Uncertainty and Transition
by Rob Brookler
Be you ever so wise, confident, and “enlightened,” you will nonetheless find yourself at times uncertain: uncertain about what actions to take, uncertain about your life, uncertain about your place or purpose in this life. At such times, we tend to think of ourselves as confused or lost. And consequently, we may feel fearful, “unsupported” in the larger sense, or even powerless.
We must appreciate, however, that in order to grow, we will necessarily move from certainty to uncertainty. Uncertainty is actually a valid and essential phase of our learning. And in order to move through this phase, we must be able to recognize it as such and resist the inclination to fear it and judge ourselves for it.
Outgrowing our certainty
Why is uncertainty necessary for our growth? The first reason is simply that as we grow as individuals – as we reach for new levels of freedom and as our power and self-awareness expands – our wisdom must also grow to keep pace. As our lives and our vistas open, we will simply outgrow our certainty.
The important distinction being that this is a temporary state. We have not "lost" our clarity. Nor have we lost our power to choose. We’ve simply “graduated” to a level where we must discover a deeper clarity and a new confidence in ourselves and our power.
The “academic” arena illustrates this well. If we cast ourselves back to our school days, at the end of the seventh grade (or so), we may remember how, by the end of the school year, we finally made sense of “geometry.” And we felt some security and accomplishment in this knowledge. Entering the eighth-grade, however, confronted by “trigonometry,” we suddenly felt ourselves again somewhat lost and mystified. And we probably felt discouraged, a bit fearful, and our overall confidence somewhat shaken.
Graduating from one school-grade to the next and from basic to more advanced subjects, it’s easy to appreciate the inevitability of these “uncertain” periods. And we can more easily appreciate these periods of uncertainty as transitional. We need to practice the same kind of understanding with the more complex progress of our life-learning. We need to recognize that these “uncertain” periods, these times when nothing seems clear or firm to us, are in fact preludes to a new level of clarity and a new, stronger foundation.
Why we can’t see
The challenge, of course, is that, unlike our academic learning, our life-learning does not advance in clear, even steps. At least not from where we’re sitting. And this leads to the second and more profound role of uncertainty.
We will enter a time of uncertainty when from where we are at the moment, we are simply unable to see where we need to go next. That is, most of our path from uncertainty to certainty is the process of moving us into a position where we can see the answers we need … where we can open to what is next for us. Perhaps as much as 80% of our learning process is actually about the “expansion” necessary for us to see clearly. And this expansion process is a mysterious one: a process that, if it is to be successful, we simply cannot be “in on.”
One of the reasons we cannot see and direct this expansion "phase" is that often we do not expand – beyond our fears, beyond our comfort, beyond our current knowing – unless or until we are compelled to do so. Often we don’t even realize that our current view – or our current view of ourselves – is too narrow to see ahead. We (and our fears) are in our own way.
So these periods of uncertainty are in effect the “empty space” into which we will eventually expand. We are, in effect, separated from our certainty so that we ourselves must grow out to bridge the gap.
Not seeing, we may become fearful. Be expansive instead.
Because we cannot see ahead during this transitional phase, our initial reaction may be fear. The mind (at least, our more primitive mind) associates “safety” with control and familiarity. So when we come to this mysterious “in between” phase, we may be tempted to “contract” or even revert to old familiar patterns. Returning to our academic metaphor, this is like saying: “Well, I don’t understand trigonometry, so I’ll just stick with geometry.”
Unfortunately, because this phase is trying to move us forward, contracting and pulling back will only prolong this transition and make it more uncomfortable for us. Indeed, this phase can become quite prolonged when we are outgrowing fears and “limiting” patterns that run very deep in us. When we are outgrowing these old stubborn patterns, our lives can resemble a “tug of war” where we move back and forth … until we create enough momentum to finally “shake” us free of our fears. (This, by the way, is why we often feel most confused and in greatest turmoil just before we find our clarity.)
Opening to what’s ahead
Having said all this then, the more flexible and open we can be during these phases, the shorter and easier they will be for us. Again, our first instinct when we lose or move from something familiar, is to panic. Our fears will naturally be aroused. We must expect this, and instead try to remain patient with ourselves and open to what is ahead. [For more on this, practice the Meditations2Go "Releasing Fear" audio meditation.]
It will help to recognize that this phase is not an invalidation of ourselves or our lives. Far from it. It is in fact a very powerful, transformational point on our path. And, yes, a mysterious one. If we can’t absolutely trust or surrender to this mysterious process, we must at least try not to fight it or judge it.
Again, because it is we who are transforming, we cannot really hope to have “control” and clarity during this phase. We are moving beyond ourselves, beyond our fears. And because the goal is our expansion, our best strategy is to be light and patient and expansive as we look ahead.
The difference between doubt and uncertainty is that doubt is a product of fear. As you learn to practice patience and openness during your phases of uncertainty and transition, the phase itself will grow familiar to you and less threatening. And, after a number of these cycles, as you observe how your path “moves” you mysteriously from uncertainty to certainty – from who you were to who you are – you’ll begin to marvel at the beautiful wisdom that guides, understands, and supports you in this life.
For a full list of audio meditations to complement this article, click audio meditations home.
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