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The discipline of sitting in the unknown
Q: How can we befriend patience?
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I’ve spent the last year thinking about what I really want to work on, and what my purpose in life should be. Disco Dialogues came about on that quest. Besides the newsletter, I also collaborated with Mitali on a couple of other side projects that helped the creative being that resides within me come alive. I’ve followed curiosities, created a vision board, and gone on a solo trip away to dream unfettered dreams. Unfortunately or perhaps unsurprisingly, the absolute clarity around purpose hasn’t shown up yet.
Every now and then I get a little impatient. Do I keep waiting for the perfect opportunity or start moving towards what feels right? About two weeks ago I read the monthly powerpath forecast for June. I tend to read these once in a while when the mood strikes and there are times when the monthly themes have spoken to me and others when they have felt too generic. The one this month felt like the former. The theme for the month of June is “Reality check and Turning point” and that felt so right to me. One of the first lines was:
“Sitting in the state of not knowing is a discipline in itself and an appropriate place to be at this time. This is inner work and we are being tasked to look deeply into ourselves for the absolute truth of the choices we need to commit to for our lives to proceed in the right direction based on that truth.”
The night before the D-Day invasion, a nervous Franklin Roosevelt asked his wife Eleanor how she felt about not knowing what would happen next.
“To be nearly sixty years old and still rebel at uncertainty is ridiculous isn’t it?” she said.
- Endless Uncertainty, Morgan Housel
While there is so much uncertainty in our world today (war in Ukraine, markets crashing, covid coming back), I feel okay to sit in a place of not knowing. And yes, it does take discipline to sit here and not to jump on the next idea that pops in my head. Of course that yearning to go live in another country or find work that is more purposeful or more creative is still there. However, at this time, it feels right to put those on the back burner. For now, I am taking baby steps - working on things that inspire me - writing, sustainability initiatives at work, and collaborating with Mitali.
I believe that my greatest work is ahead of me. And somewhere along the way, I have developed absolute faith in myself to recognize it when it arrives. Until then, what I can do is put myself out there, ponder over how I can be of service, and practice creation every day.
“Our great historical, mythological, and contemplative traditions continually reiterate one thing - a good or even great work is never just of our own choosing, though it may not be achieved without our particular gifts. To glimpse our vocation we must learn how to be sought out and found by a work as much as we strive to identify it ourselves. We must make ourselves findable by being seen. To do that we must hazard ourselves and make ourselves available to the world we want to enter.
- The Three Marriages, David Whyte
Last year a friend shared a story with me about my then nine-year-old son N. When he asked N about his after-school activities, my son stated that he was very busy trying out many different things these days “as my mom wants me to find my destiny”. When asked if he was getting closer to his destiny, he replied “No...it takes a long time...my mom still hasn't figured out hers!” Kids do say the darnedest things but boy is he right!
All of this came about because last year I had decided to read a few chapters of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho to N at bedtime. I thought it would be an interesting way to have a meaningful ongoing discussion with him. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I read it for the first time last year despite it being on my list for many years. But the book came at just the perfect time. As I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next in life, the book reminded me that I am on a journey in pursuit of my “Personal Legend”. There is a lot of not knowing on this journey and as I have become better at becoming comfortable with the unknown, new experiences and people have started to pop into my life. To me, the journey will be the most fun part of what is ahead.
“The place of your origination is stillness, from which all of creation comes. Stay in a creative, simple state, which Lao-tzu describes as “uncarved wood”, symbolizing a beginner’s mind and unlimited potential. Have a mind that’s willing to flow with life and be shaped by the eternal forces of the Tao…All that you require will be provided in an unhurried fashion. Let go of your demands and trust in the perfect unfolding of the Tao. Be in a state of watchful gratitude and align with the Way.”
- Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. Living the Wisdom of the Tao, Dr Wayne W. Dyer
Here are some articles to help you reflect if you find yourself sitting in the unknown -
How to know what you really want [5 min video, 15 min read] - An approach to take when contemplating your desires and wants based on Rene Girard’s mimetic theory - resist the herd and forge your own path
“...Live an anti-mimetic life - To be anti-mimetic is to be free from the unintentional following of desires without knowing where they came from; it’s freedom from the herd mentality; freedom from the ‘default’ mode that causes us to pursue things without examining why.…Perhaps the most anti-mimetic attitude of all is an openness to wonder and a desire to let reality surprise you. It rarely disappoints.”
Can Mindfulness Change How We Interpret Emotional Situations? - Mindfulness skills can help us interpret situations as more positive than negative when facing uncertainty.
“Allowing your feelings to come and go and take time with them [means] that you’d be able to let that first negative response happen, be with it, and then say ‘Ah, this could also be positive,’” says Harp. “Shifting this emotional bias may be a path through which mindfulness training reduces those depression and anxiety symptoms.”
The Mindset Gap - An article that describes how your mindset can make a difference in your outcomes that can compound over the years.
“...Sooner or later, you realize everything comes down to mindset. When you focus on what you can control, there is always an action you can take to put yourself in a better position. When you focus on things you can’t control you tend to freeze, unsure of what to do, and you wait.”