Hello, dear community.
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about trust. What comes to mind when you hear that word? I think for a lot of us, the first thing that comes up is our relationships and how comfortable we are or are not with trusting other people. But the bigger question is how open are we to trusting in life itself?
I have made a deep and personal study of trust in recent years. This was necessary, because I have struggled with anxiety so much during these years. Underlying my anxiety was a feeling that I needed to constantly be on the lookout for problems and solve them in advance in order to fend off disaster.
This expectation of disaster came as a result of situations that felt overwhelming and intolerable to me, after which, unconsciously, I took upon myself the responsibility of making sure that nothing like that ever happened again.
Even when I knew that my problem-solving mind was not doing me any favors by frantically trying to control things so that good things would happen and bad things would be avoided, I couldn’t stop. My mind had such a habit of stepping in to predict and solve problems, that it was beyond my control to stop it.
Under stress, I think this happens to a lot of us. We may know that we are wasting precious resources and stressing ourselves out by trying to direct the flow of life, but what else are we to do? Our fear of being swallowed by this problem or that is so great, that our mind feels it must jump in to help.
I’ve spent years practicing meditation in order to help soothe and quiet my mind, and as helpful as that has been, I’ve still found it difficult to get into a truly cooperative relationship with my mind.
There is a concept in Buddhism called “wearing out”, and in some ways, that is what has been happening in recent years with my fears. They have begun to just wear themselves out. I have sought out better ways of working with my mind and applied them to the best of my ability. And to the extent to which I have not been successful, I have just waited and allowed my fear to run its course.
Recently, the scales have begun to tip. The evidence that my racing mind is doing more harm than good has mounted and mounted until, something has gently given way. I’ve witnessed the wearing out of the old belief that I can think my way into (or out of) a certain kind of life. I may have known that intellectually a while ago, but it is only now that the knowledge is moving from a theory to a reality, from a probability to a fact.
I’m not saying that we ought not to use our minds. Of course not. Our minds exist, and they carry out incredible functions. But it’s often a case of the tail wagging the dog. For most of my life, my mind has been in the driver’s seat, trying to get life to go a certain way, and the rest of me is just along for the ride.
During a meditation session a couple of weeks ago my mind was resting peacefully, and I was filled with love for this instrument, which works so diligently on my behalf. I noticed how capable and agile it is and how exasperated it becomes from working so much. Rather than admonish it for wasting energy worrying, I acknowledged its awesome power.
I realized that it has been operating under a misguided directive for so long. I have assigned it the job of solving all my problems, and it has done its best and worked so hard to fulfill that directive. I began to perceive what an immense relief my mind would feel, if I removed that burden from it. I saw that, not only would it be able to rest and relax, but it would be able to use its great power for tasks it is fully equipped to handle.
In that initial meditation a couple of weeks ago, I had a vision of what my mind would be capable of if, instead of serving my fear, it was serving a higher purpose.
Since then, when my mind starts going, trying to solve all of my problems, I simply invite it to come lie down and rest. I see it like a cat stretched out napping in the sunlight. I let the light of stillness shine on it and let it soak up that light. Every time I allow my mind to rest like a cat in the silent light of awareness, I am gently, lovingly teaching it it’s new instructions. I am gently re-training it where to go, where to exist, who to serve.
The sense of relief is so powerful. It’s not just a break from stressing out. It’s a redesign of my inner workings that puts my mind in alignment with the rest of me. Under the old system, my mind was tasked with a huge job that it could never fulfill. How stressful is that? In the new system, my mind is reserved for taking on tasks it can excel at.
This is where my fear had to wear itself out. I had to come to the conclusion that so little of what happens or doesn’t happen in this life is within my control. I had to give up all hope that my mind could find a way for me to succeed in business, in relationships, in health, in life. I had to accept that there is very little my mind can do to alter the course of my life.
One key to this shift for me has been opening up to the experience of simply trusting in life’s process. I can see that life has a way of working things out. All of us will face hardships, and when we do, we will get through them however we get through them. And when we die, we will go through that however we go through that.
Sometimes we will get exactly what we want, and that, too, has a kind of pain in it. It immediately sets off this desire to hold on to a good thing, to increase it, to solidify it. That kind of craving is also based in fear, and the feeling of fear is discernible in the excitement of getting what we want. The mind can then spin off with a million ideas of how to increase the good fortune that has come our way. It’s all an effort to avoid pain and suffering.
What I’ve begun to clearly see, is that it is not the mind’s job to help me avoid pain and suffering, to get what I want and stave off what I don’t want. That is a fool’s errand, which wastes my energy and makes true peace and happiness impossible.
I’ve come to see that it is a better use of my energy to trust in life’s process than to try to direct it. To see everything that is given to me, both things I really want and things I really don’t want, as a gift. As what is mine to work with. Any effort to change things actually takes me further away from myself. Having a willingness to work with whatever comes my way, to do my best with what is right in front of me without pushing my own agenda, keeps me grounded in a place where peace and happiness reside and are immediately accessible.
Whatever life brings my way, good and bad, lucky and unlucky, is going to happen. There is no use in fighting against it or trying to prevent or change it. It is better to free up that energy and become supple, allowing whatever occurs to simply be, and giving my mind the rest and recognition it deserves.
Blessings to you and yours.