Are you living from news headline to news headline?
Waiting for someone to tell you when the economic crisis is over? Looking for the signal that you can stop worrying and trust again in the systems we have built to ensure our survival and prosperity?
Daily we are confronted with this (scary) not knowing.
We don’t know what will happen to the economy, we don’t know when things will get better and we don’t know if things will get worse. All of a sudden what we thought we could count on as a sure thing, a solid foundation – is shifting under our feet.
What do we do now? How do we live with the uncertainty of the unknown?
1) We can freeze. We can stay where we are, “hunker down” and hold on tight to whatever we have and wait until the crisis is over.
2) We can blame. We can direct our anger and frustration at everyone and everything that caused this situation.
3) We can worry. We don’t know what is going to happen but we can imagine all of the worst-case scenarios and try to prepare ourselves for them, just in case.
4) We can Trust. We already know that we have the capability to craft and build new systems. History reminds us of our common aptitude to repair, fix, heal, learn from mistakes, adapt, rebuild, improve on, discover, imagine, invent, innovate and create.
Our instinct is to panic. We like to know what is next. We want to be prepared for what might happen. But our propensity to envision (and focus all of our attention on) worst-case scenarios undermines what we are trying to accomplish.
Focused on the bad and the potential worst we become stuck in fear and stagnant in old patterns. We ignore our capacity to create positive futures.
We obsess over the thought that we might lose everything, missing the fact that our greatest loss happens the moment we abandon our ability to see and appreciate the wealth and abundance of what we do have.
Trust is our best option. We will always have the unknown. Every day we wake up, whether we have money in the bank or not, the element of unknown is there. We can’t control the weather, other people, financial markets, the passage of time or life itself.
But how do we trust when we don’t know what is going to happen? What do we hold on to when what we thought was certain has dissolved?
In situations like this I am reminded of the white-faced monkeys in Costa Rica. Early one morning I was sitting by the Montezuma River when a group of fifteen or so monkeys (including a mother with her baby on her back) appeared in the trees above me and began to cross the span of the river.
To get to the other side, the monkeys had to let go of one tree branch and leap towards another branch across the river, trusting, with each leap, that the branch they were reaching for would hold the weight of their body.
Jumping from tree branch to tree branch, there was a moment when each monkey was holding on to nothing.
I held my breath watching them. How could they do that? Trust so completely, let go and leap?
If the white faced monkeys thought about everything that could go wrong, if they sat on the branch, looking across the river, calculating the distance and weighing their options, would they still jump?
The monkeys trusted themselves, each other, what they knew, the tree branches, their previous experience, and chance. They risked letting go to reach the other side.
Can we do that too? Trust, let go and hold on to nothing?
We can freeze, blame or worry. We can cling to our branch even as it breaks beneath our weight.
Or, we can let go, reach out and leap into the unknown.
There will be a branch there. It won’t be the same as the one we let go of. That’s called change. Our old strategies might not work anymore. That’s ok. We can and will create new ones. Trust. We have met the unknown every single day of our lives thus far and survived. Trust.
With all of our senses wide open to the wealth and abundance within us and around us, there is nothing to lose.
p.s. Thanks to Esther and Em for reminding me recently of the white faced monkey example of trust.