In These Uncertain Times
We live in uncertain times. Few of us appreciated how uncertain they are just a few weeks ago.
Most of us began the year hoping we could accomplish great things. We set out to lose weight or find love or make money and expected to make progress. Our resolutions were going to make our lives more healthy and our world a better place.
Now we sit isolated, quarantined in our homes trying to remember how we got here.
Some of us work from home with our families. We worry about how much longer we will still have a job and when we will run out of money.
Some of us are alone. We wonder what will happen if we get sick, whether anyone will take care of us.
None of us know what will happen next. The future is a mystery to us, beyond our ability to predict. Neither we nor anyone we know has ever experienced anything like these uncertain times.
It is impossible for us to know who we should trust. We feel helpless and confused, lost and afraid.
What can we do to protect ourselves and prepare for our future? Which direction is the path for us to take? Is there a right way for us to turn?
We would prefer not to live in uncertain times. Certainty is comforting. Uncertainty makes us anxious. How can we know what to do? Where are we going and how will we get there?
The times are like a rollercoaster. Each twist and turn leaves our stomachs aching to know. It is impossible for us to know how to adjust because we cannot anticipate what is coming.
We feel helpless in these uncertain times. What will happen next?
Spiritual Life in Uncertain Times
Living in uncertain times can feel like sailing a small raft on an ocean. Our uncertainty stretches before us as far as we can see in every direction, from horizon to horizon.
We search for one sure, unambiguous thing we can hold onto which will hold us firm.
It is easy for us to feel we need to find a safe place to hide and wait for uncertainty to go away.
We assume uncertain times are a temporary aberration. If we are patient and can wait long enough, we are convinced life will become certain again.
People often say the only things certain in life are death and taxes, but we behave as if even those are uncertain.
Some of us turn to spiritual life seeking certainty and clarity. In our ocean of uncertainty we want to anchor ourselves to an island we can trust. We believe spiritual life will give us strong, certain, sacred truths for a firm foundation.
My experience of spiritual life has taught me different lessons. As I explore and discover spiritual life within me and in the world life often becomes more uncertain. What I thought I understood is often transformed into something difficult to recognize.
Spiritual life is more about seeing things in new ways than about looking for safe places.
The story of spiritual life within me is a long process of leaning into uncertainty. Spiritual life has taught me to question things which feel certain and look at uncertainty in new ways.
In these uncertain times spiritual life can be a key to open our locked ways of understanding.
Uncertain times are not weaknesses, but the seeds of curiosity.
We learn to stop relying on what we have been told and begin listening to sacred stillness.
Paying Attention in Uncertain Times
Spiritual life is not a place for us to find easy, concrete solutions to our questions.
As we practice paying attention in uncertain times we begin to value our questions as much as finding answers.
Questions tell us what is important to us and draw us into exploration. When we think we are satisfied with the answers we have found we stop asking and exploring. We are no longer learning and growing.
Some of us experience questions as disruptive. We may not want anyone else to think we do not know the answers.
Our questions are not about raising our hands or standing up and shouting to be heard.
We pay attention in uncertain times by listening to sacred stillness. A contemplative listening practice helps us discover sacred stillness within ourselves and in the world around us. We practice listening and paying attention to what stillness has to tell us.
It can be a challenge for us to pay attention in uncertain times. The voices of our fears and anxieties threaten to distract us from what stillness has for us.
We practice listening to sacred stillness each day, spending time being open to the voice of spiritual life.
Certainty in These Uncertain Times
Living in these uncertain times can turn our schedules upside down. We want to stay in bed all day and sit up at night exploring uncertainty.
Sometimes I sit waiting for a new morning to dawn in the sky. I try to think my way into certainty, pondering what we know and what we do not.
Thoughts, feelings, and ideas flash through me even as I try to pay attention. My mind and heart treat the world around me as a puzzle to be solved, a question to be answered. I seem to think I can find certainty by sorting through what I know.
We seem to become less certain as we learn and grow. The more we believe we know the more we appreciate how much we do not know.
Living in these uncertain times opens our eyes to our own uncertainty.
When we sit still and listen to sacred stillness we begin to glimpse the true uncertainty of life.
Each day is another opportunity for us to see.
When will we take time today to listen to sacred stillness in these uncertain times?
How will we remember to pay attention this week in these uncertain times?
[Image by FeatheredTar]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.