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…and death and taxes.  Right? But there are even unknowns around those.  When will I die?  How?  How much is the government going to take this year?

Uncertainty used to be crazy scary for me.  Living a fear-based existence, I went to great lengths to avoid change and the big unknown, culminating in a suicide attempt.  (See blog: Are You Living According To What You Want Or According to What You Don’t Want?)

In the years following the attempt, which resulted in a serious brain injury, I worked hard to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Through affirmations, positive self talk, meditation, visualization, and mindfulness, I slowly, and I mean years, began to change my attitude towards uncertainty.  A big part of that process required that I gain trust in my own ability to weather whatever life threw at me.  My confidence in myself grew exponentially just by recovering from the brain injury.  “If I can figure my way out of that one, I can handle anything,” I thought.

While your brain and mine are wired to crave certainty and feel happy when they think this requirement is satisfied, it’s an illusion. (See blog: Making Fear Your Friend) There’s no certainty except uncertainty.

While I still get anxious when facing an unknown future, I also feel a twinge of excitement. Uncertainty and change are essential to growth in any area of life.  Life isn’t static.  It’s in a constant state of flux, flowing like a river.  As much as I would like to stay in my comfort zone, even if it’s uncomfortable, at times, to get to anything better, I have to let go of “what is.”  You can never step into the same river twice. The unknown IS scary, but, it’s also the only way that “good” things are brought into our lives.

I’ve learned not to judge anything as good or bad.  Whatever shows up is merely different. We can’t begin to know if something is “good” or “bad” when it presents itself.  Our thinking about any situation makes it so.  It IS what we think it is.  A break up is painful, but it may also lead to finding THE one. Being laid off is scary as hell, but it can prompt someone to find a new career about which they’re passionate and in which they’re infinitely happier.

Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, writes in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics):

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.  We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved.  They come together and they fall apart.  Then they come together again and fall apart again.  It’s just like that.  The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen.  When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know.   Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.  We try to do what we think is going to help.  But we don’t know.  We never know if we are going to fall flat or sit up tall.  When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story.  It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.

Sandra Pawula advises in her post Step Into Uncertainty: “Please don’t wait for happiness or imagine it’s right around the corner. Instead, find nourishment and truth in whatever circumstances arise.”

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/russloar/

13 Comments

  1. Judy M. Hampton Reply

    A good read, as your postings always are, and filled with good insights including helpful information for daily living up to our each individual potential. Good job. 🙂

    • Jon, thank you for your kind words. As you well know, the greatest insight comes from having weathered the storm yourself, but, hopefully, we can dodge some bad weather and learn from others! 🙂

  2. It’s interesting to read that the brain craves certainty! It seems we are always up against strong brain patters, but it seems like you have so successfully turned them around. Thanks so much for mentioning my blog post. I crave certainty too, but always try to break that open a bit.

    • Sandra, if I can do it, anyone can! Taking control of your brain and not just playing victim to its inherent tendencies makes for a much happier, more peaceful life. As you know, it does take time and effort, but it IS possible.

  3. My brain definitely craves certainty…..but at my age I know it’s not likely going to find it. 😉

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  5. Jenny Sundberg Reply

    Thanks so much for this! It’s exactly what I needed to read right now. 🙂

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