When spiritual paths call for surrender they are asking us to give up our identification with an isolated and separate small ‘s’ self so that we can expand into the fullness of who we are.
I believe that surrender, whether it comes as the result of specific spiritual practices, spontaneous revelation, or as an unanticipated accident of circumstance, occurs in two stages.
The first stage of surrender is a deep passive acceptance of what is. In that state of abandon you make yourself available for awakening. This is when you allow yourself to pass through the open doorway.
This passage into a new being is not an activity. The limited self cannot will itself into a new self. The person that I am cannot force itself into something else. Any act of will that originates from the separate sense of self will only serve to reinforce that sense of self. You cannot become a new self by acting from the old one. The only way to invite spiritual transformation is to surrender our current sense of self.
The existential uncertainty that we experience when we let go of our current identity can be terrifying or thrilling depending upon how clear we are about what we want. If we are not certain that we want to transform we will be terrified when that shift begins to happen and we will not allow it to continue.
I have experienced this in meditation at moments when I suddenly recognize that I am slipping away. Many times at that instant of awakening I have reflexively stopped the process of surrender by grabbing hold of something solid. Usually we prevent the process of awakening by focusing our attention on fear or doubt. At other times we become captivated by the experience of joy or bliss and that holds us back. Either way, the ultimate result is that we ground ourselves in our preexisting sense of self by focusing on some experience that ‘it’ is having.