Arriving at uncertainty and learning to go with the flow during stressful times is a must. How do we learn to do this and not go crazy?
In western culture, when uncertainty becomes the dominant theme for day-to-day life, we seem to implode. Markets tumble, plans get canceled, and future goals seem less obtainable. We allow our anxieties about the future to consume our thoughts, which in turn, robs us of our inner peace. Uncertainty and habitually worrying about tomorrow or the years ahead can cause us to make poor decisions. We begin to act out of fear. When we continually move out of fear, we lose our center, and life can quickly become unmanageable. In a state of neurosis, we give up our power to act, and we often look for someone or something else to “save” us. Before life becomes a constant struggle due to obsessing over things that have yet to unfold, let me tell you about how I’m learning to let go.
Concerned About the Arrival
Recently I “planned” a short road trip to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. Part of the planning of this day trip was the idea that I would see all sorts of wild birds. With this in mind, I rented a powerful telephoto lens for my camera and brought some binoculars in the hopes of seeing many wild birds. I also had made it up in my mind that I would be capturing some great wildlife photos. I packed a light lunch and brewed some tea for my thermos, and off I went! I had a clear vision of my intended arrival and how it was all going to pan out. When I got to the refuge, there wasn’t one bird in sight! Here, I had driven for 2 hours, rented a telephoto lens, all for not! At least these were my immediate thoughts. The arrival I had hoped for wasn’t at all what turned out to be.
Of course, I was disappointed, and I began to entertain thoughts that my road trip plan was a complete waste of time. “How silly of me?” I thought. Then it had occurred to me that I had too much stake in the destination. I had placed my undivided attention on “getting there.” My obsession with arrival had wholly undermined the core philosophy I intend to convey while writing this blog! The actual “Art of the American Road Trip” is the journey! I wondered what I had missed along the way.
Cliche’ Warning! Going With the Flow.
Let’s face it! Uncertainty is always present in any situation in life. Yes, there are varying degrees of severity about change, and some apply to life and death scenarios. It’s not easy to accept uncertainty in these instances. The truth is, most of us grow old, get sick, and die, that’s for sure. Then there are other contexts such as business deals, finances, and critical relationships where uncertainty can ruin your day. When it comes to these matters, we all like to envision specific positive outcomes, and often our plans do work out, one way or the “other.” When our plans don’t work out, how can we make it easier or even make the outcome even better? I believe that adopting a “flow” mentality while being completely present with what is in front of us can be magic. We can soften in the seat of uncertainty. What follows is a personal example of what I’m writing about.
Let The Magic Unfold
As mentioned above, being concerned with the destination had set me up for expectations. I believed I had a clear vision of what was going to happen when I arrived at the bird refuge. My plan didn’t pan out, and as a result, I engaged in a short period of negative thoughts and emotions. After stopping (stopping to take notice and acknowledge the upset) and taking some deep mindful breaths. I then opened my heart and accepted that quite possibly, the moment that I was in, right then, and there was where I needed to be. I became utterly present with each breath and began to relax and release all expectations of how the day would unfold. From a place of total acceptance, I began to adopt a more lucid, playful, and adventurous mindset. I asked myself, “What else is possible, right now?” Images of birds and other wildlife came into my mind’s eye, and for reasons I cannot explain, I began to drive east. It was if I had become a taxi-driver for my conscious flow.
I found myself being “guided” to drive east on I84 out of Ogden, Utah. Although I had driven up this dramatic canyon many times before, I found myself completely enamored with the colors and rock formations lining the highway. I then felt compelled to exit onto the frontage north of the freeway, where I was able to slow down and enjoy the views even more vividly. I had no destination in mind, and I allowed myself to follow my inner wisdom. I decided to pull off to view some unique rock formations known as the “Witch Rocks.” I noticed a place to pull off the road, which was what remained of a Pony Express trail. Next to the pullout, I found a bench to sit on. I continued to breathe deeply and relax even more. I decided to eat my lunch, and rather than gulping down my sandwich, I chose to eat slowly and enjoy the food. I thought of the people who made this food possible. I thought of the farmers, the truck drivers, and grocery store workers. I began to feel compassion for all the uncertainty these people must endure. I chewed slowly and experienced the flavors with appreciation. I then began to take notice of all the nutrients the food is giving every cell in my body. I was in a complete state of flow and mindfulness, and when I lifted my head, a Bald Eagle appeared over the red rock formations in front of me. Soon after that magical moment, more eagles and other raptors began to appear! From here, the beautiful moments, naturally, organically unfolded into a pure experience! It is this state of mind that is what I mean by the “Art of the American Road Trip”!
The Autonomy of Experience
Even though all things and all sentient beings are interdependent in one way or another, (This is a topic for a later blog post) as unique individuals, we all can orchestrate how we experience reality. What you experience is entirely different from what others experience, and yet, there is no other. We also have the power to enhance our experience, moment by moment, to wring out every drop of beauty that life has to offer. Even amid extreme uncertainty, we can stop, breathe deeply, center ourselves, and soften in the moment. I believe if we continue to practice this in the less complicated moments of uncertainty, we will develop more inner peace and genuine compassion for other human beings. We all came into this life, and from the moment we took our first breath, uncertainty has been with us all the way. Why not live with it consciously while not being so concerned with arriving somewhere? With persistence, we can broaden our practice to meet the more daunting times we currently live in.
The Bird Moments
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.Buddhist Metta Prayer