As I write this my life appears to be in chaos. At least this is how it may seem to the outside world. Following the fire on my houseboat, the safe refuge I found after the dissolution of my marriage, I am having to put my trust in a collection of experts that will help restore the houseboat. Each day brings new revelations, new complications and threaten to light the fire of anxious distrust that we all carry deep in our bellies.
From that moment on I’ve experienced people offering to help me in the most selfless and practical ways possible.
And on a side note, it’s been interesting to experience that as I’ve become more openhearted and trusting in the past year, more and more kind and helpful people seem to come my way.
So you would think that my mind has learned its lesson that there is no need to constantly process all the potential pitfalls and conflicts that may now arise in a process that involves builders, fire sanitation people, and above all, insurance agents. If only….
As therapists we like to tell our clients to ‘trust the process.’ Often the first couple of sessions will make someone feel better. Maybe for the first time in their lives someone is taking the time to really listen to them and hear what they are saying. But the result of this quiet close listening is that they gradually find themselves meeting the very demons that brought them to therapy. The majority of clients do choose to ‘trust the process’ but there is always a small minority who prefer to live according to the rules of society than by the rules of their own soul. Even if this makes them more and more miserable.
I remember distinctly the moment that I chose to express my soul’s need to be more than an appendage to a deeply loved partner’s life and the inner acceptance of the potential dissolution of the existing order that might result from it. My mind told me I was threatening the very foundation of my stability. My soul knew that I needed to shake up the great compromise that stopped me from experiencing a much deeper sense of safety. The more I allow myself to patiently watch this process with curiosity and trust, the more my mind begins to understand that it can calm down and that in the absence of control, surrender is actually the most economic use of our energy.
In the gospel of Matthew (6:26) we read: “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? Or to her life as the case may be.
Apparently nothing much has changed in our psyche in the past 2000 years. The developed world dictates that we go for it, that we are out there, that we are proactive and preferably one step ahead of the game. Today the newspaper carried an interview with youngsters taking their A-levels. Their concentration is disturbed by the ongoing pressure from their environment to make life choices about their future. If they haven’t registered for the next part of their education before they’ve even taken their final exams they may lose out. But so what if they ‘lose’ a year. Think of what they might learn from being outside the system for a while. That very conditioning takes them, and us, away from the natural state of being which allows us to be inwardly feeling and trusting, rather than outwardly thinking. Letting life unfold rather than to manage it and steer it in what we are told or brainwashed to think is the right direction.
Yes, Sometimes life events pile up, one on top of the other, until you feel you can barely keep your head above water. None of the old ways of coping with life seem to work anymore. You end up distrusting everything you ever knew, held dear, or thought you could rely on. But out of this total chaos something new can be born. A trust in something intangible, unreasonable, deeply personal, comforting and yet strangely removed from who you thought you were.
One of the things that gets us confused in the whole narrative concerning trust is that we seem to think that the correct life path will lead to a life without bumps. Yet it is the very bumps that make life interesting. Sometimes painful, but full of the opportunity to sink deeper into your essential self. Superficially we think we prefer our lives to be ticking over smoothly, filled with happiness and laughter and a sense of well-being, as if those can’t be experienced at a time of strife. The whole of society is geared up to create this illusion of a risk-free existence. And one of the fallacies of religion is that living a ‘good life’ will protect you from harm. Or that trusting in your God stops bad things from happening. The opposite is true; the gift of the Spirit is in the shit….
How we experience the bumps is how we relate to the issue of trust. There’s nothing like a serious crisis in your life to bring out the demons of conditioning, as well as the demons that are woven into the very fabric of our own personal archetype. When the shit hits the fan we become afraid. This fear triggers deeper fears; collective existential fears as well as our own personal unique fears. Ironically, one of my greatest personal fears is confusion or chaos and so I wasn’t surprised when I saw its key archetype appearing strongly in my Gene Keys and Human Design profiles. I remember, long before I met these teachings, my therapist asking me how I dealt with ‘not knowing how to fix’ something. I burst into tears and shouted “I hate it!”
Well…. Slowly I am learning, maybe not to love it, but to accept it, and to trust it. Anyone who has read the wonderful book about the hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window may remember his life motto, taught to him by his mother. It is what it is and it will be what it will be. Which brings us back to the flowers in the field and the birds in the trees.
In times of crisis our psyche experiences a loss of control, which leads to fear, which triggers the little drama queen called the amygdala buried deep inside our mammalian brain. At these times our mind can be our greatest ally. Yet through conditioning and through an over estimation of the power of our intellect we misuse our mind to try and figure out how we can get ourselves out of the woods and into safety. And if we are good planners we might even look ahead and try and analyse every single possible next step down to its ultimate outcome. As if we could know….. Instead, we could be using our beautiful pre-frontal cortex to talk the amygdala down from her panic attack and return the central nervous system to a semblance of calm. Yes, in the moment of danger we feel the need to act. So I called 112. And then it stops. Then there is nothing more you can do.
I tell my overactive mind, trying to run around and put out a whole lot of other imagined fires, that it’s not a problem until someone makes it a problem. That right now, right here, I am safe. What’s more, I am clothed, I am fed, and I have a roof over my head. What will come, will come. Thus we use the mind as a powerful tool for calm, instead of fanning the flames of distrust and fear.
So while all this is going on I am taking the opportunity to nurture and develop greater trust. Truthfully, I don’t even know what it is I trust; myself, others, God, Life…. Or pure mathematical randomness. The metaphor that has guided me in the past and continues to guide me today is that of a rowing boat on an open river. The river will flow where it flows and I can allow my craft to be carried along. Sometimes I may use my oars to guide me in a direction that looks attractive or interesting or to help steer the boat gently as it hits a rocky patch. “And what if your boat sank?” a fearful voice inside my head asks. “Then that too will pass,” I answer, despite a little shiver of apprehension at the thought.
Trust – for me, for now, is about anchoring my awareness in the pit of my belly, surrendering to the inevitable, and trusting that I will know when and if to use my oars. Patience, acceptance, and trust go hand in hand, providing the safest antidote to unleashing further harm through anxious impatience, control and fear.