ISSUES OF FAITH: Dealing with uncertainty

IT IS A natural human trait to want certainty and to know what comes next. We wish we could somehow see into the future and have a greater sense of control over our lives.

Life, however, is unpredictable — especially now, as we grapple with dangers and constraints associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

No one knows for sure when this crisis will subside and so we are facing many tough questions, such as:

“How much longer will I have to live cooped up and separated from my friends and colleagues?”

“Am I going to lose my job?”

“Can my relationship with my partner and/or children withstand this level of stress?”

“Will I survive if I contract this virus?”

The automatic response to these types of questions is to worry and obsess.

We make ourselves crazy, spinning our minds through the same handful of scenarios, over and over again — never feeling any closer to some sort of resolution.

Buddhists call this “monkey mind.”

This explains why most spiritual practices encourage the stilling of our minds when facing adversity.

As it turns out, worrying is a waste of time because it doesn’t help us.

As the Dalai Lama famously said: “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.”

So, what we need to remember is that when we’re facing uncertainty, worrying about it won’t help or change anything. It just cuts ruts of fear and anxiety into our brains and drains us of happiness.

What we need to do instead is to find a way to still our minds — either by praying, meditating or simply sitting in nature. These practices quiet our nerves and help us be more attuned to Wisdom’s gentle whispers. They will calm us, open us and guide us forward.

This explains why I mediate and pray daily. Like everyone else, I’ve had my own struggles with anxiety about the future. Like everyone else, I worry. What I’ve learned, though, is that worrying always depletes me of energy, interrupts my sleep, shuts down my creativity powers and makes me less present to the congregation I serve.

When I set worry aside, however, and trust that all will (eventually) be well, I find my way back to peace.

I enlarge my mental and spiritual bandwidth and open myself to the possibilities offered with each new situation.

This, in turn, has put me in the best possible position to help others by trying new ideas.

This explains why I’m suddenly learning how to create online worship services and web-based programs in whole new ways.

Sure, it’s a struggle at times, but I am slowly learning just how important these technologies are to keeping us all together.

The future is unknown, yes, but this has always been the case. And just like our ancestors, we will figure out how to cope with this “new normal.”

My hope and my prayer is that by the time this whole ordeal is over, each of us will have grown spiritually — feeling more grounded, more close to our loved ones and more connected to the sacred dimensions of life.

May deep breaths, quiet hearts and open minds be our guides — now more than ever.

________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Kate Lore is a minister at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend. Her email is katelore@gmail.com.

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