Living With Uncertainty
Q: Can we speak on the subject of uncertainty, since these are clearly such uncertain times.
It does no good to dismiss people’s anxiety, which is very real, based on real events and possibilities. Yes, it’s about learning to live each moment as though that’s all you have, but first let’s address the root of the uncertainty, which is the anxiety caused by fear of unwanted or uncontrollable change.
People feel something troubling or life-threatening is being inflicted on them and they’re trying to adjust to what their intuition is telling them, what the government is telling them, what the news is telling them, and what their values are telling them. The positive that is coming out of this is the raising of people’s consciousness and compassion. Compassion for their homeland, but also compassion and understanding that there are many oppressed places in the world that cause desperate acts which lead to bad outcomes. Regardless of what government or news or religion tells people to think, people are beginning to think on their own that the way different people on the planet are treated is not acceptable. Everyone now knows that there are too many injustices in the world to be overlooked or dismissed.
The problem with this stage of uncertainty is that no one can conceptualize a solution, since there is so much disparity with so many complicated pieces that need to be resolved. It seems an impossible task and it makes people feel hopeless that the world can ever know peace, hopeless that this present situation can be solved quickly. Hopelessness brings a kind of uncertainty that is also disquieting. If we can’t believe in a future, what can we work toward? People of the western world are trained to have their sights on the future, and now suddenly their gyroscopes are off-center.
Anxiety is one of the first things everyone needs to look at within him or herself. Uncertainty in and of itself can be extremely creative and positive, but when it is born out of a primary negative emotion such as anxiety, it becomes an inhibitor to action, to creativity, to being present. It forces one into a state of hyper-alertness, in constant worry of the future and of safety.
In order to counterbalance this negative element of uncertainty, we need to look at what we could do to help ourselves feel more stable. What can we focus on that can give us a reading off of the horizon once again? Is it in family? Is it in the daily rituals that can be soothing? Is it in needing to take some kind of action to make oneself feel safe, such as having an emergency kit on hand, or extra water and food? Is it in deciding to take some positive social action? Each person must find within themselves what actions and thoughts they can produce to resolve the anxiety.
This will not make the uncertainty go away, but it does provide the impetus to change the energy around the uncertainty. Once we’re able to do that, then we can begin to work at experiencing the positive side of uncertainty. The gifts of uncertainty are many and profound if one is willing to go there. It can be a once-in- -a-lifetime opportunity for recentering the spiritual compass for living acutely in the Now, in the positive sense of true wonder of what you behold moment to moment in nature, in another, in oneself.
Once again, the first step is to acknowledge what’s there: the anxiety, fear, worry, and so on. Then take each one of those emotions and find ways to support them like you would support a broken arm so they stop sending pain messages to the emotional/spiritual body. Do not let them have free reign. Put them in a splint. Acknowledge that they’re there, but immobilize them as best you can. Gathering knowledge and information is one way to do this. Connecting and sharing concerns with others of like mind is another. Find as many ways as you can to shore up your elemental sense of safety, and your ability to survive. Include these emotions and concerns in meditation to try to work them through there, or, if need be, in a counseling setting. When this has been sufficiently accomplished, then one can move toward finding ways to embrace the positive side of uncertainty; the joy of surprise, the wonder of creation, the appreciation for life. In time, you will see that the list of positives is so much longer than the list of negatives.
Q: What are the benefits of living with uncertainty?
The ability to experience real joy.
Q: What do you mean by real joy?
Think of it as though you have been climbing a path in the woods all day, uncertain of where it will take you, until finally you break out on top to a magnificent view. As much as you think you’re prepared for it, it’s indescribable. It puts you in direct connection with yourself and God. There is nothing more joyful than that. In that moment, there is a pure understanding. I could elaborate with more words, but it would just be more words. The essence is the pure understanding. Anyone who has had that experience knows what I’m speaking about. If you were to allow yourself to live your life like that, moment to moment, not knowing what you would face rounding a corner, allowing yourself to be surprised, impressed, moved, then you would experience the positive side of uncertainty.
Nature is the most continually powerful way to experience that. It can be done with other people, and with anything actually, if you’re paying attention. But the secret is to always be looking with new eyes. Every time you blink, you erase the memory of what you’ve been looking at, and when you open your eyes, you see anew as though it is the first time you are seeing it. That is the joy of awareness. That is the realization that the only guarantee in life is uncertainty. Embracing that and coming to terms with that truly is the only way one achieves peace.
Q: How do we make ourselves better able to embrace change and uncertainty?
You have a major opportunity right now. This national uncertainty we’re facing will continue intensely for quite a while before it levels out. Knowing that this is not going to go away quickly will prevent you from rushing back to the status quo. Most of this has to do with varying levels of acceptance: acceptance of certain emotional states, external world conditions, and so on. Once we can accept what is, we can begin looking for ways to become comfortable with uncertainty. It does require sustained practice. But we’re being given a sustained period in which to practice.
Q: But what is the practice?
Learn to experience each moment as you experience it without filtering it through memory or applying it against future wants and desires. Just see it for what it is as it stands alone, not connected to anything in terms of time, but connected to everything in terms of spiritual existence and purpose. Positive reading material and meditation certainly are helpful. But mostly what is required is the desire to embrace uncertainty in a positive way: To make us feel extraordinarily alive rather than overwhelmingly fearful, arising out of the same circumstance. We all have to begin the practice. This is one of those things that could be talked about forever but you must begin the practice. There is enough information on how to begin. Each individual needs to figure out his or her own way. That’s also part of the uncertainty. There is no trick formula to uncertainty, there is uncertainty to uncertainty. So just begin, and experience.
Another benefit to uncertainty would be spontaneity; to begin living more spontaneously, to allow impulse more expression, not in terms of recklessness but in giving forth. For example, in feeling a powerful emotion towards someone that you normally wouldn’t express, in that spontaneous moment you decide to express it. Where you normally would never give someone a hug and you find yourself hugging that person. Where you would normally not explore the woods to see where you wind up, to see what’s there. And you decide to do something like that. There are endless possibilities. It’s an opportunity to overthrow the shackles of routine and habit that stultify the mind and body. It’s a chance to wake oneself up to really feel alive and free.
If most people were to examine their lives, they would not find that security has done all that much for them, except to make them feel trapped and bored. But it’s comfortable and most are used to thinking of it as comforting. So, many people desire it and accomplish it. But ultimately, it’s a deadening influence when clung to excessively.
Q: How should we behave?
However it feels comfortable and right to you. It will change and evolve. But as long as you stay in touch with your emotions, you will find your way.