Ask a hundred people if they like a surprise, and 99 will look at you askance and squeak out, “Maybe.” They’re not sure if you just asked that so you could surprise them with … with … who knows what!

But you have their attention. Surprises run the gamut from the horrible to the divine. And it’s the latter of these two that sparks our interest.

Surprise is Inherent in the Path to Enlightenment

Awakening always comes as a surprise. When Gautama, before he was Buddha, decided to say “%^&* it!” and have a wee nip of milk under the Bodhi Tree, the last thing he expected (for he had tried everything) was enlightenment. Surprise! When Eckhart Tolle decided to end his miserable life because “he couldn’t stand himself” and then wondered, “Who is it that can’t stand who?” he was not expecting an awakening so profound that it would take two years of living on park benches to integrate what happened. Surprise!

You see, surprise is the unsung hero of enlightenment. This is what I call “The Tao of Surprises.”

How Surprise Relates to Transformation

And it’s not just for the lofty among us. Everyone can be surprised because everyone is just who they are, and a surprise is always not that. It is, by definition, a moment of “not me.” Since moving from “who I am” to “whatever I’m gonna be” is transformation, it’s easy to see that this always involves surprise.

So, how did I come upon this Tao of Surprises? By accident, of course. I was reading through transcripts of Deirdre Hade’s spiritual teachings and pulling quotes for our new book, The (not so) Little Book of Surprises. I began ruminating on what these ideas had in common and, you guessed it, it was the concept of surprise—things that we’ve heard before, but now written in a new, unexpected way. Like this one:

“That Mystical World—that’s where we find the light. But it’s also the chrysalis of coming undone. If you’re going to embark on a journey of coming undone, you damn well better have your ducks in a row, because it could be like “splat” on the windshield.” —Deirdre Hade, The (not so) Little Book of Surprises

Yeah, splat…. Then I remembered the research I had done for What the BLEEP Do We Know!? And I thought of how the brain, and in fact our whole chemical nature, changes with surprise. Neuroplasticity allows our brain to rewire in an instant. That’s transformation, and that’s the name of game.

How to Create Surprises in Your Daily Life

So assuming you don’t want to hire someone to shadow you all day and jump out and say, “Boo,” how do you surprise yourself? In Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan, he writes about “disrupting one’s routines.” Simply put, you are the collection of what you regularly do. So do what you don’t regularly do. Disrupt your habits. Here are a few simple ways to do just that:

  • If you usually have coffee in the morning, have tea.
  • If you kiss your mate on the cheek before leaving, fall on one knee and kiss his or her hand.
  • At lunch, put your fork down between bites.
  • Drive home from work a different way (and make that decision in a moment on the journey).

Try it. Who knows, your old self might just be splat on the windshield.

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About the author

William Arntz started his professional career as a research 
laser physicist, working on Star Wars high-energy lasers. He then moved on to software, writing AutoSys, which is currently in use by most Fortune 500 companies. Next he created, produced and directed the film What the BLEEP Do We Know!? Currently, he has created and released The (not so) Little Book of Surprises with his wife, Deirdre Hade.