Growing Roots (A Series): Part VII

Rooting in Trust: The Gifts of Being Uncertain

Yep, there it all is. Trust and uncertainty. Our favorites, right?

I got started thinking about the relationship between these two things in church. Our minister made reference to the Jewish practice of writing God as G-d. I learned that this spelling is a way of signifying that the writer is talking about the god of Abraham (the ONE god for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, yes the same ONE for all three), signifying that entity while being clear that we can only be so specific in doing so. In the words of my minister this practice serves “to show we don’t really know what we are talking about.” I love this admission.

This designation, this way of acknowledging such a big mystery with three characters, speaks to an acceptance of uncertainty that I find refreshing and intriguing. And the impact for the faith that uses this spelling is instructive.

aisle-beach-celebration-169198Acknowledging that fundamental uncertainty about divinity has not prevented the Jewish people from developing a deep and abiding faith both as a group and as individuals as they so choose. That uncertainty has not prevented the Jewish people from referencing, describing, and writing about or praying to God as they so choose. Acknowledging the limits of what is known has not kept Jewish people from developing a shared cultural tradition of celebrations, rituals, food, and music with which to enrich their lives as they so choose.

Accepting this fundamental uncertainty about the exact nature of God has not prevented or hindered growth, love, richness and fullness in living.

My mother told me a long time ago that I “have never been a fan of uncertainty.” As I write that, it occurs to me how much more those words describe her than me, and how universal they seem to be in humanity. But to keep it personal, I admit that I have always felt more comfortable with a clear plan, routines, expected outcomes. These qualities all helped me as a teacher and parent, but haven’t always served me well in times of trouble and stress and during times of fundamental unpredictability (which I acknowledge are increasingly common as I am honest about it).

For years the added discomfort of “I don’t know what will happen” kept me committed to plans that I no longer felt good about, routines that didn’t serve me, and striving for outcomes that my heart wasn’t invested in. That fear of uncertainty kept me caged up.

It seems to me, as I think about this whole G-d thing, that there is an entirely different way to approach uncertainty. It seems to me now, as someone who has entirely thrown off her professional plans in favor of the substantial risks of soul-centered self-employment, and as the partner of someone who discarded a lucrative career in favor of seminary, that our avoidance of uncertainty is based entirely upon the possibility of a negative outcome and our desire to control the process – thinking that our control will eliminate negative outcomes.

I look to the lessons of my own parenting when it comes to this issue. I confess I tend to be on the controlling side of parenting in many ways. We limit junk food, video games and television in our home. I acknowledge that these limits have created some social gaps for my kids and I STILL think I’m in the right. With all of that said, and no parent reading this will be surprised by this, all of that control in no way guarantees how my children will behave, the choices they will make, or who they will become. The uncertainty and unpredictability in human interactions and growth can bring great disappointments, and they can also reveal joy and beauty beyond what we could have asked for.

What I’m seeing through all of this is a fundamental difference in being rooted in control and rooted in uncertainty – which, by the way, means being rooted in trust.

Being rooted in uncertainty implies some basic acceptance of the fact that we can’t ever be completely certain of, or totally control anything beyond how we feel inside. Uncertainty is the fundamental reality. It is our desire for control that makes it so uncomfortable.

back-view-backlit-city-847483What if, instead of believing our actions would result in a particular desired outcome, we chose what we do based on whether or not it feels good, the kind of good that makes us nod our heads when we choose it; The kind of good that, when we are listening, makes our bodies feel the way the have felt during the best of times. What if we used that criteria, of how we feel, and trusted that the way we feel is enough, that things will be what they will be, and we will handle the outcome?

Making choices that way is only possible when we accept uncertainty as a fundamental condition of reality and choose to trust that ultimately we will be well, or well enough. That rooting, that acceptance, opens us up to seeing beyond what we are hoping for, outside of the boundaries of what we have planned for ourselves and what our linear thinking and our logic dictate as the most likely outcome. Acceptance of uncertainty, and the choice to cultivate trust opens a rich and delicious world of choices that can make our lives so very whole, so very full, and so deeply connected to our needs, our gifts, and our desires.

What would happen for you if you just admitted that you don’t know what’s going to happen, and if you sat with that admission long enough for the fear to subside? I think I know what’s on the other side, and it feels like freedom.

Letting Go of Plan B

I stumbled across a quote the other day that challenged me.

“Why don’t we stay in the realm of the answer, rather than always returning to the realm of the problem?”

It’s from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, which is a challenging book, chock full of challenging quotes, but this one called me out – not called out to me but called me out.

And I say that with some gentleness, rather than scolding.

balance-beach-body-1199588You see, I’ve discovered a variety of practices that make me feel really good, really centered, really effective. I’ve figured some things out about what my body and spirit need most to do my work in the world. And I do them… until I don’t.

This quote is me – my spiritual practices, my beliefs, my faith, my discipline, my will, my self-compassion, my business, most of my efforts really. All of them I handle with a duck-in/duck-out sort of mentality. I rarely go all in and sustain it.

I duck into meditation and then something interrupts my practice and I forget to keep doing it.

I dip into prayer and then forget to use it when I really want help or guidance.

I cherish my budding faith in the universe when I feel good and deride myself for it when things aren’t going well.

I always return to the realm of the problem.

What makes it so difficult for me to stay in the realm of the answer and what would that look like? My mind offers some very practical explanations for my dip in duck out approach.

You can’t, after all, meditate all day long. You do actually have to DO some things.

Wisdom answers: You can bring your awareness to your breath at any time. You can acknowledge your thoughts as transient and consciously choose and respond to them. You can wish for peace for yourself an others constantly.

My mind: You can’t, after all, pray all day long. You do actually have to DO some things.

Wisdom answers: You can converse with the force that binds us all day long, in snippets or treatises. You can ask for things, help, guidance. You can want and ask for more. You can see any action you take as prayer and proceed as though that is your intention. What would happen to your days if all of your actions were a prayer?

My mind: I’ve got too much to do.

Wisdom answers: When you take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, your effectiveness, your efficiency, and your productivity skyrocket. You know this. Is it really the to do list that’s getting you or is that just an excuse?

And that’s when the bird poop really hits the hair, because it’s not about spirituality or personal development or woo woo practices, it’s about self-sabotage and whatever is getting in the way of feeling and being better.

It’s about being afraid to succeed.

It’s about being afraid to be different.

It’s about being afraid to change (AGAIN).

I see myself and this entire pattern as a desire to not be ALL IN.

I think I do this a lot, hold back, stop myself from being all in. I’m not sure exactly why, but I imagine it has something to do with the vulnerability inherent in being all in.

cards-casino-chips-39856When we go all in, we are clear about what we want. We are claiming and proclaiming (at least to whoever is around) our desires, our intentions, our dreams, our wants. When we go all in we stop hedging our bets, taking half measures, protecting our behinds, busily formulating Plan Bs. When we go all in we let other options go, we release the safety of the status quo, and we step firmly into new territory with unpredictable outcomes. When we go all in, we are risking (and the alarmist in my wants to add… everything).

The fears that get in my way are the same no matter what I’m talking about.

The reasons to play it small are equally consistent.

But the reasons to go all in, those I’m less familiar with as it has not generally been my way… except that one time.

That one time I decided to try one more time. That one time I decided to remove all of the obstacles to what I wanted. That one time I took advice and sought out the best collaborator I could find. That one time I aligned my thinking with the outcome I wanted and kept it there, ditching the fear that it was all a horrible mistake. That one time I trusted that even if I didn’t get what I wanted, I would be better off for having tried – really tried. That one time I quit my stressful job, stabbed myself with needles full of hormones, got poked and prodded and examined and investigated. That one time I did EVERYTHING. That one time I got pregnant and kept the babies. That one time.

And I’ve taught myself the lesson by thinking maybe I had something to say to you about the struggle to be consistent with our self-care. It turns out the lesson I needed to hear today was a different one, a lesson about the gifts of real commitment and some encouragement to jump in the deep end of the pool every once in a while. The question I need to ask myself is a real one about aligning my action to my desires, about honesty and authenticity, about realizing that taking risks has always been the only way to get the things I most wanted.

And so I’m going to start to ask myself: “Are you all in?” Not to spur myself to greater levels of workaholism. Not to shame myself into some kind of to do list-making frenzy, but to check my heart, to check my thoughts, to see if I am really committing to what I say I’m trying to do, to what I say I want. The answer doesn’t have to be “Yes,” but if it’s no, then that bears looking at, right?

How about you? Where are you employing half-measures and expecting a full return? Are you all in?