As I make my pilgrimmage home from The Wellness Institute in Seattle, Washington and another full weekend of learning, training, and personal expansion, I am once again reminded that I do not control the Universe. Do you forget that too sometimes? Riding in an airplane, especially through times of moderate to severe turbulence, is an amazing time to practice surrender. While flying from Seattle to my Denver midpoint, the flight was quite bumpy. Whether it was encountering wind, unstable air, or some other unseen natural force, the plane was tossed around quite a bit. I was not able to get my typical window seat (where I trick myself into thinking that if I can at least see outside while the plane is bobbing up and down, it is somehow less scarey), and instead had to settle into an aisle seat. From this vantage point, I was only able to see out the window if I stared in the direction of those on either side of me, trying not to freak anyone out by a stranger seemingly staring them down. So instead, I surrendered.
After all of my prayers for the pilots, for the plane, and for all the passengers on our flight including myself, my own questions and ponderings began. What actually am I surrendering? The first statement that popped into my head is “I must surrender control.” This is actually a laughable statement when I look deeper. Control? What exactly do I have control of here? Nothing. I cannot control an enormous machine, I cannot control the people flying the machine, and I surely cannot control the air or any weather elements. When we try to assert control in a situation such as this, it becomes so clear how truly illusory control is. So what am I surrendering here as the plane shakes, bumps, and rattles?
It became clear to me that I have to surrender my desire to control and I must surrender my fear. A desire to control something in your life (physically, emotionally, or spiritually) is typically fueled by a fear or anxiety of some sort. It is typically an attempt to feel safe (although it is not very effective in accomplishing that, however temporarily satisfying it may be). In a situation like the plane trip, I have a few choices. I can grip the arm rests and hope that the tighter I hold on the more that will somehow prevent the plane from dropping 10,000 feet, or worse, crash; I can keep praying and bargaining with all the creative forces of the Universe that it is not yet my time and please, please, please make it feel smooth again; OR I can release my ineffective grip, replace my prayerful bargains with silence and trust, and take some deep breaths. That is the moment of surrender. Surrender to a completely dependent situation that is nowhere near within my control and that I chose to participate in when I decided to get on a travelling device that requires me to rely on the training, expertise, and alertness of someone who is not me. All I could do in the moment of turbulence is breathe and try to relax my body. I also came to a place of acceptance and trust that whatever happens in this moment will be regardless of what I do.
How might this apply to your life in general, to your relationships, your work, parenting, or other life endeavor? If you truly accept that control is an illusion, you free yourself to experience life from a place of trust. As much as you would like to try and convince yourself, you cannot control your partner, your children, the weather, or if something unexpected is on the horizon in your life. It is helpful to be proactive and prepare to the best of your abillity, but you cannot control an outcome. It is rather freeing, once you let go of the fear. Letting go of the desire to control can be terrifying, especially if you don’t have something to replace it with. Remember that you really don’t have control over anything except your own reactions to people, situations, events, and feelings. And even there its not so much control as it is choice. Choice is a more empowered word. Control implies that you must overpower something or someone else. Choice is an individual matter, one in which you can open yourself up to several possibilities.
So what did I choose to do on the plane this afternoon? Well, I chose to do all of the above! But, in the end, what brought me the most relief, was to breathe and envision a well-trained pilot at the helm, who was well-rested and alert and had experience flying this route from Seattle to Denver, which is inherently unstable territory flying over the Rocky Mountain range. I also remembered a comment once made to me by a pilot that planes are specifically built to withstand these types of scenarios and pilots are trained more for what can go wrong in the air, than how to deal with smooth sailing. This information comforted me and helped to calm my racing mind. I also allowed myself to see the opportunity presenting itself through this experience that it would become an inspired lesson that I would share with you!
So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you are tightening the reigns on your partner, engaging in a power struggle with your child, or gripping the armrests of an airplane… take a deep breath in, let it out, and remind yourself that control is an illusion. The question or task then becomes, “what am I going to do in this situation?” Not what is the person, situation, disease, plane, or natural disaster going to do, but “what am I going to do?” This empowers you to explore your choices, even if they do not create immediate relief. This asking helps you to tune into a deeper knowing within you that contains wisdom and will aid you to the next logical step within that experience. Maybe you will choose to ask for help, do some research or gather information, tell the truth, take a breath, or invite another option to come into your awareness.
That turbulence today went off and on for 2 hours. My breathing and visualization did not stop the plane from being tossed around, but it allowed me to let go of the arm rests, have a clear plan of what I wanted to write in my blog for this week, and deepened my gratitude for all the blessings in my life. Develop for yourself some internal tools to access within situations that you attempt to control. On a deeper level, you may choose to examine how the desire to control became a way that you convinced yourself you were safe. May these new practices provide peace, empowerment, and comfort when life becomes turbulent.