You know that feeling when you feel uncertain and lack the decisiveness to choose your next steps. So what does it feel like to be human in a state of ambiguity? How do you respond to life when your beliefs and assumptions about life don't add up to what you're experiencing?
For most of us, when reality challenges our illusions about constant security and well-being we do all sorts of things to try to hold on to what we believe to be the ideal state of our lives. We eat, drink, work too hard, spend hours watching mind-numbing TV or surfing the web among other things. We seek out external distractions from the pain that we are feeling when we are in a state of ambiguity. Our internal resistance to the reality of the uncertainty of life creates an internal tug of war.
For a while we may feel better and then change happens and we're back to experiencing the internal resistance to "what is" happening in our lives. This pattern of behavior continues in our life until we make a decision and commitment to learn how to accept life "as it is" in spite of our desire and beliefs that better is possible.
In her book, Living Beautifully, Pema Chodron writes, "When we resist change, its called suffering. But, when we completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that's called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness."
This is a provocative statement. It challenges us to consider that their is another perspective that we can choose when we face uncertainty. Instead of struggling and waging war against change, we can choose to embrace it with a relaxed demeanor and acknowledge as Chodron points out, our "freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human."
We all feel inner resistance when we are faced with uncertainty. Chodron gives us "three methods for embracing the chaotic, unstable, dynamic, challenging nature of our situation as a path to awakening. They are:
- Commit to doing our best to not cause harm with our actions or words or thoughts. Commit to practicing being good to each other. This practice she says, "provides a structure within which we learn to work with our thoughts and emotions and to refrain from speaking or acting out of confusion."
- Commit to dedicating our lives to keeping our hearts and minds open to nurturing our compassion with the longing to ease the suffering of the world.
- Resolve to embrace the world just as it is, without bias. This she writes, "Is a commitment to see everything we encounter, good and bad, pleasant and painful, as a manifestation of awakened energy. It is commitment to see anything and everything as a means by which we can awaken further."
In our daily life these three commitments challenge us to consider the following self-discovery questions as we deal with life's uncertainty:
- Is this thought, word or deed good for those in which it would impact the most, if I chose to act upon it?
- Will this thought, word or deed diminish suffering or increase it in the lives of those that it would have the greatest impact?
- How can I be more accepting to what is, without bias, while striving to create the positive change I believe is possible?
We must admit, at least to ourselves, that most of our inner resistance to change comes down to us wanting things in life to be the way we want them. And when the story that we tell ourselves about how life should be conflicts with the way it is, we get pissed off and seek out external distractions to give us comfort- food, sex, shopping, being mean and unkind to people.
The fourth way to deal with uncertainty involves a daily practice of mindful meditation. In my daily life, the practice of mindful meditation helps me deal with the inner resistance that I feel when faced with uncertainty. The act of allowing myself to think and feel without judgment frees up my energy and allows me to direct it in a more productive manner. Instead of fighting the discomfort that I feel, I've learned that I am strong enough to feel the sensations of my feelings without them being detrimental to me.
Too many people, deny their feelings because of a belief that they are not strong enough to bear them. This is not true. The human spirit is so much stronger than we can imagine.
Mindful meditation has taught me that when we open ourselves up to just accepting our thoughts and feelings free of interpretations, we just let them be and create a safe space in which we can give full attention to what we think and feel, we begin to discover the wisdom and strength of our sacred nature. We stop focusing on the "what if's" and learn how to accept "what is" while empowering our capacity to manifest "what can be".
Here's a short video of Andy Puddicombe, a mindfulness expert sharing the benefits of mediation.
When we acknowledge our feelings about the uncertainty that we face with a compassionate heart, we are more apt to drop the negative interpretations of "what can happen" and respond to "what is" happening in our lives with a larger measure of faith and courage.
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