All that is uncertain

What does the phrase "the mystery" evoke for you? How about the phrase "all that is unknown"? Or the words "things are so uncertain", or "I don't know what will happen"?

There are many things we do not know; this is the simple truth. And then, there is our personal response to what is unknown or uncertain: what we do with not knowing, how we organize around the experience of uncertainty moment to moment and characteristically. Sometimes we relax and sometimes we contract. Sometimes we might be able to rest into the spaciousness, while other times that vastness, or it's undefined, unpredictable range of possibilities may feel overwhelming. Sometimes the unknown and our own sense of uncertainty can prompt waves of fear or anxiety to flood through us.

It is true that, culturally, in North America, many of us we do not grow up with much training in how to be with what is unknown, or uncertain. Much of our schooling systems focus on questions and answers. There are wrong answers and right answers, which help us describe a version of the universe that is unknowable. In school, and in our work lives, we are supposed to know the answers to the questions and the problems. Not to know is considered to be a problem. 

So too, many of the religions that offer support and comfort to us, do so partly through describing knowables: stories about how the world was made, stories about what God is and how God behaves, descriptions about how to be a good person, and stories about what happens when we die.

Many aspects of our experience, though, indeed, much of our actual lives are unknown, or uncertain. For example, we do not know when we or our loved ones will die or how. We do not know what is coming around the next corner. We do not know what our government or the governments of other countries will do. We do not know how we will be received by the many others we meet as we go about our days. Will we be warmly received, met with indifference, or rejected? Will we get where we need to go on time? For some of us, we may not know how to make ends meet, how we will find the money to feed the children, or where we may sleep at night. Indeed, from large to small elements of life, much is uncertain for all of us. 

The point is, because so much in our lives is uncertain, developing ways of being with that reality of uncertainty can be helpful. Taking some time to develop skill in being with groundlessness can offer a useful element of stability in the unknown.

So how do we do this?

Many people find support through relaxing the flow of their breath, allowing a longer exhalation, and letting the muscles of their bodies rest into gravity. Resting your muscles into gravity may feel like giving your weight to the earth, relaxing downwards. This lengthened breath and relaxing muscles can calm our central nervous system, helping us feel less fearful and anxious or overwhelmed. Also, when we bring attention to the experience of connecting to the solidity of the earth -- connecting to the solid earth through our feet, our sitting bones, or through our backs if laying down -- we can rekindle our experience of groundedness rather than feeling scattered, lost, or disconnected. We can do this by gently pressing down and even rolling through the parts of our bodies that physically connect to the floor beneath us. When we feel ourselves getting tight, in our thoughts and our bodies, we can bring gentle and simple movement to our bodies. Especially helpful are movements that open and expand our body position in space, and movements that release physical tension from our muscles. These methods release stress hormones from our bodies and send a message of relaxation and confidence to our brains.

Bringing our awareness to the here and now, making use of our exhalation (lengthening it and slowing it down), and making use of the regulating impact of gentle, simple body movement - three ways to create a felt-experience of stability in the midst of uncertainty or in the face of the unknown.  These methods will not make the unknown known, but they can help us regulate our emotions and stress hormones, helping us feel more sturdy in the mystery.