Has your mind ever felt like a freight train, rushing headlong into the next thing with nary a moment for a breath? Or caught up in a frightfully delicious fantasy of what would it be like if so-and-so did so-and-so, and then I could say so-and-so. Then (only then!), I would be soooo happy!!! We do this with a lot of aspects of our lives: our minds create elaborate miniature fantasy worlds, right down to the tiniest detail. The perfect job, the perfect partner, the perfect wedding dress, and the perfect little family. Unruffled relationships and events that tumble seamlessly towards our preferences with complete certainty, stroking our egos along the way and affirming our self-worth.
But then, unhappiness inevitably rears its ugly head precisely because all of these things are a fantasy. They have no existence in objective reality. And we tend to be so busy trying to get to the next person or thing that we fail to connect the dots and figure out what has caused this suffering in the first place.
This fabrication comes from the illusion of certainty. Deep down inside, it’s what we really want. Yet, our lives are filled with exactly the opposite: a great deal of messy uncertainty that no amount of trying, pulling, pushing, re-arranging or scheming will eliminate. This could be for tiny things, or it could be for really big things. And it can be very helpful to pause in meditation practice, and become familiar with our thought patterns in this regard.
Last week, someone pointed out to me that I tend to take on every challenge that comes my way. Every time, without fail. The words had never been articulated to me before, and after an initial shock, it felt more like a calm homecoming: yes, it was completely true. Furthermore, I don’t actually have to take on every challenge, and doing so hasn’t increased my happiness. I just assumed that this was what strong women did. I’m a strong woman, ergo, I Will Never Back Down! Kind of like Super Girl. And incidentally, how cool would it be to wear a cute costume and fly around the city? That’s Part II of my fantasy!
So for now, I’m gently working on breaking the addiction to this human desire for certainty, and replacing it with only one challenge: to respond to uncertainty with a sense of nobility and grace. Change is inevitable. And I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m not actually Super Girl 🙂
I invite you to bring this into your meditation practice, observing your thoughts, and noting with compassion when they gravitate towards wanting things to be a certain way, or pushing against change. Then practice living your real life, the one that is happening right now as opposed to the mental fabrication that’s inside your head.
Live every moment, as you have never lived before. In the words of the incomparable Tara Brach, “I have no time to rush.”
-Kara Santokie, PhD. teaches mindfulness meditation in Toronto, Canada.