Have you ever noticed that life never unfolds exactly as you expect it will? No matter how much planning and anticipating you do life has a way of unfolding differently than you intended. I have noticed that throughout my day, my expectations or thoughts of how things will unfold are never quite what occurs. This was apparently obvious to me this week in the numerous work meetings I attended. However I anticipated my meetings were going to unfold was never how things happened. The conversation went in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. The topic may have broadened or became more focused. My fantasy of how things were going to unfold did not materialize exactly how I had envisioned.
Why do we anticipate or plan for the future? In planning ahead there is an element of being prepared for meetings and events. We try to foresee what questions or issues will come up and to plan for them in advance. While this is important and expected in today’s business world, we become vested in our preparation. We are attached to our position, and are not necessarily open to spontaneity. No matter the situation, we become attached to our thoughts. We put so much time and effort into them, at least in our head, that we become resistant to letting go. Our investment in planning ahead can be the cause of our suffering.
Remaining open to whatever unfolds is exciting, alive and fresh. There is a spontaneity to daily life. In this freedom, we find ourselves living on the edge not knowing what is going to happen next. Life is unexpected, exciting and rich. At the same time, living in this way can be scary. Living life moment-to-moment means that we can’t prepare for the next moment. We aren’t able to anticipate what will happen. We can’t be in control. If we not only anticipated, but knew what events were going to unfold (e.g. if we knew our future) we would be robbed of this moment. We would always be looking forward to the future versus being in the present. We would know what is coming and either feel as though we can’t wait or we would dread its arrival. Death is that way. We know it is coming and inevitable, but we don’t dwell on it or wait for it, despite the fact that death is all around us. Yet we live as though it is never going to happen to us. Even knowing what the end game is going to be we still continue to plan. Planning ahead implies a knowing. Yet, can we really know what something is going to be like until it unfolds? It is the unknowing that is the richness of life.
At the same time, planning ahead and predicting the future is a way of seeking to be in control. Our attempts at being in control is our way of trying to manage what life is serving us. By managing and anticipating life’s events we create a sense of security and comfort. We feel safe with a sense of solidity in being prepared. When situations occur in our life in which the ground has been pulled out from under our feet, we feel panic and anxiety. When these feelings surface, we feel as though something is wrong but perhaps we are just experiencing not knowing, not being in control or groundlessness. We want to run from panic and anxiety. Yet, we cannot escape what is within us. Only in turning towards that which we fear with detached awareness can we minimize its impact upon us.
Feeling a sense of control is an illusion. Try to control your breathing. In fact, we have so little control that we don’t even have command of an ordinary function like breathing. Control over any aspect of life is a delusion. Still, notice who is observing that you have no control? Who is watching with awareness that you have no control over your breathing? There is a conscious awareness that is separate from the body, from the physicality of living. A higher consciousness of awareness that is watching. This awareness is not about control but rather witnessing that which is. Our higher selves are ever present, whether we notice or not, watching everything that unfolds. This is the higher consciousness that is aware we are driving when our thoughts are elsewhere. It is the higher consciousness that is present when we are meditating and notice that we are thinking. It is the awareness that notices the events of life that are unfolding differently than how we anticipated them.
I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t plan or anticipate events in life but rather that in doing so, we must be aware that life is ever-changing. It is dynamic, unrehearsed and original. In planning ahead, we can create less stress and tension (less suffering) for ourselves by being open to whatever is unfolding. By remaining open we are receptive to life versus approaching it with a controlling perspective. We need to plan for things like meetings, retirement and travel but not be attached to how it develops. Being open to the unexpected is a more truthful experience of life. When we are attached to a specific outcome we are often disappointed. When we live our lives with receptivity to whatever reveals itself; life never disappoints with its inspiration.
As your week unfolds watch for the unexpected in events, plans and people. Look for the dynamic nature of life in each moment. When you feel anxiety, stress or frustration take a moment to notice what your expectations are, versus what has surfaced. Whenever you feel yourself contracting, try to be open and receptive rather than closed and limiting. Either way, simply notice what is happening without judgement, simply observe. In the observation of life we learn about ourselves while simultaneously becoming more open to what is. May you live each and every moment in awareness.