On trust, control, yerba mate and other interesting things

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“There are a lot of things up in the air in my life right now.” My friend, S, told me as we sat on the grass enjoying the first of two yerba mate-and-chit-chat experiences I’d partake in in the following two days. “I just have to trust that things will eventually settle,” she added.

“Hmmm…” I nodded, sipping from the bombilla. “It’s just that it can be so hard to do that sometimes…”

Brief silence.

“No it’s not.” S replied matter-of-factly.

And I wondered what my deal was.

On a personality questionnaire I recently filled out, I had to choose whether I’d prefer good things to happen to me or interesting things. The question intrigued me.

Of course it’s the interesting, excruciating disappointments that shape us and teach us about life and who we are. Sure, the good things can help us in our lives, but it’s the interesting things that challenge us to evolve and move forward.

And yet, in my life I’ve had a hard time trusting the interesting things. It’s so much easier to prefer the simplicity and clarity of good things.

So, at the moment that my life is more interesting than good (but still good), I am trying to learn to sit with it. I try to notice my impatience and desire to snatch all the things that are floating up around me out of the air, and rather than forcing them down to earth, watching and waiting to see where they settle on their own.

I’ve been thinking about my Mindfulness-Based Stressed Reduction course that I took exactly one year ago. I remember our instructor, Roy, pointing out to us that in our educational system we’re groomed into the mindset of pressuring ourselves to succeed, to always be moving somewhere. We’re taught that we own full control over our destinies and are responsible for the outcomes of our lives. Is this right? He asked us, in his almost-infuriatingly patient voice, as if he had all the time in the world to wait for his flock of cattle to corral themselves. The doubt he had placed in our minds violently upset one of the course participants. “I think it is right.” She passionately, angrily asserted. “We were always taught in school to strive for greatness, to try our hardest! It’s because of that message that I’m successful today.”

We watched as Roy gazed at her, non-reactively and his eyes implored her and the rest of us, And so you tried your hardest. You did as you were told. Did it make you happy? You tried your hardest and for what? You’re still here, alive, but very much at the mercy of nature and fate. You’re just as scared and confused as the rest of us. The rest of the class tensely watched the confrontation. It made us nervous to see him bearing the brunt of her anger for stirring up some deeply held beliefs and shattering her illusion of control – the illusion we are all taught to hold dear.

As a meditation instructor, I believe he must have become accustomed to removing those fragile bottom pieces of the Jenga tower and watching everyone’s world views come tumbling down like a stack of wooden blocks.

The blocks are currently in mid-air and it’s hard not to wonder where they’ll eventually land.

Or, as my friend S said, maybe it’s not.

 

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