Dancing with Uncertainty

Craving certainty, wanting to control, to know for sure … well, it is a malady affecting quite possibly most of humanity. The opposite, uncertainty and lack of control, is terribly frightening after all. I’m definitely guilty of this and the threat of uncertainty has been something I’ve often tried to run and hide from, as my anxiety tries to latch on to the scariest uncertainty it can. Sometimes I’ve thought my mind just likes to invent new things to feel anxious about whenever the current “cause” of the anxiety is alleviated. With that in mind, here are a few reflections on holding space for that unsettling uncertainty and perhaps even dancing with it.

1) Go to the extreme of your fear. What uncertainty really comes down to is that our lives on this earth are very small and fragile when you think about it and there is so much we don’t know and can’t control. We don’t even know if our next breath will be our last in this human body we inhabit. This is an example of taking an anxiety or fear of the unknown to its natural extreme. I’ve found this practice can be helpful even if it might seem a little intense. Simply ask yourself what it is you are afraid of? What is causing your particular anxiety? Maybe a friend isn’t responding to a message you sent. Okay so what’s the extreme of that. Maybe something like your friend doesn’t care about you anymore and doesn’t want to be friends. Likely that’s not the case but if you can take it to that extreme and make your peace with it, accept what you can’t control, chances are whatever is actually the situation will be much easier to handle.

2) Try your best without attachment to the results. Much of our discomfort with uncertainty comes from wanting to control the outcome of a situation. However, the outcome is something we really don’t ultimately have control over. All we can do is put forth our very best effort each day, each moment. If we can do that and surrender control of the outcome, chances are we will be a lot more content.

3) Hold space for uncertainty and learn to dance with her. Uncertainty is a fact of life; there’s no avoiding it. If we fight against uncertainty and try to impose our own feeble attempts at control, all we’ll end up doing is making ourselves miserable. If we can practice simply sitting with uncertainty, holding space for her and all the accompanying emotions that come up, with kindness towards ourselves, that is an unbelievable step forwards. With time, we might even be able to stand up and dance with uncertainty, sometimes with a smile and sometimes with tears, but dancing just the same, embracing the wonder of not knowing and seeing where the next step might take you.

We want to know
know what?
know everything of course
the secrets of existence
why we are here
who are we?
who am I?
who are you?
We want to know
what will happen next
will we succeed or fail
will we live or die
will we live after we die?
will we go to heaven or hell?
is there a heaven or hell?
we think we can grasp
at certainties
by reading and writing
and philosophizing
and actioning
we think we can hide
from uncertainty
run from it
lock it away
when really
you can’t hide from uncertainty
no less than you can cut off your own shadow
unless you’re Peter pan?
when they talk
of faith and trust
it’s not an eschewing of uncertainty
it’s a dancing with it
opening the doors to it
welcoming it in
and saying
I don’t know
and that’s ok
I trust that that’s ok
would you like to dance?

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