I am writing three days before election day. And I have no clue what will happen in our country that day or thereafter.
It’s hard to live with so much uncertainty. What will happen with coronavirus and COVID-19 in the coming months? When will the world have access to a safe and effective vaccine? Who will occupy the White House as of late January? And what will become of you, me, or our neighbors in the coming weeks and months?
I don’t know. And I seriously doubt anyone else knows, either.
The wisdom of the world’s great religions encourages us to not always focus on today or tomorrow, and instead adopt a long-range view. There are three main reasons for this:
1. No one really knows what will happen in the future, so it’s unwise to put too much stock in someone’s predictions of what supposedly will or will not happen.
2. Having a short-term view tempts us to hold expectations about outcomes. The principle of non-attachment, meanwhile, encourages us to “do the next right thing” with no expectations regarding the outcome.
3. What we might think of as “bad” today might later turn out to be good, and vice-versa. We are not all-seeing or all-knowing, so it’s wise to seek humility and cultivate “sacred patience.”
A friend of mine in a 12-step program once shared this nugget from that beautiful tradition: “An expectation is a resentment waiting to happen.” Indeed! It’s human to wonder about the future and normal to speculate about it. The challenge, however, is to not allow our wondering to turn into expectations — a source of so much anxiety and fear regarding the future.
If you don’t know the fable of the poor villager with a beautiful horse that disappears one day, you can find it HERE. It’s a perfect illustration of how unwise it is to think we can predict the future, or judge the rightness or wrongness of particular outcomes. By the end of the fable, the poor villager tells his neighbors, “You speak as if you know, but no one really knows. No one is wise enough to know, including me. Only God knows.”
The spiritual teachings and practices we promote at Center for Spiritual Wisdom are aimed at helping us navigate the uncertainty of these times. Sages, saints, and prophets throughout history have warned against the folly of predicting the future. Instead, they’ve recommended practices to help us stay centered and clear-eyed regardless of what may or may not happen.
May it be so for all of you, my friends, in the days to come.