension. It also helps to have loving people around us who can mirror love back to us when we can’t find it. We allow ourselves to be loved by a positive circle of support and let go of those who drain our energy.

My mother went through a terrible disease and was in extraordinary pain. Even though she always had religious faith, she said to me then: “I don’t believe in God anymore because no God would allow me to be in this much pain. You have to hold the faith for me.” I was able to do that for my mother.

Sometimes the healing journey takes us to a place where we must surrender our body and move on to our next stage in evolution. This is a surrender none of us can avoid.

Dying is not a failure—it just means it is our time to go. When we let go of our bodies, we do not want fearful health care professionals looking at us as if we are a medical failure because we couldn’t be kept alive. We want to have positive, smiling people around us as we are making our transition.

As we surrender to the positive parts of our healing process, we open to the growth of our souls. We flourish in compassion, wisdom, and love.