As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it. ~Pema Chodron
As many of you know, we are in a process of rightsizing our lives and designing a tiny house on wheels in which to live. There are a preponderance of details to work out (not the least of which is where we will live in it once built since doing so right now is somewhat illegal – or at least a grey zone of sorts). No sooner did we make a decision last week (that felt certain and final to us in the moment) than we started to doubt ourselves: Should we really go with that roofline? Did we choose the right length? What if we did it this way instead? We quickly realized that the sense of certainty we momentarily felt was unwarranted. Certainty leads to uncertainty. Whereas, if we can manage to sit quietly and relax into the uncertainty then we inevitably move forward.
We both pondered many what-ifs while walking the Camino in May– sometimes on our own, at other times together. We came up with more questions than we did answers, and that was mostly just fine — then. A colleague said to me recently, “There’s a difference between fishing and catching fish.” And we were definitely on the fishing end of things! That said, we left Spain with a deep knowing that a tiny house was the direction in which we were choosing to head. All the what-ifs were still real, and yet we decided to trust that in moving forward whatever transformations (personal and societal) that needed to transpire would, and The Way forward that we couldn’t see right then would open.
Where we want to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually with this part of our tiny house journey is not dissimilar to how we were while walking the Camino. Each day we knew we were moving forward, that we’d be walking all day, that we would find food to eat and good company (maybe ourselves!) along the way. And that is about all we knew for sure. There were so many unknowns: How far would we walk? How long would it take us? What kind of terrain would we be walking through? Would we meet our Camino friends along the way? Would we befriend new folks and if so, where would they be from? What food would we find? Would there be room for us in whatever albergue we landed in for the night? Would we find our beloved glass of freshly squeezed orange juice somewhere along the way (Oh how we hoped each day we would!)? Would we recognize any new flora? Would we be able to calm our minds and stay in the present moment, or would be pulled into thoughts of past or future? And on and on and on we could go. Each day was a balance of certainty (the flow and routine of the day) and uncertainty (the specific details of how the day would come to be). Often too, when we thought we knew something for certain, things would change. We thought we knew what we wanted to eat for dinner (a large ensalada mixta and pimientos de padron) but we might not find them, so we would become content with eating something else instead (within the somewhat limited choices for vegetarians). We knew our first choice of accommodations for the night, but whether there would be space once we arrived (slow walkers that we were) was an unknown. If fully booked, we would have to move on to another albergue (which might have been several more kilometres down the road!). After a few days, we learned (as most did) to just go with the flow. Nothing could be set in stone. Nothing. We sometimes had a plan (because we felt somewhat better with one) knowing full well that we would likely be letting go of at least some of it along the way. (Come to think of it, this is how I approach teaching too!)
So to complete the analogy, we do know for certain (or as certain as one can be in this life) that we are moving forward with our idea of living in a tiny house. In doing so we’ll be lowering our carbon footprint, needing less money on a monthly basis (therefore requiring us to work less), placing relationships and spirit back into the center of our lives, and continuing to simplify in so many ways. Elaine Walker states it best in saying,
“Tiny houses have been described disparagingly as trailers for hipsters, but there is truth in that. Tiny houses are not just cheap, small, transportable dwellings. To me, tiny houses are about making conscious choices to live in harmony with others and the environment, to live sustainably, to nurture relationships, and to not get caught up in a rat race that leads to an unfulfilling life.”
Along the way we’ll have to make countless (predictable and unpredictable) decisions. And each time we will need to learn to let go of the sense of certainty that comes with the decision having been made because there is every possibility that circumstances will present themselves in such a way that we’ll have to change our minds, or at least rethink what we thought was clear. In resting in this sense of uncertainty, we are trusting that The Way (for us, a sacred way – Via Sacra) will open before us (though it might at times be very well camouflaged!)