“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart… live in the question.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
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During meditation and yoga this morning, I sat with a feeling of fear and anxiety for a long time. As I let go of thoughts about whether I should take my career one way or another and returned to the feeling of panic in the body, I treated myself as I would a client or loved one, acknowledging the fear, welcoming it, becoming curious about it, without rushing to change it.
What came out of that is a memory of a time of profound uncertainty in my life. It was not a moment of trauma or crisis, but a period of an underlying sense of not knowing what was going to happen.
While a tragic event can certainly leave a strong scar that we know we have to heal, perhaps it is the moments where not much is happening, but we feel powerless, alone, and uncertain, that most weaken us.
There are so many times I have been at this crossroad of indecision and uncertainty. Times of illness, career confusion, relationship woes, and moving homes and countries are but a few examples of times when the ground seems to shift and even fall away. It is so tempting to try with all our might to scramble and grasp our way over to more solid ground.
The reality is, as much as we try to avoid these moments of uncertainty, they are a significant part of living. Just as leaves must turn red, yellow and brown before falling, we must often endure periods of slow transformation before reaching a new state. Our minds and bodies may yearn for a new beginning, for springtime to arrive, yet if we ignore the slow process of release and renewal, we are missing much of being alive.
Yet if we learn to relax in the midst of the uncertainty, to release the struggle against not knowing, even a little bit, we can befriend this difficult part of life.
Here are some ways that I have found effective when working with uncertainty:
1) Redefining Uncertainty – From Terrifying To Thrilling
Our natural bias is to think of everything that could possibly go wrong in a situation. Yet, it is very likely that while some things could go wrong, there are many others that could go right.
Can you open yourself to the possibility of adventure, surprise and growth that may come about in any given scenario?
2) Cultivating Trust
I have heard that anxiety is the feeling of perceived failure. We think of a possible future scenario, and we imagine the mistakes that we could make, and the many pitfalls that exist.
What if we allowed ourselves to fail? What if we imagined the worst thing that could possibly happen, and trust that we could handle that, too?
Cultivating trust in ourselves, in the people in our lives, in our communities, and in the Universe reminds us that we are not alone, and that we have more resources and abilities to deal with any possible failure than we can imagine.
3) Giving Things Time
When I have a decision to make, I want to make it NOW. But this is not always possible. Sometimes there are factors at play that are beyond our control, and all we can do is wait.
Strengthening our ability to be patient is a wonderful tool in working with uncertainty.
Can we bring our minds back from the constant imagining and scenario-building to what is happening right here, right now? The next task, the next sip of tea, the next breath? Can we give ourselves the time we need for our lives, our bodies and our minds to come together and move forward?
Through seeing uncertainty as Thrilling, Trusting yourself and the process, and giving it Time, you may just find that even if the situation itself does not get clearer, your ability to stay in the process of transition strengthens. We develop an ability to hold the uncertainty in a loving and gentle space.
We may even wish to remember that like us, there are so many others that find themselves in a place of confusion and doubt. We can open our hearts to this struggle, in ourselves and others, and cultivate gentleness, patience and trust.
Just like the leaves return in the Spring, we will undoubtedly find our ground again. If we have chosen to open to the feeling of groundlessness throughout the process, we will come out the other side with greater wisdom, clarity and peace.