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The Only Certainty is Uncertainty

February 24, 2024

By Siri

Most of the time we like to feel like we can be secure in our expectations of how things will turn out but reality isn’t always designed to fit our expectations. When it doesn’t, it can test our ability to adapt and show us just how attached we are to our expectations. I was one that became easily frustrated when things didn’t go as planned but thanks to what I realized through meditation I can now accept and flow with life instead of trying to control it. These personal stories are good examples of this change.

The Best Laid Plans

A few years ago, I planned a trip to Boston to see my family for Christmas. We wanted to be together to watch a Christmas eve play. We had been planning this outing for months.  

I planned carefully to guarantee a good time with my family at that play. I showed up at the flight gate an hour early. When they opened the gate, I picked up my bags and got ready to line up for boarding. However, they did not call out the first boarding group, they called out for volunteers to take the next available flight. A horrible feeling of uncertainty set in as I realized that the flight was overbooked!  I held my breath as people shuffled their feet and remained silent, no one volunteered.

The staff was forced to select 4 random names to miss the flight and more uncertainty set in. I was one of the names picked and found myself without a seat on the plane. Feeling disappointed and outraged, I took comfort in consoling a teenager who was in the same situation.

person sleeping in airport
Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash

Feelings of uncertainty flooded my mind as we sorted through the options to get on a flight the next day, Christmas eve day. Feeling abandoned, we spent the night at the airport. It was scary watching the airport shut down for the night. It was depressing to know that I was going to miss going to the play with my family that I was so looking forward to..

Our new flight landed in Boston at midnight on Christmas Eve, during a snowstorm. Ground transportation was not available so I hitched a ride with the teenager’s grandfather to a location an hour away. There my mother could pick me up to continue the trip to her house. 

snowy street

The one memory that sticks out most from this incident is the feeling of desperation as midnight struck on Christmas eve and we were pulling our luggage, looking for an unknown car for 20 minutes in 20 degree weather.  The teenager’s nice grandfather who drove 2 hours to pick us up at the airport, forgot where he parked his car in this massive new circular parking garage.

This helpless state of uncertainty is what none of us enjoy. As human beings we want to know what's coming next, we want guarantees. I try to avoid uncertainty by planning. Other people simply refuse to engage in things outside of their safe, known, daily routines. Still others will throw their cares into the wind and not even consider the uncertainty of their choices.

The bottom line is that no one can guarantee what the future holds and that things will go according to what’s in our mind. We may have been conditioned to think and live in an Illusion that things are supposed to work out as we want them to; as we conceive them in our mind.  When they don’t, it causes stress and anxiety.

If we could break away from this illusion and realize that life simply happens, that the universe is not conspiring with us or against us, we could navigate life without anxiety about uncertainty. 

Uncertainty is all around us. 

For example, consider something as simple as the weather app on our mobile phone. It provides a forecast. It says, this weekend will be partly cloudy with a 40% chance of rain. There is an uncertainty of 60% that it will not rain. If I am planning a party in the park, I want a guarantee that it will not rain, but rain will happen according to the conditions at that time.

 “There’s a chance” means : “we don’t know for certain.”

Learning Acceptance Through Meditation

While we definitely need to plan and prepare for various things in our life, we need to also realize that planning is just a guideline. When we accept that things will happen as they may, and not necessarily according to our plan, we can navigate through life without anxiety.  You might be thinking, easy for you to say. How can I just start doing that? Is it even possible?

Giving Birth in the Living Room

Yes it is! That is how I was able to navigate through my crazy situation at my daughter's birth. You see I was already meditating for a year prior to this incident and my mind was able to easily accept the situation and allow my instincts to kick in. Through meditation, I was able to develop the ability to stay in the moment. 

I was still a planner so I made plans for the birth of my second child.  I surrounded myself with friends and family so that I had plenty of people around me to help right up to the due date.  

I tried to check into the hospital the night before the due date but I was sent home because I wasn’t ready to give birth. (I even protested and stayed in the triage area for 3 hours to no avail.) 

Yet, when the moment to give birth finally came, I ended up all alone at home and all my planning went out the window. Accepting my situation, rather than lamenting, I called 911 and waited for help to arrive.  Even through the chaos that came with the help, I was able to stay calm and present in the moment to guide everyone around me to ensure a safe birth. My daughter was born on the living room floor. The amazing thing was, I did not spend my time longing for things to go differently as I did before on that Christmas trip to Boston.  Meditation prepared me to be able to accept the situation and let go of my plans.  This is something that would not have been possible before because of my attachment to certainty.

The Ease of Going with the Flow

People always ask me. How did you go through that situation without panicking? How can you sound so calm talking about it? . Were you scared? You are so brave. The answer is that when you can just stay in the moment, without your mind grabbing on to all kinds of fears and doubts, you can be at peace in the most seemingly difficult situations.

As humans, we have been conditioned to think that things are under our control and that we deliberately make things happen or not happen. We tend to think, something good happens because we made good decisions and when something bad happens, we get frustrated and wonder what we did wrong. Through meditation, I was able to understand that the idea that we have control is an illusion. I was able to realize that life happens and all we do is navigate. So, when I was in the hot seat, I didn’t panic. I didn’t question. I said to myself, this is happening and I need to proceed to the next step and so I did. Even through my pain, I was completely present. I was able to communicate my situation clearly and directed the EMT firefighters to obtain all the necessary things in a short period of time and help me go through a safe delivery.

smiling woman holding infant

When we surrender to the uncertainty and embrace it to let things happen as they may, we can be like water, always flowing around obstacles that may appear in its way.  This meditation made it possible for me to flow with life without conflict and enjoy it to the fullest. 

I am sure, had I not done meditation I would have been in a complete state of panic during my daughter’s birth. This meditation showed me how to not get caught up in the chatter of the mind and remain in the moment. We may not be facing a situation as stressful as giving birth at home but we all face uncertainties every day, some less stressful and some more. Whatever the situation, you will find that the problem is not what’s happening but how our mind handles it. This meditation is the way to teach your mind how to handle any situation peacefully and rationally. I encourage you to try it and see for yourself how much better it is to flow with life rather than against it.