Making friends with uncertainty.
I'm working towards a dream, although the details and the outcome of it are unknown to me. I'm taking tiny steps, in the direction of what feels like freedom and what feels more True (with a capital T). I'm relying on this feeling to guide me, and I only know what Truth feels like in the moments that it arises. Sometimes while moving along in this process, it's as if the doors are wide open and I glide through each open door with ease. It's as if the Universe has my back and is providing me with encouragement and evidence that I'm on the right track by green-lighting the way. I feel encouraged, alive and an inner nudge to stay the course.
And other times, not so much.
Meeting the Unknown
During these other times I meet the unknown head on. In the unknown there are no signs or signals - overt or subtle - that point me in the direction of YES. There is no overt evidence, no guideposts. There is no encouragement, no indication of being on the right track, no inner nudge, no green light. There is only uncertainty. And with uncertainty, there is confusion, questioning, irritability, angst, doubt, self-judgement and paranoia. There is a feeling of being unhinged from everything familiar. It's foreign territory, it's scary. It sucks.
In the unknown, I tend to feel lost. I look for outward signs, anything that can provide me with some indication of YES! YES! THIS WAY! I look for something familiar and reassuring that I can hold onto for dear life, that helps me know it's all good. I try this, then that. I get frustrated and irritable. I try. I scramble. I try, try. I do more. I strategize and make plans. I make To Do lists. I spin my wheels.
And then at some point my striving and spinning and strategizing tactics fizzle out. They're futile anyway. I give up. There's resignation, disappointment and self-judgement. Sometimes I call out with a distress signal to My People. But more often I mope and retreat inward, dejected. I conceal my uncertainty. This jig doesn't last. People can tell. My uncertainty leaks out in tell-tale ways. I lash out. I'm mopey. I'm not fun. Eventually, My Peeps ask me how I'm doing. I relay my futile attempts at doing, how I feel exhausted and stuck. I reveal my uncertainty and that I don't know what to do. I expose this Truth.
And then, I recognize that my thinking about doing are actually the problem. My trying and striving and reaching for evidence is exactly what takes me out of the experience of Truth. In that moment of recognition, I let go. The Truth returns.
Doing vs. Being.
I let go of the striving, the doing, the trying, strategizing, manipulating, jockeying of situations, and I check in with myself. This letting go happens all on its own after all of the doing is played out. I come back full circle to the feeling inside and and that points me to what feels most True. This simple flipping of my attention from outer to inner is what re-lights the way and reorients me to what comes next. I open to uncertainty, while remaining tethered to what feels most true on the inside.
Tips for Finding your way through Not Knowing
It's totally possible to not spiral into the habitual pattern I tend to find myself in, that sometimes takes days or even weeks to recognize. It's possible instead to stop right at the very beginning signs of not-knowing when that appear. The next time you find yourself in uncertainty, see if it's possible to:
Notice. As if you were a detective, become curious. Observe what is happening inside of you.
— What thoughts arise? Is there planning? Strategizing? Ideas to do this and that? Is incessant mind chatter? Telling
you to do more, more, and more?
— What emotions do you experience? Look for any inkling of dissatisfaction, any feeling of "not right', or "not this".
Look for a gut feeling that tells you what feels "right" vs. "not right".
— What physical sensations are felt in the body? Is there tension, constriction, closing off? Notice where in the body
there is sensation and what it feels like.
— Become an expert witness of your own experience, without trying to change it in any way. Simply note what is
happening. Note how it is.
Stay. If the experience of not-knowing feels uncomfortable and you want to hightail it out of there, stay. Stay right there, and feel. See if you can turn your attention away from the thoughts and emotions, and towards the physical sensations in the body. Notice the energy, tension, whatever it is that you feel as it is happening. Notice how sensations change from moment to moment. See if you can pinpoint:
— Where the sensation is felt in the body;
— What it feel like. How would you describe the sensation?
— Look to see how it shifts from moment to moment.
— See if it's possible to tolerate any discomfort for as long as it lasts, or for as long as it feels possible.
Continue to stay and notice for as long as it lasts. Keep noting what you feel.
Ask. Ask yourself. What do I need right now? Allow the answer to arise from a place that is deeper than the surface. Allow the answer that feels like the Truth. Be open to it. Wait for the answer to come to you, rather than you seeking outward and grasping onto an answer that you think is what you should do. When an answer naturally arises, try it on, feel into it, and determine if it is what you need in that moment. Ask in many moments. At regular intervals: perhaps several times a day, every day.
Wait. Allow yourself to not do and instead be. Be with whatever answer arises, and don't do anything about it. Consider it. Carry it around with you, and don't do anything. Try it on for size.
Ride the wave of uncertainty for as long as it lasts. Ultimately, it always leads back to a place of inner knowing. Always.
In working towards a dream, I find that uncertainty tends to ebb and flow in waves, in the intervals between the sense of certainty that also arises. Both have value. Both are important. Both are unavoidable and are certain.