There have been so many times throughout my life and recently where I have railed against the “unknown.” I have used food, alcohol, occasional drugs, television, romance novels, etc., to try to slip away from the feelings that come up when I don't have the answers. I know I'm not unusual. The illusion of control has, ruled my life and career and all my relations since I can remember.
The idea that there was no fault, that my dad's death was a part of his destiny and a part of the Great Mystery was not something I could live with. Every time one of the counselors would tell me, “Patti, it wasn't anyone's fault, it was an accident,” I wanted to smack them upside the head.
I truly believed that if I were better at math or perhaps if I were prettier, then he would not have died. This is a sad story. While I no longer believe in my culpability for his death, this idea that “it's my fault” still visits my consciousness. The idea that I'm in charge still sneaks up on me and before you know it I am running the show. It's about me and there is no force vaster than I. I believe that FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN AND FEAR OF DEATH ARE WOVEN COMPLETELY INTO THE CORE OF OUR BEINGS!
As the years have passed, I have seen that I need to consider readjusting my thinking. One of the main reasons to consider this shift from self blame into a consciousness of expansion where it is possible to welcome the unknown, including death, is because I don't believe I can die well if I think I'm in charge of the show. Dying well, to me, means trusting a force both vaster than I and living deep within me to take me through the gates of this life into dying and beyond. Dying well also means that however I die will be the 'right' way for me to die.
Throughout my final days I'd be thinking “it's my fault” that I'm dying or maybe someone else' fault and that would not allow me to surrender to what is at the moment.
An essential aspect of my spiritual practice today is doing “The Work” developed by Byron Katie. If you'd like to explore her work go to her web page which is at www.theworkofbyronkatie.com. The more I practice accepting what is exactly as it is, the more the unknown becomes palatable, on occasion even desirable.
Every time I have a thought that things should be different - I should not have a return of heart symptoms, I should not feel so low energy, I should not get dizzy, I should not have to cancel plans due to my health – every single time I see that these thoughts are not the 'spiritual truth.' The spiritual truth is that things should be just as they are whether I understand that or not and Byron Katie's work teaches me that lesson.
I've just recently decided to make “the Great Spirit of the Unknown” a part of my personal understanding of God. Rather than praying that I have the answers or that this thing I consider difficult not be happening to me, I've been praying only to accept what is happening to me. I've been praying to the Unknown to help me accept that I don't know how long atrial fibrillation will last, or why the symptoms have returned or what will happen next. The Buddhists believe that every illness is an opportunity to practice dying.
I've been praying to accept that I truly don't know the outcome in my health situation in my life, and that the outcome is in the Great Spirit's hands. I've also been praying to accept myself when I can't accept the unknown and when I am gripping the wheel so tightly I'm getting blisters.
Also, when I pray for others as part of a daily prayer and service practice I have stopped praying that they “get well” or “succeed” or have the thing happen that they seem to really want to happen. Instead I pray that when they can't accept what's happening, or accept themselves, they find themselves drawn closer to the God of their understanding. I pray to release SPECIFIC outcomes in my own life and in the name of those I pray for. This isn't an easy prayer yet it is the most sincere prayer I can offer. Sometimes, in the midst of my morning meditation when my mind stops for a brief while, I get this sense of being in very dark, quiet, beautiful stillness. Maybe I'll just have more of that when I die.
I was just thinking about how Oprah writes this column called “What I know for sure.” Perhaps I'll write a column called “What I don't know for sure.” Letting my life emerge into the life that is truly best for my soul is the path I've chosen. Whatever you choose, I honor your journey!
BOWING TOWARDS YOU,
by Mechtild of Magdenburg
translated by Oliver Davies
In the desert
Turn towards emptiness
Fleeing the self.
Ask no one’s help
And your being will quiet
Free from the bondage of things.
Those who cling to the world,
Endeavor to free.
Those who are free, praise.
Care for the sick,
But live alone,
Happy to drink the waters of sorrow
To kindle love’s fire
With the twigs of a simple life.
Thus you will live in the desert.