surrender to the mystery…1-25-24


Sometimes I show up as a student and sometimes I’m up front as a guide and this is a story of what arose fresh off that dance floor this week.  I teach on assigned dates and on Wednesday teach to an assigned topic. Perhaps it’s the release from ownership responsibility or the sledgehammer of Covid or just time and natural maturation, but it feels like a new era for me and us out there.  High dose excitement and enthusiasm and willingness and authenticity abound.  And something has shifted inside me: I’m on the verge of a new found ease when I’m up front.

Notice the word “verge”…plenty of room for growth in the ease department.  And with this interesting occupation, transformation emerges right out of the creative process of teaching.  The Wednesday class assignment: teach chaos.  This undertaking could go a thousand directions.  But some recent research about tolerance for the unknownsounded a bell that had been conversationally echoing all week: people struggling with indecision.  Did you know there is an uncertainty tolerance assessment?  You probably don’t need a test. You know how different we are as humans. Given the same exact circumstance, we might perceive scary threat or intriguing challenge.   Some are wired for predictability as a safety signal and some equate predictability with boredom.  Not surprisingly, there are more health risk factors with low tolerance.

So on Wednesday we sussed out uncertainty in our bodies, beginning with fully embracing our “yes”.  Yes to our breath and heartbeat, each body part, yes to a partner and yes to the empty space.  And then we stood strongly in our “no’.  In ways big and small, in motion and in relationship.  And then in chaos, the featured rhythm of the evening, we held yes and no simultaneously.  How do we survive in the unknown without defaulting to control or confusion?  How do we sit on the fence and tolerate living in the question?  How do we NOT make a choice between black and white, good and evil, this and that?  How do we rest in the query with no need for an instant answer?

This dance floor investigation brought me right to my old forks in the road.  In my younger years, when asked to choose, I bought in hook, line and sinker to immediacy.  I could barely breathe in the smothering grey of indecision.  It was so unbearable that dealing with the inevitable fallout of a less than optimal choice was preferable to not knowing.  I know some of you agonizing procrastinators have a different story.  But the human suffering we share is rooted in the same source: low tolerance for uncertainty.

Back then I framed this strategy as freedom, pictured myself floating down the river of life, every choice just another this way or that fork in the river.  But from here, that form of freedom looks a bit suspect.  On the dance floor that embodied sense of freedom felt like it thrived in the landscape of NOT knowing.  We can linger a good long while in a state of wonder.  Open the door to whimsy.  In the face of yes/no maybe I can take my hands off the wheel or at least lighten my grip.  Frankly, by now, life has delivered so many experiences of relinquishing control or falling into a confusing morass or hanging suspended in doubt.  And in the aftermath, as if waking from a dream, more and more I encounter myself settled in the cozy lap of the mystery.

Surrender is a posture that seems to suit this old body.  Surrender fills in the edges with undeniable grace.  Dating myself here, but perhaps you recall the show The Price is Right?  When faced with the hand wringing decision between Door #1 and Door #2  what if we gave ourselves permission to say “I don’t know.”  And if we just would hang out a bit in this place of wonder and whimsy, we just might be surprised when Door #3 happens to appear.

Maybe right here, right now, take in a deep breath.  Feel your own current story of uncertainty.  Exhale your body into a shape of surrender.  Maybe even feel a momentary blush of relief.  There is one thing that feels very certain: life is easier when we don’t always need to know.