Posts Tagged ‘control’

The presence of nothing . . . and everything

August 5, 2011

Nothing has to happen and everything will.

This phrase found me in the netherlands of meditation about four years ago. The Taoist wisdom in these words is both a marvel and a dilemma. Its infant implementation into my life currently exists of captured moments when I manage to stand still enough to note that nothing that is occurring in this moment has to happen, yet everything is happening. When I get to the end of each moment, everything has happened. There is nothing left that has not happened in its moment.

I get caught up in control: having to have certain specific events occur so that I can have a specific outcome. Moving past my physical survival and my human dependency upon water, food, shelter . . . all of those things at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I am sometimes absolutely frantic to make a specific outcome happen. For instance, I am always desperate to honor my commitments. I am particularly abhorrent to being absent for people who are dependent upon me for their well-being (I’m thinking children here and the occasional grown-up who has asked for a favor).

Practical applications of control include situations such as driving my vehicle, showing up for work, spending my money, and all that. What “has to happen” for much of my waking moments is that I survive intact, not harm others, do my job well, save for my future – all of the activities we call living. My continued breathing in and out must occur for there to be continued life within my body. But there is no rule that says my breathing has to happen for its own sake. In reality, none of these things have to happen. I don’t “have” to do anything at all. The motion of existence will continue regardless.

There are consequences to both action and inaction. In deciding what to do or not do, we all believe we can control the outcomes in our lives. We have a large history to support that belief. We witness the outcomes in other peoples’ lives, listen to their tales of how it happened, and sometimes apply their methods to living our own lives. That’s what self-help books are all about.

I have been testing the inaction of “nothing has to happen” in my life. Watching people I love stumble through their lives, it is so very hard for me to not interfere and try to fix them or their lives. I witness their behaviors, their attitudes, and I can nearly all the time guess what the outcome will be. There are formulas for success, I want to scream at them. But who am I to know what is best for them? Who am I to guess what their path should be? Some days, I note that even I have not always acted in my own best interests.

It is easier to spout wisdom than it is to apply it. I am working on unknowing what I believe I know. The place inside of me where nothing has to happen is wordless . . . a place where my preconceived ideas and worshipped fairy tales lie silent and useless.

If nothing has to happen in this moment, I am leaving space for something else to happen.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of 9/11

September 11, 2010

I’ve learned that when a piece of writing stirs me, I need to pay attention. The September 2010 issue of Science of Mind has a number of interesting articles, all of which simultaneously call to me. The one that jumps out at me today is prelude to a disagreement – not an outright argument because I don’t have the luxury of a live opponent – but rather an observation. I disagree with a statement made in one article is about a book ‒ From Cancer to Power ‒ written by its author.

For anyone who is dealing with cancer, the book sounds like it has some excellent guidance, except for one little bit of advice: the formula the author suggests for taking responsibility: E + R = O. This stands for Event plus Response equals Outcome. The author indicates that we are not always in control of what happens to us but because we are in control of how we respond, we can “therefore, control the outcome.”

What a pile of doo-doo.

I am thinking about the people who died on September 11, 2001. Many of them responded brilliantly and survived. Many of them responded brilliantly and did not survive. If survival was the desired outcome (and I am just assuming that it was), then a whole bunch of people did not respond the “right” way. I am not sure what the “right” way would have been for the people on the floors above the impact of the airplanes as there was no possible way to escape except to grow wings and fly. They were helpless, deeply submerged in a disaster that could not be undone.

Ditto for the people who were on the airplanes.

This simplistic solution for controlling our destinies has me a bit aggravated. I have not read the book, but I am hoping . . . a lot . . . that the author went on to define what she means by outcome. The implication of E + R = O is that if we respond in just the right way to each event, then we can control what happens next. That absolutely is not true and it sets people up for self-recrimination and blame when the outcome is not the one they had aimed for. That this idea is planted in a book whose audience is people dealing with cancer scares me. The author battled cancer and survived, but her methods were just that: her methods. They worked for her. They may or may not work for other people. None of us can ever know what life is like inside another person’s experience.

Control is an illusion. The only outcome we can truly control through our response is how we behave.