February 17, 2015

Here’s to Living in the Mystery.

JD Hancock/Flickr

It happened again the other day.

I was enjoying a well-earned savasana at the end of yoga when the three questions that have haunted me for as long as I can remember rolled in like fog:

Where am I going?

Am I getting what I want?

Why am I doing what I do?

Always, I am humbled by the realization that getting the answers is not necessarily in my best interest.

Every day I coach people on the art of having a goal and holding it lightly.

Cultivating that balance is one of the best reasons to hire a coach. Many people are afraid to set big goals for themselves because they can’t stand not knowing how it will turn out.

After a lifetime of being told that failure is a bad thing, we can benefit from having great support when fully committing to our dreams.

Hanging out in the space between the question and the answer is where all the action happens.

It’s the place of creation and wild expansion.

It’s humbling and empowering.

It’s what we signed up for as humans.

And it’s scary as hell.

The Buddhists call the feeling “groundlessness,” and recognize it as a natural state of being. Culturally, we’re conditioned to seek immediate solutions and logical answers, which is partly why we find this “not knowing” place so uncomfortable.

We want reassurance that we’re safe to take risks in pursuit of our dreams. We want to know that our choices will take us in the “right” direction.

We are obsessed with outcomes.

In my experience, the answers to those kinds of questions usually never come. Or, rather, once they do, we have landed safely on the other side of the mystery and are on to the next.

The trouble with these questions is that they imply we are not safe to pursue our dreams and desires without knowing for sure that our efforts will yield the results we are seeking.

The truth is that not only are we safe to live full-out without knowing what will happen, we are meant to.

The other day I found an article discussing the scientific discoveries that happened as a result of serendipity.

In many cases, scientists tried to find answers to a certain question and the results were totally different (and often better) than the ones pre-imagined.

In other instances, brand new discoveries were made while scientists were looking for something completely different altogether.

This makes me wonder if the outcomes we seek are just the shiny objects that lure us into setting a goal. Perhaps when our goals land us in places we could not have imagined in our wildest dreams, they are the places we were meant to find all along.

When living from the mystery of the questions (life itself) rather than rushing toward the certainty of the answers (which is a kind of death), openness and receptivity become very natural and everything seems easier.

Albert Einstein said it well:

“The most beautiful experience we can have here is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead…”

There’s a story I love about a wealthy man who throws a party.

He assembles his guests around the pool where he makes an astonishing announcement: the water is infested with poisonous fish, piranhas and a couple of enormous crocodiles.

Whoever swims from one side of the pool to the other gets one of three prizes: $10 million in cash, a luxury trip around the world or one of his beautiful properties.

No sooner are the words out of his mouth when a man jumps into the pool and swims like crazy.

Within moments, he emerges alive on the other side, looking shocked and perturbed and dripping wet, refusing the towels that are offered to him. The crowd is stunned, and when the host asks which of the three prizes he wants, the man doesn’t answer.

The crowd falls silent, waiting for his response.

Finally the wealthy man asks:

“What do you want? Please tell us!”

After more silence, the swimmer finally shouts:

“What I want really want is to know who the hell pushed me into that f***ing pool!”

I hope you appreciate, like I do, that this story is about letting life nudge you in the direction it wants you to go.

It’s about rising to the occasion even though it’s scary and the odds are seemingly against you. It’s about learning you were safe all along and finding rewards on the other side of your travail.

With that in mind, let’s revisit the questions that haunted my recent savasana:

Where am I going?

Am I getting what I want?

Why am I doing what I do?

My best offering is that we stay with the mystery.

Decide we’re going to make it to the proverbial other side of the pool. Learn how to swim, of course, but also be willing to swim.

Recognize what’s present and what’s possible.

Know where your advantages are and where you require support.

Then swim the heck out of that water.

And then let serendipity take care of the rest.



If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They’re Not Big Enough.

Author: Nicola Albini

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: JD Hancock/Flickr

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