“Stop freaking out. You don’t know right now because you’re not supposed to know. That’s what this year is about.”
These were the words my sister Lucy said to me on our most recent phone call.
I had just told her about my realization from earlier in the day: that even though I had a solid list of organizations I was really interested in, I drew a complete blank when I tried to articulate what exactly I wanted to do for them. This realization put me into full-on panic mode.
After spending two-and-a-half weeks with my classmates and the Ei team, completing intensely reflective workshops and thinking hard about my life, I felt like I had made a lot of progress towards knowing what I wanted, both in life and in the year ahead. But now I was forced to confront the fact that I still didn’t have a very solid idea of what I actually want to DO. What a terrifying thought.
Hearing the sage advice of my older, bolder sister calmed me, and reminded me of the reason I decided to spend my year with Ei in the first place – to explore, to learn, to discover. Of course I don’t have all the answers right now. That would make this year too easy, too straightforward. Instead, I want to spend the next 11 months trying different things, and continuously evaluating, narrowing, and redirecting my path as necessary.
On one of our first days together, my classmate Tuere shared a quote with us: “The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your relationship with uncertainty.” (She had picked this up from Mastin Kipp, founder of The Daily Love.) These words really struck me. I was puzzled by it – my “relationship with uncertainty.” This was a relationship I had never really thought about. But it was a timely and necessary reminder that life is full of uncertainty, and that we can actively choose how to respond to it. My sister, too, brought me back to this truth.
In The Best Buddhist Writing 2013 (a light read I keep by my bedside), Zen teacher Zoketsu Norman Fischer writes of impermanence and how we experience suffering when we are unable to accept the reality of loss and change. To me, uncertainty has everything to do with impermanence – things are constantly evolving, moments disappearing are replaced by new ones, and we can never predict what will happen next. Time is never still, and so, certainty does not exist (except death and taxes, right?).
To free ourselves from the pain of uncertainty, we must learn to accept things as they are: forever in flux. This acceptance is what the practice of meditation is all about.
So, I have come to think of this year with Ei as my own sort of meditation practice. It means accepting what I don’t know, and letting go of the need to have all the answers right now. It means remembering that even when I do find a clearer direction, that goal may change as well. It means embracing and fostering my relationship with uncertainty, while continuing to be brave as I pursue the life I want.
My classmates are doing the same – I have a feeling that even for the ones who think they know what they want, this year will hold many surprises. That’s the gift of uncertainty. And that’s what this year is about.
Thank you for joining us on our journey.