Life’s journey through uncertainty

Category : General advice, Philosophy 20th January 2020

Inside Yoga 291 (20/1/2020)

Many of us spend a lot of our time worrying, whether it is something we regret in the past or something we might face in the future, either way, anxiety is there, because we do not feel certain about things.

Pliny wrote a long time ago, “There is nothing certain but uncertainty.” Of course, there are some things we can be certain of but in philosophical terms this message can help us understand the anxiety and worry we might feel over things and thoughts we want to feel sure about but as much as we try to, we cannot… so as he says why not feel safe in the certainty of uncertainty?

This asks us to be attentive and aware of our every moment, ready to respond to every rising event or thought which we might face, because we cannot be certain of what lies ahead of us. I like the chaos theory, which states, “be prepared to be surprised.”

In many ways our worry has its root in not accepting or understanding our own human nature, or rather our animal nature. We are animals who have instincts which do still influence our behaviour and how we respond to the world we live in even if we do all we can to detach ourselves from the natural environment and convince ourselves that we have evolved into an advanced creature. I liked what Ruby Wax wrote in her book on mindfulness meditation, addressing our nature she explained that we are natural born pessimists but this is how we survive. Ready for danger, so therefore we lean towards the negative.

In other words, we should not feel bad that we feel anxiety or worry, its natural and part of what it is to be human. What we do with this feeling is important, so we do not remain stuck in this painful experience.

Picture an animal in the woods, carefully walking through the trees wary of any possible danger that might or might not be there, and faced with any sign of threat, it runs off as fast as it can. This is survival. And we humans have forgotten that we are still animals who also are on alert for dangers. It does make sense when crossing the road, but we forget that the same feelings of alertness to danger might still be present in other situations which we do not think dangerous, like worrying about our work, or anxiety over having enough money to pay for shopping, all these feelings are rooted in our survival instincts.

There is one difference between us and the animal that runs off in the woods. The animal will take flight and once far enough away, safe for now, it settles down to grazing or foraging, calmer and not thinking about what just happened. It has moved on to the next period of uncertainty, where it is right now, more reasons to stay alert but not panicked like it was just moments before. We humans, however, could well be standing at the edge of the woods still looking back worried about what just happened, reliving it again and again, stuck and unable to move on. Understandable, but also perhaps not needed or beneficial, there’s a reason why are encouraged to move on!

Perhaps Sophocles was correct when he wrote “The happiest life is to be without thought”! Just a thought for today’s blog!

Ruby Wax: A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, read my blog about the book at

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