The Blessings of Uncertainty

December 23, 2016

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like the glow of the holiday season causes all feelings and emotions to intensify. The joys are spruced with more exuberance, disappointments feel heavier, optimism shines brighter, and the cacophony of uncertainty buzzes within us like a bee trapped in a jar. I've been reflecting on uncertainty since I returned from my silent retreat in November. 

 

Each silent retreat experience is uniquely different and, for many reasons, this past retreat was by far my most challenging. One insight in particular has continued to resound within me, and it brought me back to my beginnings as a meditator. I was introduced to Zen meditation back in 2001.  In one of the first talks I attended, the teacher heavily quoted the venerable Zen Master Seung Sahn and his core teaching - Don't know. I had accompanied my friend to the Zen society because I desperately wanted to find a sense of ease, but the teachings on uncertainly only helped to fan the fires of unease.  From a place of fear and a desire to cling to a false sense of security, I intentionally tuned out the teacher.  (Think the teacher from Charlie Brown.)

 

Fast forward fourteen years...and there I was at an insight meditation retreat center. The whisperings of Zen Master Seung Sahn's teachings surfaced organically during a hike in the woods. I observed how my mind was leaping into the future and wrestling with problems that hadn't occurred yet but I was quite sure they would. A steady stream of assumptions propelled these proliferations of thoughts, and I continued to loose touch with the present moment. It then dawned on me that if I am surrounded by uncertainty, which of course we are, each moment is precious. I don't know when that one moment will be my last moment. I immediately felt a strong connection to the teachings that had previously left me puzzled and perturbed. I felt my respect and connection to the life I am living deepen immeasurably. What I am feeling in the midst of this holiday season is exactly what I felt that afternoon on the hike.

 

I know the holidays can be stressful and families are incredible complex and adept at pushing all the right buttons, but what if we we could remind ourselves, even in the midst of this palpable frenetic energy, that all we have is this moment. We don't know what 2017 holds in store for us let alone tomorrow or the next hour. Anything can happen. Knowing that, what might we want to say to a loved one? What act of kindness might a friend or stranger appreciate? How have we neglected ourselves, and what steps can we take towards nourishing ourselves and our dreams? 

 

I end with a quote that best encapsulates what I've been trying to say -

 

"Dream as if you'll live forever; Live as if you will die today." - James Dean

 

 

 

 

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