At this moment in time, there are so many changes constantly occurring – here in the UK Boris’ latest briefing and the resurgence of lockdown measures being a case in point. So alongside me needing to self-isolate (due to potential COVID contact), and the impact of both of these things on my life and others, I decided to take a look at how I was reacting to ‘feeling out of control’. And I very quickly observed the more I was driven by fear and negativity, the more I then tried to ‘take back control’.
ServiceSpace (the wonderful organisation I went to India with) has introduced me to the difference between a ‘plan and execute’ mentality and a ‘search and amplify’ one. My usual inclination, particularly when things go wrong, is to lean towards the ‘plan and execute’ mode. Take control, make things happen, rigorously with determination. I can be very focused on goals and outcomes; for example, ‘lockdown is over, so I must ensure things go totally back to normal’, or ‘mum must recover fully from her broken femur and be able to walk again’. There are many more examples – ‘Bow-Wowza must reach hundreds of thousands of children and make a difference’, or ‘I need to work towards my life being totally pain free.’ There’s probably an abundance of examples for your own life too. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have goals or intentions, but where is that fine line amidst the grey, between ‘planning and executing’ and being connected to the present moment and leaving room for the beauty of uncertainty – and serendipity.
So, after much Sally-typical pondering I decided to make more of an effort to stay present, detached from outcomes, and embrace uncertainty – being driven less by fear and negativity. There’s certainly a joy in not trying to control things – with Bow-Wowza, for example, if I detach myself from set goals or metrics, I can find immense pride in how much the team has achieved in such a short space of time, and take joy from the knowledge that we’ve reached a smaller number of children, but with impact – never mind hundreds of thousands. Even though this headspace is rewarding, it doesn’t come naturally to me and I do need to take action to protect and nurture it. Meditation is a key for me. I find when I skip my daily meditations, be it group or individual, I get even more blinkered by outcomes. Since I live by myself, I also find it helps to have conversations with myself (yes, out loud – sometimes with Archie Archibald!) reminding myself that I should detach from outcomes and surrender to the unknown. It’s also really useful to be surrounded by like-minded people, as in the beautiful Awakin circles I attend. I’ll finish this reflection with a thought from the last reading by Jack Kornfield that we shared this Wednesday morning in our wonderful group:
‘We can plan, we can care for, tend and respond. But we cannot control. Instead we take a breath, and open to what is unfolding, where we are. This is a profound shift, from holding on, to letting go. As Suzuki Roshi says, “When we understand the truth of impermanence and find our composure in it, there we find ourselves in Nirvana.”’