Be prepared to be surprised

Category : General advice, Philosophy 2nd October 2020

Inside Yoga 309 (2/10/20)

We have heard the expression repeatedly over the past six months: uncertain times. Our reliable life is no longer reliable, because we want to know what is going on, and at present, we don’t know what will happen next. We want order, we want certainty and we want to go back to normal, if we can remember what that was!

And this is where Chaos Theory is so relevant and hopefully useful to you.

The Chaos Theory is summed up in a short expression: “Be prepared to be surprised”.

Simple really: if we accept that the life, the universe and everything else is not organised but chaos in action (and play) then would we cope better when things do not go the way we expected or planned for?

In many ways, I believe the answer is yes. We have a tendency to put too much faith (and yes “faith” is a useful word for this) in order and expectation. And when it goes the wrong way we struggle with the outcome and how to respond.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the metaphorical spanner in the works of our own certainty about what is normal life and what we expect to happen, daily, weekly, monthly and annually.

Politicians are human, I am told, and they also struggle with the contradictions that, at present, chaos is showing its true form, and they just want to be able to have control (or should that be take back control, but that slogan has been forgotten) and predict for us what is going to happen in the future. More fool them. They do not know what to do, no wonder it looks like they are making it up as they go, but they are trying to put chaos back in order. A tall order! Being politicians they seek short term fixes as this looks good as today’s headlines.

I am not excusing politicians, because that is their role: to lead and organise, even though it is clear that some of them are not up to the task, but what I want to focus on is how we can use our understanding, or perhaps I should say acceptance, of chaos theory as a way of learning to cope and live more easily with uncertainty and the unpredictability of our lives – especially this year!
Buddhism and yoga’s teachings ask us to look at our life from the perspective that we really do not know what will happen in the future, we cannot predict but we can be prepared, by focussing on how we live our lives right now in the present moment.

Some people think that the emphasis on the present moment negates the importance of planning for our future. The truth is that by being prepared for the present, means we are ready to respond to each and every moment appropriately, because the future every second becomes the present moment.

Hence the expression at the start: “be prepared”.

Meditation trains our minds to be prepared to see what arises, be it in our mind, or as an external event or situation, and to know how to respond to it appropriately. That way we are ready. So if stuff arises, good or bad, we are prepared and ready to respond.

If we take the view that life I filled with chaos, then perhaps we can be ready to deal with and cope with adversity. This is not meant to sound pessimistic, but realistic, because bad stuff does happen, when we least expect it!

If good stuff happens, well, we can then enjoy the pleasant surprise and joy of the wonderful moment, because it will not last forever or even very long. Again, not pessimistic, but realistic, because the present moment keeps changing, and by being prepared for change we are ready.

We make it harder for ourselves when we become rigid with our thoughts and expectations, wanting, wishing and expecting life to be a certain way.

Happiness can be found in life’s surprises, not its plans and rigidity.

This is why I like the chaos theory because for me it frees me to enjoy every day with more equanimity than I would otherwise. Expecting surprises helps, and being ready to respond is a more balanced way of living than expecting control and predictability.

Remember the scientists who have guided the politicians have consistently spoken about predictions in terms of probabilities, not certainty, but it is the politicians who live in the short term of positive expectation who have spoken of certainty and guarantees. More fool them. And us, who listen to their headline catchphrases rather than the details behind, because they don’t really know, and who does!

Be prepared to be surprised!

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