Worry’s Wild Ride

     During a particularly challenging time in my life, I was given a card that illustrated a beautiful oak tree on a hillside overlooking a stunning sunset. Below the picture were the words, “When the day is over, and you have done the best you can, await the results in peace.” In the atmosphere of stress I was in, absorbing the beauty and wisdom of that card felt like being struck by benevolent lightning. It was perhaps the first time I experienced a sweet surrender to the flow of life… seeing life not as a raging ocean against which we must battle, but rather as an adventurous river that carries us along as we gently steer ourselves around obstructions and eddies.  

     It was many years after receiving the card that I discovered the ancient origin of this profound wisdom. It is beautifully depicted in the classical, 6th Century B.C., Chinese philosophical text, the Tao Te Ching. When he wrote this short but mind-bendingly dense historical masterpiece of the Tao, Lao-Tzu repeatedly made clear that we always have sovereignty over our actions and efforts, but never over the results of those efforts. In other words, who you are and how happy you can be is not determined by outcomes. Life’s true joy and lasting fulfillment springs from simply showing up, participating, and giving of yourself. The results of your efforts will inevitably manifest in ways that are most appropriate for the world around you. And although you may want things to change quickly in certain ways, the time may not be ripe for the world to change in those ways. Realizing this is what makes the “await the results in peace” part of this wisdom possible. Loosening your death grip of attachment for specific outcomes also affords you monstrous capacity of perseverance to get up every morning and continue to “do the best you can” as the first part of that wisdom suggests. Because - even against all odds - every day that you give yourself fully to an effort or cause that you believe in creates one more tiny shift in the eventual avalanche of change. And an avalanche is comprised of nothing more than thousands of tiny shifts… all necessary in coming before the last tiny shift that actually moves the mountain.  

     Kingdoms rise and fall; political tides ebb and flow; evolution lurches forward and then reels back. Though we are all members of humanity and participants in its culture, there is a danger in becoming too self-identified with humanity’s overall progress or lack thereof. We are each sovereign souls who cannot be defined by the adjacent circus of the moment or of the millennia. We do what we can with as much compassion as we’re able to muster. But then we have a choice to either spend our lives wringing our hands in a worried frenzy, or to await the results of our efforts in peace... knowing that if the results are not good, then they are not the final results.

     Our world, life itself, and the collective evolution of experience is a physical and metaphysical tapestry of epic proportion. Our minds can’t even come close to comprehending the magnificent totality of it all, any more than science can give us definitive answers about the origin or future of this immense cosmos that we call home. But alongside the dizzying observations of trillions of galaxies and the mind-blowing theories of multiple universes – if you humbly open yourself – you will experience a feeling of connectivity to it all. You will wake up one day and see nothing around you but yourself. We are the Universe itself playing with the Universe itself. And our temporary roles in comedies, love stories, dramas, and even horrors all have purpose and meaning – far beyond what we can understand (until we grow into that understanding). Worry is a delusion of smallness and an endorsement of limitation. Growing toward an understanding of how timeless, eternal, and big we really are is the key to transcending - and eventually transforming - all smallness and limitation in our lives.      

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