Mca blog

Certainty In Uncertain Times

We all like certainty.  Certainty that we have food on the table every day, certainty that we have a warm and safe place to live, that we have income, purpose, family and friends that we can rely on.  

Our tolerance for uncertainty depends on the value we place on that aspect of our lives. For example, for some security of a home is less important. They may, for instance, prefer to travel the world and have the excitement of not knowing where they will be next week, next month, next year. But for others, this “not knowing” would cause extreme stress.

When we have certainty in the things that align with our values, we feel strong. And this strength gives us the courage and resilience to face unexpected uncertainty. Like what we’ve been facing this year with COVID-19.

You would be aware that there has been an unprecedented use of the word “unprecedented”. The word itself implies uncertainty. “Unprecedented” means “never before”. So right now there appears to be ambiguity about the future, and we have no rulebook on what to do. 

Certainty assures people that they know what lies ahead. Uncertainty increases our stress and anxiety. And we’ve seen this in the increased anxiety many people are currently facing.

However, life is full of ambiguous situations, situations that are unprecedented on a personal level. All of our “first times” were for us unprecedented. The first time you walked to school on your own, or drove a car or went for a job interview was unprecedented, ambiguous and uncertain. And in spite of the anxiety you may have felt you survived it, perhaps even thrived from it.

The degree of anxiety we feel for an unprecedented event is related to our confidence in ourself. And our self-confidence is a function of how secure and certain we feel in other aspects of our life. If most of the things that have value to us are certain then we can manage the ambiguous, uncertain and unprecedented. This is emotional resilience.

So how does mindfulness practice enhance resilience?

When we practice mindfulness, we’re cultivating embodied presence in our own life. It teaches us that we can stop searching for what is better and value what is. 

So when you sit quietly hearing the seemingly unstoppable voices in your head, feeling the urge to move your body, to get up and do something, and you allow it all to just be there, you’re learning how to be with both what is pleasant and what is not. And isn’t this what life is about?

When you practice mindfulness there is no place to go but to be, to observe the presence of your own self, including those urges to move and the unstoppable thoughts. And when you allow this to be, when you learn acceptance you see that you are complete and perfect in spite of your human imperfections.

When you stop trying to chase the future and allow yourself to be in the present, your options become bigger. You see that you have more choices, more certainty rather than less. Because the now is all there really is. Haven’t we learned all too well in the past months that the future we’re chasing can so easily slip from our fingers? And what are left with? The now, the present moment, each present moment, and in this we have certainty.

The future, just like the past, is a mental construct. The present is tangible. And mindfulness practice teaches us that if the present is the only thing that is real, then this is where we must be. That’s not to say we should learn from past events or plan for future ones. But if we have certainty in the present then we have the resilience to accept possible ambiguity if the future doesn’t pan out like we’d expected or hoped.

Please contact us if you want to learn more about the practice of mindfulness or if you’re looking for drug-free ways to manage anxiety.

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