We can make time fall back and spring forward but we can’t stop the flow of time, change, or uncertainty. When the human heart encounters change, it usually experiences uncertainty. Sometimes that uncertainty is exhilarating when it seems like our hopes and desired expectations will be fulfilled. But when the heart encounters uncertainty with the possibility of getting what we don’t want, or not getting what we want, that’s the painful experience of dukkha (unsatisfactoriness/suffering). So how can we help our human hearts when we encounter uncertainty and change? We take refuge in the Dhamma, of course!
This refuge is not about being passive either, we still take action, and speak up and out, to influence the world around us. We can do our utmost to extend justice, equity, compassion, and wisdom in many areas of our lives and in our communities. The important thing is to do what is skillful and wholesome without binding our equanimity to the outcomes. We can begin the process of unbinding our equanimity to outcomes by naming expectations when we notice them, by naming our fears when we experience them, and by recognizing our common humanity.
We need to practice compassion for those who will be, or are, harmed by societal forces. We need to practice compassion for our dear ones, and ourselves as well. Perhaps we can even extend compassion to those who cause harm in the world while also holding them accountable. It’s a moment of fierce compassion when our hearts decide that nothing is to be left out, to embrace all of life, while pressing on toward freedom for all beings, while pressing onward toward full awakening.
This evening we’ll explore our relationship with uncertainty, change, equanimity, and compassion.
- How does your heart meet uncertainty? Does it change depending on the context (e.g. new job, relationship, illness, injury, elections, etc.)?
- How does uncertainty feel in your body and mind? How, if at all, do different uncertainties express themselves in the body and mind? Sensations? Emotions?
- What is your favorite, or habitual ways, of trying to control an outcome?
- If something isn’t within your sphere of influence, how do you respond to that?
- What do you turn to when you’re feeling uncertain? Information (e.g. news, statistics)? Social connection (friends, family, social media)? Comforting the body (e.g. food, exercise, yoga, tea, warm bath, TV, music)? Meditation? How do you know if your response is skillful or unskillful?
- If your responses are unskillful, and you notice this, how so you respond to that? How can your response be compassionate, and fiercely so—that is doing what’s best for you/your community/the great world? If you’re not ready to make a change toward skillfulness, what would be a compassionate response to that?
- How might imagination help or hinder cultivating a peaceful relationship with uncertainty?
- How might you pay closer attention in daily life so you can see the natural flow of change and uncertainty and how it influences you?
- How might you work for change within your personal life or the world, without being attached or clinging to outcomes?
- What would it be like to hold all people, all beings in compassion, whether you “like” them or not?
May all be safe and protected, free from inner and outer harm.
May all dwell in unshakable peace.
Holding all in the heart of compassion.