Life can seem so very mysterious and unknown. In certain moments, the unknown can be seen as an adventure and exciting, in other moments the unknown may seem to be synonymous with an unpredictable lack of safety. I like the comforts of the "known," as do many. I like familiar music, knowing plans and having a schedule, having the route to my bathroom in the dark memorized, knowing my bills will be paid and how, and that my car will travel safely. I do rely on some of that "known," in order to feel safe, and I have, every now and then been surprised by a flat tire, dead battery, late rent payment or a laundry basket in the way of my route to the bathroom in the dark.
If I react with resistance, judgment and anger every time something unknown and possibly unpleasant, surprises me, then I would be externalizing my power. I would be expecting the people, places and circumstances that I encounter to operate in a particular way in order to maintain my peace. That is simply way too much randomization to base my happiness on, so I must accept “what is,” look for the blessing and make a party out of it as best as I can.
Preferring, liking and wanting to “know” what is going to happen is different than the feeling of fear of not knowing, or the obsession and need to “know” in order to feel safe. Learning to navigate the mystery with an increasing amount of curiosity, grace and surrender, can help prevent us from filling the moment with fear and searching our brains for answers that can’t exist while the unknown variables of the mystery, are at play. That circular searching of the mind with fear can activate stress, panic, adrenaline, the attempt to control the uncontrollable and putting our peace off on the lay-away plan. Setting our attention in the “now,” gives us a sense of the “known,” as the “known,” is simply a moment to moment experience.
I love the serenity prayer from the 12-step program. I use it when I feel rocked or when I simply want to begin my actions from a grounded place. I often rely upon it to remind me that I am human and can only control two things, my perspective and my behavior.
"Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."
This simple prayer is a lifeline for me, it helps me to recognize that I cannot control traffic, I cannot make people tell the truth, I cannot dictate the weather, a delayed airplane, an election, a flat tire, or many other things. I do, however have access to controlling my perspective and that perspective gives me my behavior. My perspective today is that there is a blessing in ALL things. As I look for it, I see it everywhere. I saw it in a connecting talk with my Dad, in intimate conversations with strangers, and in a more awakened community.
We never know what the mystery provides. I’ve heard it said that people make plans and God laughs. My friend Mariah came to join me for a doctor’s appointment, when low and behold, my car wouldn’t start. I was pretty sure it was a dead battery so I called AAA. “Let’s have a dead battery party,” I said, “there’s a blessing in divine timing and we shall look for it.” I called the doctor’s office and it turns out that my doctor was running extremely late. When we left the appointment, there was a woman in a wheel chair that asked us if we would wheel her to the emergency room because she said she wanted to hurt herself. Of course we wheeled her.
As we rolled her along, I asked her if it was ok to whisper some things in her ears. She said, “yes please.” I whispered to her that Mariah and I were just talking about how the root of our suffering is that we have these thoughts that we are somehow not good enough and that we believe those thoughts. I told her that we were made in the image and likeness of the infinite divine universe and because of that it was impossible for any of us to not be enough. I asked her to please be merciful and forgiving of herself. As we brought her to the counter of the emergency room, I touched her arm and she turned to me, and smiled. That was the best dead battery party we ever attended.
Fearful thoughts that plague our minds can leave us feeling very much out of control. Engaging in our fear thoughts however, is something we can practice gaining control over with awareness. My friend Karl and I came up with a distinction called, “First Thought, Second Thought.” Our theory is that thoughts are infinite and are flying throughout the collective mind, ours included. The ones that most match our personal concerns are the ones we most recognize. Those are the ‘first thoughts,’ the ones we truly don’t ‘think’ ourselves but are ‘thought’ within us, like an asteroid flying through the galaxy of our minds that resonate with our stories.
I believe that no matter how seemingly loaded these first thoughts are, they are truly neutral, they have no power and have no power over us. Engaging with these thoughts with justification, proof, and resistance gives them power and renders them active. I believe that engaging with our fear thoughts with any kind of resistance, argument, denial, deflection, defensiveness or even deflated agreement, takes them from a neutral status, to being personal, loaded, activated and powerful. It effects us emotionally, physically, psychologically and physiologically. The self-judgments we have carry some basis in truth, but perhaps even if it is true, that doesn’t mean that the existence of those aspects, are synonymous with being unlovable, unworthy or not good enough. This is why most of us get defensive, I believe. We don’t want to be caught being any of the negative traits that we ourselves judge and that we fear, if anyone knew existed within us, it would render us unlovable, rejected and unworthy. Perhaps then, we must simply admit we are all of it, and become merciful to our humanity.
Most of us have moments of being those things that we fear are unlovable. We may even find ourselves rejecting others who behave in those unsavory ways. Of course we fear that others will judge and reject us in the same way, leading us to try to be perfect or hide our imperfections. Inevitably, unless we are robots, we will have moments of selfishness, anger, acting out, deflecting the truth, hiding something we fear to be found out, forget to pay a bill, forget a plan we made, break a promise, act like a victim or not take responsibility for ourselves. We are also kind, generous, loving, contributing, wise, responsible, punctual, honest, intelligent and thoughtful. There are innumerable ways of being within all of us, not just the seemingly lovable ones. All can and do exist inside of us. Understanding our whole selves helps us to treat ourselves with mercy and forgiveness, while extending that same mercy, to others. This is freedom.
Many of our less savory aspects are character defenses, masks, compensations and/or cloaking devices that were developed at a time when our young minds were creatively trying to protect us from harm or perceived harm. These shadowy aspects did the best they could with an underdeveloped frontal lobe (the part of our brain that can imagine consequences and plans into the future) to strategize our safety. We can choose to love and accept all parts of ourselves with understanding and compassion. We have many shadow formations from:
Being nice to elicit kindness
Anger to throw up walls to protect ourselves in advance
Hurt and victimized to protect us from further harm
Bullying to attack other’s imperfections as a way to deflect from our own
Care taking to feel valuable and needed