I’ve been a little quiet recently, living in the void, befriending uncertainty. It’s been an interesting time full of fertile ground for working with my mind. Let’s face it, it is s&*t when we don’t get what we want! I guess I’m quite used to getting what I want but I’m learning, at present, that life doesn’t always work that way. This is not to say that I always get what I want but, I guess, it is usually pretty clear what the outcome will be. This means that I can accept what comes to me and move on from it. Recently, I have been living in the void though; not really knowing what the outcome will be. It seems that every time I think a particular outcome has manifested, it changes. It’s kind of like I’m being told ‘here you go again, you got comfortable and complacent so the rug will be pulled out from under you again now until you learn.’ Learn what? I guess until I learn that nothing is certain and that the Hollywood ‘happily ever after’ conclusion to things is a myth. There is no end point. It will just keep on changing.
So what does one do when living in an extended period in uncertainty? My response has been to want to rush through it to some kind of conclusion but, this time, it’s just not working that way. I’m doing what I can but I can’t rush.There is nowhere to go. I just have to wait. However, I have discovered that waiting on the edge of my seat, chewing my fingernails while the butterflies dance manically in my stomach is no way to live and my adrenal glands certainly don’t like it! This has forced me to review my situation and my entire world view to some degree. It has taught me a lot.
Firstly, what makes those happy people happy? The wordpress prompt that I responded to in my last post got me thinking about this as I contemplated the cheerful delivery man. If I think of myself being a delivery man, I think I would be a miserable, surly delivery man – I expect too much out of life. I want too much. I’m always seeking after something else, something new, something big to fulfil my ambitions (ouch! it stings even writing this!). I’ve always been one of those people who have wanted to do something great. But I haven’t. Well, not at least in any way obvious to me. So I need to face up to that. Not in a way that says ‘why haven’t you?’ but rather in a ‘why would you think you could?’ and a ‘what is your motivation to do so?’ kind of way. I’ve realised that always seeking something ‘Big’ means I’ve been missing the ‘Little’.
So I’ve been appreciating the Littles more this week and it has been quite surprising. I’m taking more note of the small kindnesses that are shown to me and that I show to others. It’s nice. It’s enjoyable. It’s a lot less effort than striving after Big things all the time. I can relax a bit.
How does this relate to uncertainty and living in the void? Well, I don’t know how long I’ll be in the void and there may not be a foreseeable end point so I need to work with what I have got. The alternative is depression and anxiety and I’ve done those to death – I’m through with living like that. I want to be happy (or should I say, deeply contented, accepting and joyful) and if I expect that state of mind to emerge out of struggle and resistance to what is, then I am always going to me at the mercy of external circumstances and who knows what is around the corner. I, for one, certainly know of many, many people in far worse situations than my own – they would think I am mad for not being grateful for my situation and rightly so. I wish I wasn’t such a finicky, fickle and ungrateful personality. In fact, I’m done with that too!
I do need to be gentle with myself though. I’ve been a certain way for a long time (at least this life-time!); it’s a habitual way of thinking. I can and will change it though. Today the sun is shining, the air is nearly still and I am amongst the mountain tops. I have a flicker of joy and contentment warming me from within. I can feel it. It is there. I will nurture this small flame and feed it with presence and stillness and guard it from the winds of fear and grasping. In gratitude I thank those who have shown me where to look and to those who have shaped my world and co-create those moments of happiness. And a ‘hats off’ to the void. Of course you are always there.
I heard a story the other day that totally transformed my mind and did something inexplicable to my heart. It was a story of the tragic death of a teenage girl killed in a car accident and the lady who found her and held her hand while she died. It was the girl’s mother who retold the story and I don’t think she was aware of how this image of her daughter and her own bravery for retelling this story publicly had such an enormous impact. I was transported there to that moment and experienced the complete surrender of the woman in that moment as she nursed the dying girl. I could (and do now when I retell this) feel the vast stillness of ungrasping love that pervaded. Time stood still and she just witnessed with deep presence and tenderness her last moments. Being able to hold her in that stillness, in that moment, was all that counted and the greatest gift that could be offered. Through that story my heart learnt how to be: to simply rest and give my full attention to someone in their greatest time of need. No words are required, there is no need to alter or change but simply be there witnessing and experiencing (to some degree) in stillness that absolutely sacred, completely vulnerable and pivotal moment.
The beauty present in that image is the naked reality of being completely helpless and unable to change the situation through resolving, fixing, trying or striving and the seeing that the only option is to stop, be still and allow oneself to be there fully for another in their time of need. Allow yourself to visualise that moment, be that woman, you are there and your mind transforms. The struggle stops, the sense of desperation and helplessness abates and all that is left is that vast, still, timeless moment of gentle strength, stability, knowing and something that goes beyond the word ‘love’.
This morning while I meditated I was able to bring a little of that atmosphere and presence to my practice. I sensed the pain and struggle of hope and fear in my body, the stress and dis-ease that I bring unto myself by constantly striving towards some place in the future where everything will be ok. I touched that pain and allowed myself to feel that vulnerability – that same vulnerability that was so starkly obvious as the young girl slipped away from this life. I stayed with that vulnerability and guided it towards all the tension, fear, struggle and expectation that I was holding in my body (especially around my chest). Compassion for my pain and aversion to life’s hardship softened and eased the tension and the perpetual ‘no’ to what is. Stillness prevailed, albeit only a little, but it was enough. I feel a little kinder to myself and a little softer, a little more at ease and able to face what the day presents.
I would like to thank that lady for the gift that she shared. She suffered for a long time before seeing the gentle ray of light amongst the ferocious, dark clouds of grief. May she find peace in that moment and solace in what she, her daughter and the lady inspired in others. Their story will stay in my heart and remind me of that vast stillness and presence that hides behind the appearances of this world and all its stories.