How to embrace uncertainty

As those of you who follow the Solution Focused Living Facebook page will know, we’ve just come back from a Mindfulness Road Trip around the West Coast of Scotland. It turned into a sort of ‘Road Trip’ meets ‘Mindfulness Retreat’; lots of opportunity for meditation mixed with intense inquiry and lots of general conversation.

One of the themes that seemed to emerge was around ‘certainty’. There seems to be a lot of it about at the moment! We seem to be living in an increasingly polarised global community where opinions are held strongly and any disagreement is perceived as tantamount to heresy. Now I can’t speak for anyone else, but the more we discussed topics ranging from trans-genderism, de-platforming, Brexit and freedom of speech, the more our conversations came to one of two conclusions; we either ended with, “Well, it’s complicated” or “I don’t know”. And it strikes me that those are pretty good conclusions. Life is incredibly complicated and it’s often a defence mechanism by which we assume certainty; to acknowledge the complete randomness of existence is an extremely daunting task. Bad things happen to nice people, and good things happen to bad people; it doesn’t seem fair, but there it is! However, in order to justify that position we have to assume that we (or, more often I) know both what are “good things” and who are “nice people”, a position that usually finds itself reduced to “the things I like” and “the people I like”; which when you take a step back is a somewhat circular argument. A more balanced view might suggest that “good things” happen to everyone (some of the time) and “bad things” happen to everyone (some of the time) which, leaving aside the assumptions of what “good things” and “bad things” are, brings us, pretty much, to the conclusion that, “It’s complicated” and “I don’t know”.

So, if it’s all so complicated (and, if we’re honest, we don’t know the answer) why are we so attached to our own positions and opinions? Obviously, the answer lies somewhere in the statement, “I don’t know, but it’s complicated”, but the discussion around this brought us to the realisation that, often, certainty comes through fear. It is very difficult to “not know”, and by comparison, it’s much easier to “have certainty”, even if we’re not very sure what we’re certain of. Attachment brings comfort; belonging to a group of like-minded people, sharing an ideology, BEING RIGHT! By comparison, the non-attachment of mindfulness meditation carries a certain “wishy-washyness”, a negation, a not stepping-up-to-the-plate, an apparent lack of strength. But, when we sit in the moment, observing the “now”; not judging the moment, just-sitting-in-the-moment, we find that most (if not all) of those certainties drop away. The action of sitting in meditation, in this moment, takes us away from the “abstract” and drops us (very firmly) in the “actual”; this moment, this breath, this life.

This is what we found renewed on the West Coast; regardless of all the problems in the world, sit – breathe – breathe again. In the 21st Century we don’t need to know all the answers.

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