One day an old farmer discovered that his horse had wandered off into a forest. His friend said, “How unlucky that your horse had wandered off.” The farmer’s response was “Maybe so, maybe not.” A day later, the horse came back, bringing another horse with him that he had met in the wild. The farmer’s friend said, “How lucky to have two horses now”. The farmer replied “Maybe so, maybe not.” A few days later, the farmer’s son broke his arm trying to tame the second horse. The farmer’s friend said, “How unlucky that your son broke his arm falling off the horse” to which the farmer said, “Maybe so, maybe not”. The next day, soldiers came to the farm to recruit young men to fight in the war. But because of his broken arm, the farmer's son could not be recruited. What is the point of this ancient story? It shows us the value of living in a state of openness to life as it unfolds. Our attachment to outcomes ties us to our limited perspective and we are unable to see that the universe is always carrying us towards our highest good, even if the road to our highest good takes us straight through the depths of hell. We are deep in the storm of uncertainty. As I have said, the theme of this year is stability. And we cannot master stability without facing our instability. Uncertainty is the heart of instability and so; most of us on the planet today are grappling with a high degree of uncertainty. What are we all finding out (and most of us the hard way)? We are finding that we will not win the fight against uncertainty by becoming certain. We will not find our stability by trying to make the unstable, stable. Instead our certainty and stability comes from decidedly embracing uncertainty.
Embracing uncertainty, does not mean that we stop wanting. It doesn’t mean that we stop creating our lives and it doesn’t mean that we stop taking action to create what we want in our lives. What it means is we untangle our intention from our attachment. You do not suffer half as much because of the things you are experiencing as you suffer because you think that what is happening is not supposed to be happening. For most of us, our desire for how we want things to go becomes our new standard. When we fall short of that standard or if our life takes a different course, we feel like we have failed. As a result, shame becomes the background noise in our lives. To let go of attachment, all you have to do is to let go of the thought of how something is supposed to be or how something should turn out. You practice the art of questioning all of your thoughts about how something should be or is supposed to be so as to see a bigger picture. There is nothing more painful and nothing more wonderful, nothing more dangerous and nothing that is more of a salvation than a perspective. This is one of the great values inherent in each other. We all have a perspective to offer. And you never know, maybe the person you shake hands with today will offer you the perspective that will ultimately set you free.
When you are deep in the storm of uncertainty, you can embrace the uncertainty by letting go of how it should be or how it is supposed to be. You can replace your attachment to how things are supposed to be by living according to the creed that (like the farmer in the story told above) you cannot know that what is happening is not suppose to be happening.
We do not fear the unknown. If we feared the unknown, a baby would come into this life fearing everything. But babies do not fear everything. They fall down the staircase because they do not fear the unknown. It is only when we think we know what the unknown contains, that we begin to fear the unknown. In other words, we are not afraid of what we do not know, we are afraid of what we think we know.
The future is not certain. Not for anyone. Even those of us who can see glimpses of it, will tell you that it changes as you go along. If you change even one perspective, that can alter the destiny you are headed towards. Life is like a journey into uncharted waters for us all. If we become preoccupied with avoiding potential pain, we resist the waves at our own peril. We miss the glory of the sunsets on the ocean of our lives. But it is difficult I know, when you are scared to death, to let go of the steering wheel and let the water take you where it wants you to go.
People ask me sometimes how I think spirituality practically benefits people’s lives. If I had to whittle it down to one answer I would say this: By subscribing to spirituality, you must acknowledge that your life is bigger than this life. And in the best and in the worst of it, this knowing is like a north star in the uncharted waters of your life. If you see that star, you know that your head is above water. There is no more certainty for someone like me than there is for people who cannot see or feel anything beyond what their eyes show them and fingertips touch.
The boom of the base speakers throw an epic beat against the mountainside. It is echoed back through the snow that is falling in lackadaisical flakes against a backdrop of white. I have hiked the distance it took to arrive at the top of the super pipe at Park City Mountain Resort. I am watching my favorite spectator sport in the world (Half Pipe Skiing). Keeping my balance on the steep slope just beyond the lip of the half pipe, one by one, the athletes disappear below me. I hear the angry scrape just seconds before their speed ejects them into the air above me. I feel the spray of the snow against my face as they twist and turn through the air. I feel the awe in me rise up to meet them. I am inspired by the miracle of human endeavor. There is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.
What is your sunset today?