To insist on knowledge and assurance of a predictable, carefully planned and perfectly orchestrated future in order to feel safe, secure, and happy in the present, is to negate the very thing we desire. We have no such promise. The best we can do is to predict, guess at, or hope for a future that follows our best laid plans and dreams. The very nature of life is impermanence and change, unexpected things will always arise, and everything in life will evolve. Even that which we call “I” is not the same from one day to the next.
If our decisions and our happiness are always predicated upon the realization of a definitively assured and immutable future plan, it follows that we must also continually strive to insure that things remain the same and follow a predictable path. This rigid insistence invites suffering and unhappiness through our inability to stop forcing and doing, and just simply be, allowing our days to unfold as they will while being mindfully present in their midst. To live with the need to constantly work toward a future that is not yet here, in order to find happiness, is like trying to catch our own shadow. The faster we run, the more swiftly it eludes us. If one wants to feel secure and happy, we must stop running, stop struggling, stop forcing, and controlling, stop looking ahead and be fully present now. It is like learning to float on our back. If we over think the act of floating, imagining ourselves separate from, and at the mercy of the water, we become rigid, unable to lay our heads back, or let loose our arms and legs. Fearful of drowning, we sink like a stone, gaining the very thing we feared. If on the other hand, we let go our fearful thoughts, become one with the water, and just go with the natural flow, we find to our great delight that we float joyfully, effortlessly.
To fearfully insist on assurances of a perfectly controlled and secure future, is to separate ourselves from the natural Universal flow, from the whole of life, the One, the I Am, the Tao, of which we are all an integral part. In this self- created, and illusory separation we become fearful and insecure, guaranteeing that happiness will remain perpetually just beyond our grasp. Shunryu Suzuki talks about joining with life as similar to the act of listening to music. One must become completely immersed, allowing the music to wash fully over and through us. If we stop truly listening and embodying the music, and begin thinking and trying to separate out all the individual instruments, we lose the beauty of the complete symphony.
True happiness comes the moment we realize that we are part of the universal flow, and that flow only takes place when we let go into the present moment. We find completeness then in choosing to join and move as an integral part, just as a wave which is a momentary seeming separate manifestation, but in reality, part of the whole called water or Ocean. Or we can spend our time trying to see our self as separate from the whole, and reap the consequences of our fearful, individual, anxious strivings, as a man running in a circle real fast in order to see himself from the other side, or biting his own teeth, seeing his own eyes.
In order to have happiness in life, we must stop trying to separate from and do it, and simply join with and be it. It is like the Persian story of the sage who came to the door of Heaven and knocked. From within the voice of God asked, “Who is there” and the sage answered, “It is I.” “In this House,” replied the voice, “there is no room for thee and me.” So the sage went away, and spent many years pondering over this answer in deep meditation. Returning a second time, the voice asked the same question, and again the sage answered, “It is I.” The door remained closed. After some years he returned for the third time, and at his knocking, the voice once more demanded, “Who is there?” And the sage cried, “It is thyself!” The door was opened.
In birth then, the plan is no plan, what we must do is to embody non-doing and simply let go into being. In order to prepare for our labor we must embrace, embody and go with its natural flow. We must stop fearfully planning and asking for assurances and concrete future answers, and simply allow it to unfold just as it needs to. In this mindset of letting go the past, and not anticipating or fearing the future, we will know a present moment awareness that will be filled with more joy, more awe, more grace and gratitude, than all our planning and controlling could ever have imagined or orchestrated.
(I wrote this in response to something a client said about needing more assurances from her doctor that she will not simply end up with another cesarean, when she is trying for a VBAC, in order to be able to look ahead to a successful VBAC birth. She was asking for something no one can give. )