We have to get used to letting go of craving for certainty, and come to terms with what uncertainty actually feels like in the whole body-mind. The temptation to turn away from such unpleasant feelings can be strong. But if we inhibit our reactions, again using mindfulness, sense restraint and skilful reflection, it is possible that we won’t have to turn away, but instead enter into a realistic relationship with what we feel is challenging us. This approach applies to everything we encounter on this spiritual journey, but here we are specifically contemplating our reactions when faced with the unknown.
If we could recall how as a child we learnt to walk, we’d probably realize we didn’t think so much about it, we just did it. Later on, when we were learning to ride a bicycle, it wasn’t thinking that taught us. Learning life’s lessons requires a desire to succeed at them, and trust that success can be achieved. It also takes quite a bit of falling over and getting up again. But many of these tasks don’t necessarily depend on thinking.
Admittedly, with learning to walk and ride a bike we had the encouraging example of others who were already ably doing these things. In the case of learning to trust that we can accommodate intense fear of uncertainty, there are maybe not so many examples of mature competence around, but that doesn’t mean we must assume it can’t be done. In the material world there are many inspiring examples of those who have dared to go into the unknown, motivated by trust in their own convictions.
Nobody likes feeling insecure; all beings want to feel safe. Where, then, should we be looking to find real security? How are we to live with an awareness of the changing nature of conditioned existence? The Buddha advises us that regardless of how daunting fear and uncertainty might appear, we should train ourselves to trust in wisdom. Wisdom is what sees beyond the way things merely appear to be and discerns actuality.
If we learn to trust that there is real wisdom, and in its transformative power, that trust can help protect us from falling into despair.
This reflection by Ajahn Munindo is from the book, Sanity in the Midst of Uncertainty, pp.10-11.