Sometimes we just don’t know how to proceed. Our life presents a conundrum and we are caught in the middle of our own not-knowing. My tendency in such moments is to set my mind to work in trying to figure out a way to bring resolve. My mind is great at imagining possibilities and creating scenarios and dictating action plans. Sometimes I take off down the road of those action plans to try and create my own solution. Almost always this leads to disappointment since it turns out I am not in charge of the universe.
Imagine that, Life having the audacity to put roadblocks on my path which keep reminding me of my powerlessness. I am pretty smart in some ways. You would think I could solve dilemmas with fitting solutions. After all, my mind can create those endless scenarios of what might happen if I try this or that. But reality has a way of kicking my butt and showing me my potential solutions are pretty impotent.
Here’s an example: I was driving the seven hours home from spending some days with my son and grandson. I left my grandson crying, saying things like, “I’m gonna miss you Poppa.” This only tears my heart out every single time. So as I drove I felt the heartache of that parting for hours.
I have tried to figure out a way to resolve this dilemma of living so far apart. But since I apparently don’t run the universe I have not been successful in creating a solution. The result is that we treasure the time of each reunion and hurt with each separation. My failures to create a solution are disappointing at a visceral level. My body hurts. My heart is like my grandson’s, a little broken by each departure.
As I continued the drive and listened to some meditative music I began to cry out and sing sounds along with the artist. There were no words. I sang the sounds at the top of my vocal range and loud enough to almost hurt my own ears. I was pouring out my love toward my son and grandson in the singing. It was a kind of surrender into the expression of the Great Love toward them, through singing sounds, even as I kept driving farther away.
This singing-sounding of what was in my heart was not a problem-solve. It carried no goal-plan-strategy. It did not arise from my mind but from my heart. My heart was singing-sounding what I was feeling, and man it was loud. It was a pouring out. It was a gushing forth. And I think there is a lesson for me in what was spontaneously happening.
When I get to the end of my ability to problem-solve, when my efforts prove that I can’t control anything, including things that really matter to me, maybe it is time for surrender. Maybe these moments are calling me to just pour out what is within me – to release the pain – and to let the Great Love fill me through this emptying. What a paradoxical “solution.” Empty, surrender, fill.
In fact, that is exactly what happened on a Friday evening drive away from my beloveds. Instead of avoiding the heartache, I let my heart ache, and sang it through, and somehow the singing-sounding released my love towards my beloveds. My pain turned into love sent along the invisible web of divinity connecting us all.
Maybe I will stop writing about the moment when disappointment becomes surrender and practice again right now.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.