You know that feeling when your life is all set up just the way you want it, everything is going as planned and you have absolutely nothing to worry about?
Yeah, me neither.
Uncertainty is part of life.
I told a friend recently that I keep thinking I’m going to wake up one day and feel like I’ve got it all together. I’ll be clear on my direction, wise, compassionate, disciplined, struggle-free. I certainly won’t fret or fear. I will have heroically conquered all my demons, while helping reduce suffering in the world and single-handedly making a major contribution to world peace as an extra side benefit.
“Give it up, sweetheart,” he said.
Instead, I often feel lost, confused, like I’m wandering through a desert on a moonless night, unclear about what direction to take, randomly shuffling toward an unknown destination that probably includes a hidden bed of rattlesnakes. I cling to safety, ruminate on questions, crave answers. Often: like every day.
According to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, I’m right on target.
Working with uncertainty is the spiritual path.
The spiritual journey is not a very easy one, absolutely not easy at all. It demands a lot from us. And we may not find what we want, absolutely not. Our questions may not be answered one by one. But something else is taking place. Maybe the question mark itself is beginning to rot, become disheveled, and turn into a period, full stop. Maybe that is happening. It’s a possibility. And that seems to be the process of the whole journey: dissolving the question mark into a full stop. The question mark becomes a statement or an exclamation, rather than a hollow line longing to be filled by answers.
Over the years I’ve learned to rather enjoy these blind excursions in the desert — it’s a bit reckless and wild. When you don’t have the destination in mind, you suddenly pay more attention to the journey and there’s the thrill of discovering the unknown. Details come into focus; you notice the exotic flowers and strange beasts.
Acceptance is the key to relaxing into uncertainty.
When you no longer struggle to control a specific outcome, your senses become more open; more tuned in to the surroundings. And here’s the irony: once you relax, your intuition kicks in, and you often get clues about which way to go.
Whether you call it beginner’s mind, or not knowing, or relaxing into uncertainty, the quality of mind that arises when you let go of the struggle to control outcomes is the quality of mind that doesn’t need to control outcomes because it’s content to enjoy the journey. When you access a state of alert relaxation and apply it to your life circumstances, then you don’t need to know where you are going. Then the destination becomes less of a focus, because you suddenly realize that wonderful surprises can occur at any point along the way.