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Finding stability in the unknown
Q: What do you do when faced with uncertainty?
Happy 2022 dear friends! Our intention with Disco Dialogues is to create a space for many voices, many dialogues to come together. We are kicking off the new year by inviting our friend Bhairavi to share her thoughts. Bhairavi leads communications for LinkedIn India and is also a writer. She enjoys writing about anything that is inspiring, compels change, pushes growth, and encourages curiosity which aligns really well with our vision for Disco Dialogues.
Her post is timely as we find ourselves starting the year with continued uncertainty. As I think about setting goals or designing experiments for this year, I want to be prepared for things to not go as planned. One way to do that is to work on cultivating presence and to spend more time living in the now. Much of what I learned about the importance of presence can be attributed to the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the now the primary focus of your life. Have your dwelling place in the now and pay brief visits to the past and future instead of the other way around. Always say yes to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Say yes to life and see how life starts working for you. Accept the present moment as if you had chosen it.
Rumi reminds us of another way to prepare for new arrivals in his beautiful poem “The Guest House” - urging us to welcome the unexpected visitors that show up at our doorstep.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I am getting ready for my flight back to the US. But the next 24 hours are tinged with uncertainty as I wait for all our covid tests to come back negative before we can get on our flight. It's a reminder of the lack of control we have over our lives these days. We have tried to be extra cautious during our time here, masking up and avoiding crowds and indoor spaces. It is also a reminder of the futility of stressing over things not in our control. A lesson I learned over and over again these past two years and as stated so clearly by the serenity prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
This year I want to continue to experiment with getting comfortable with uncertainty. To be patient when things get messy. To be a beginner, secure in the unfamiliarity of new situations. To learn from my mistakes and not aspire for perfection. As bluntly stated in this New York Times article on “(It’s Great to) Suck at Something” -
In the words of the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.” …Maybe sucking at something where the stakes are low can lead us to a better place. Maybe it could be a kind of a medicine for the epidemic cocksureness in our culture. Seeing ourselves repeatedly doing something we suck at — no matter how trivial — might make us a bit more sympathetic to how hard so many things really are.
Guest Post - Bhairavi’s Dialogue
The start of the year often feels like a blank slate. A new beginning, a fresh start, another chance to fulfill all those unfulfilled desires. However, this leaves us with an overwhelming feeling of control to be ‘in charge’ of getting everything we want. Sometimes we think we didn’t achieve something in the year that went by because we didn’t do something enough or correctly, disregarding that life has its own ways and it plays out the way it has to.
So come January 1st, we all get into the driver’s seat and set our mind to make things happen; we write down resolutions, and essentially have a plan for what we want to achieve this year. While there is nothing wrong with this, and it can in fact lead to excellent results depending on your goals, we also create a strong sense of attachment to what we feel our days, months, and the year need to look like.
As a planner by personality and profession, I find myself pre-planning and planning excessively on a regular basis. Over the last year, I have realised that this is also a form of anxiety — because you are essentially planning the outcome (or thinking that you are planning the outcome) and preparing for how it will feel when it happens. This is beneficial for me at work, to avert crisis of all kinds, but personally, this leaves me with no spontaneity and most importantly, it completely disorients me when things don’t turn out as planned. I have been thinking about all the moments in the past year that I found to be ‘difficult’ — and it often goes back to this: Not being prepared for how something would feel when it happened or didn’t happen. And it takes a lot of energy to later detach from a feeling you have been building on for months, albeit subconsciously.
If the pandemic has taught us anything it is this: We need to give up the illusion of control that we hold on to, and embrace life in every moment as it happens. To be able to flow and to be present is one of my personal goals, and it is in fact the opposite of any unhealthy attachment to a goal, a moment, an unfulfilled desire, or a relationship/friendship that didn’t take the route as expected. It is to see things as they are in the present moment and quickly recalibrate.
Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ articulates this anxiety quite well:
The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, anxiety, worry, dread. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, and not of something that is happening now. You are here and now, while your mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap. You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection — you cannot cope with the future.
There is no denying that there is immense comfort in making plans but if there is any quality that actually comes more handy for well-being it is that of being agile. An agile mind can manoeuvre tricky moments far more gracefully than any blueprint. And this has made me think about the broader theme of ‘balance’; what does balance mean today to us, and why is it always so evasive? Do we complicate our lives by complicating definitions?
As I step into 2022 (which is a big year for me at many different levels), it is important for me to have a good balance between what I plan and what I don’t or can’t plan for — to free up my mind to the possibilities for life to take place. In any relationship, it is said that we must let the other function and we shouldn’t over function — and in this case, to allow life to do its part.
As an exercise, I encourage each of you to make two lists for things and outcomes you can plan for this year and those you cannot — to keep your eyes wide open to all the spaces that life will magically insert itself and make things happen.
Wish you a balanced 2022!