How I’m Learning to Live with Uncertainty

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Ever since I can remember, I've held such a gnarly grip of expectation and fear of uncertainty around nearly every experience. No joke, the night before Kindergarten I was panicked because I didn’t know how to read. No amount of consoling from my parents telling me that I was going to school to learn exactly that was even remotely comforting. Questions like, What if I bad at it? and What if I couldn’t do it? quickly spiraled into, “What if I’m not worthy of love?”

That’s intense for a five year-old!

That same fear and anxiety around being incapable permeated my entire school experience. In recent years, having thought I had done such good work around my personal development, I would kid myself thinking that I wasn't placing expectations on an event, but each time I could look back and see that subconsciously I was doing just that.

This has meant that for most of my life I've lived in this perpetual state of disappointment because reality has never met these expectations. My intention for this year is to really work on releasing that ninja grip on life, on removing myself from the pretense that I have any control over uncertainty, and instead practice softening, opening, receiving, allowing.

Over the past few years, I’ve become more devoted to my yoga practice, and even received my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Certification last summer. It is this journey that has introduced me to Buddhism, and the wisdom of its teachings have really spoken to me.

In Buddhism, there are Four Noble Truths, which I’ll share an excerpt from Lama Surya Das’ book Awakening the Buddha Within, which gives a great summary:

The First Noble Truth: Life is difficult.

The Second Noble Truth: Life is difficult because of attachment, because we crave satisfaction in ways that are inherently dissatisfying.

The Third Noble Truth: The possibility of liberation from difficulties exists for everyone.

The Fourth Noble Truth: The way to realize this liberation and enlightenment is by leading a compassionate life of virtue, wisdom, and meditation. These three spiritual trainings comprise the teachings of the Eight-Fold Path to Enlightenment.

I’ve been stuck in this state of disappointment, in this state of suffering, in feeling like life is difficult because of my attachments to certain results (the Second Noble Truth). So this is the year I start exploring and embodying the Third Noble Truth—the path to liberation from this suffering.

What really woke me up to the reality and pervasiveness of my own suffering was the understanding that I’ve been trapped in the “trance of fear.” In Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance, she shares that:

“We are caught in the trance of fear when the emotion of fear becomes the core of our identity and constricts our capacity to live fully… The trance of fear not only creates habitual contraction in our body. Our mind too becomes trapped in rigid patterns… The first step in finding a basic sense of safety is to discover our connectedness with others. As we begin to trust the reality of belonging, the stranglehold of fear loosens its grip.”

I most certainly have allowed my fear to become the core of my identity. And this is when I put my foot down to commit to another way of being, of living fully.

Through these words, I am beginning to realize, and truly believe, that uncertainty is a given. How I react to it is my choice. So why not attempt something new? Because after years of clinging and gripping and attaching, the results have stayed the same and the disappointment still keeps rolling in.

As moments of fear, pain, anger, and uncertainty arise, as they will inevitably do, my intention is to not ignore them, or numb them, or push them aside. I will greet them, work my way up to staying with the discomfort, and opening my heart to wash this discomfort with compassion.

Tara Brach offers a few more resources for how to navigate that process of meeting and being with your fear so that we can begin to relate to our fear rather than from it. Those questions are:

  1. What is happening right now?

  2. Where do I feel this in my body? (It’s often encouraged to place a hand where you feel the fear, or pain, or discomfort.)

  3. What is asking for attention?

  4. What is asking for acceptance?

This is my attempt at trying something different by not looking at uncertainty and only seeing the worst-case scenarios, but instead expanding my perspective so that I can hold all of the beautiful possibilities that I can foresee, as well as all of the unexpected surprises that I might not have even considered.

I must say, I took a step into this uncertainty arena before the end of the year by announcing that all of my 1-on-1 services for 2019 will be on a pay-what-you’re-able scale. Talk about diving head first into the deep end of uncertainty! But what’s remarkable is the tremendous sense of clarity and relief that came over me as soon as I made the decision to move forward with the idea. This new business model is so distinctly aligned with my deepest intentions and values that it has become apparent that when I embrace uncertainty and leap into the unknown with a clear mind and open heart—I will be held and supported by forces greater than me.

So here’s to a year of opening up, embracing uncertainty, allowing all of the magical possibilities to abound, and releasing ourselves from the fearful narratives that have held us back!

P.S. If you’re digging some of these concepts and would like to read more, here are some of my reading recommendations:

If you’re feeling like you could use someone to connect with to talk about some of your own fears and uncertainties, please know that I am here! Sign up for a free, 30-minute chat with me during my Virtual Office Hours. I’d love to connect and hold that gentle space for you.


Photo credit: Creating Light Studio

Maggie MillerComment