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Things We Can Control Versus Things We Can’t

Woman with rainbow umbrella

I have always been a wee bit of a control freak and I don’t like it when I can’t control the outcome of events, or when uncertainty looms and it feels like the ground is slipping out from underneath my feet. The desire for control stems from a fear of the chaos that hovers right under the surface of my ordered life. Yet, I know that chaos is a creative force, without which nothing would change or evolve. It is a necessary stage in the creative process, and, if allowed to exist, it ushers in revelation and innovation.

Following the recent election, I have felt a lack of control as I observe the whole country headed in a direction that I neither support or agree with. I have struggled with feelings of numbness, grief, despair and hopelessness. It has been hard to come back to center.

When I sit with these feelings, I notice that the thought of having control was a concept, not a reality. The reality is that life is changing all the time, in ways that we like and do not like. I can only control my own reactions to the situation; this means staying centered in the present moment. It is a challenging practice to sit with uncertainty and not allow the mind to make stories about the future. Despite my struggle with these feelings, I remain optimistic and hopeful that the current state of polarity in our country will eventually create positive change.

Here are some tools I use to cope with the forces of uncertainty and change, which I can’t control:

  • Connecting to friends and like-minded others
  • Connecting to nature and beauty
  • Exercising
  • Thinking positive thoughts, and making room to feel my difficult feelings
  • Staying aware of the play of opposites, knowing that the oscillation between polarities is a constant in this physical world
  • Meditation

I have had a dedicated meditation practice for many years, and it has become the vessel that holds me steady in times of change. When I meditate, I remember my essential Self and my connection to the Divine. Meditation helps me to remember that the Divine is present in all views, all forms and all people.

But, when I arise from my cushion and face the relative world, it is challenging to maintain this view. I practice by finding compassion for those closest to me, like the neighbor who voted differently in the election, or the friend who stays in a less-than-optimum relationship out of fear of change.

In a very passionate interview on the Shift Network, writer and spiritual activist Andrew Harvey has called this election a “wake-up call to the world” – an invitation to look at our own shadow and get more real about the dreadful situation that our world and civilization are facing at this moment in time. He calls us to explore our own shadow and find the places of darkness within us in order to birth a deeper compassion, reminding us that it is the darkness that always gives birth to the light.

The more we know our own areas of judgment, bigotry and hatred, the less we will project them outwards. This is the nature of the inner work needed to create transformation in the outer world.

In the face of events that are out of my control, I choose to trust in the unfolding grace of each moment, even if it means I don’t understand the immediate outcome. I know that the old forms must die before a real and lasting transformation occurs, and I hope that I can stay steady through the chaos of change. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand or become complacent. I want to respond to the world with both the openness of my heart and right action.

I leave you with these words from poet Wendell Berry, that remind us that we all do have a choice as to where we put our attention and energy.

The Peace of Wild Things


When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

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