you're not in control

Today we ask that you look at the ways in which you try to assert control over reality.

It could be said that most human activity boils down to “trying to assert control over reality.”

You try to assert control over your environment, other people, your own body, and reality itself.

The results are, at best, a mixed bag.  Humans experience terrible misery and frustration when they feel they are not in control — and they feel that way most of the time.  It is also a cause of much human violence, directed inwardly at the self, and outwardly at other people and the environment.  

Like children, many so-called adults resort to screaming, bullying, and hitting when they do not get their way.  This is how wars begin.  Always from the feeling of a loss of control.

In order to evolve beyond this undeveloped state of screaming, hitting, and throwing tantrums in order to assert control, humans must learn a subtler way of interacting with reality.

Of course it is natural for humans to interact with their environment and others — creating, building and inventing structures and relationships.  This can be defined not as controlling reality, but rather as being as play in reality.

A child at play is creatively expressing himself, and usually having a very good time.  A child asserting control by throwing a tantrum is experiencing a great deal of suffering, often over nothing important. 

It is natural for children to throw tantrums.  But so-called adults throw tantrums all the time.  They may not do it externally.  Most adult tantrums happen internally, as the mind destructively turns against itself.  There is a lot of screaming, bullying, and hitting that goes in people’s heads.

People believe that all this screaming and bullying actually has the effect of giving them the control they seek.  But it’s always a temporary fix at best.  As soon as the illusion of control is lost — and it always is — it’s time for another tantrum.  This is an exhausting way to live, and a cause of suffering and disease.

The great leap for humans is learning to feel at ease with the sense of “not being in control.”  It is learning to relax in the face of this feeling, and not tense up.  

This requires the cultivation of a deep trust and faith in the intrinsic underlying goodness of reality.  It is cultivating the belief that reality is for you, not against you.  

And if you playfully create in partnership with reality, instead of trying to beat it into submission, not only will you enjoy life more, but your whole life experience may drastically change.

The first step is just examining the urge to assert control as it arises.  Look at the ways you physically tense up and throw tantrums when you experience the loss of control — even if the tantrum is suppressed inside your own mind.  

This is where you have the opportunity to learn how to intelligently change your habituated “tantrum” pattern.  At the very moment you start to “scream, bully, or hit” when you feel a loss of control — again, even if this is purely internal — you may learn to introduce a “good parent” into your consciousness.  This “good parent” allows a healthy release of emotion, followed by relaxation and letting go — instead of tensing, gripping, forcing, and becoming violent in one’s thoughts or actions.  

Really, in this reality, you are like a child, playing with blocks.  Your “block buildings” are your creations.  

Sometimes a wind comes along and blows down your blocks.  Sometimes a bully comes along and knocks down your blocks.  It’s not personal.  It happens to everyone.

It is okay to feel emotional when your blocks are knocked down.  You have permission to feel a sense of grief or loss or anger when your blocks are knocked down.

The key is what happens next.  Do the emotions ramp up into a big tantrum?  Do you lash out at yourself, others, or reality?  Do you attack and blame, grip and force?  

Or can you be a good parent to yourself, encouraging the healthy release of the emotional energy.  Can you learn to relax, let go — and not exhaust yourself or hurt anyone else with a tantrum.

Ideally, you release the emotion, and return to the block-building, without screaming or hitting yourself or other people because you have discovered you are not in control of reality.  Okay, your blocks have toppled.  It’s time to create something else, something new.  

Learning meditative practices that help one to calm the mind at will is immeasurably useful in this regard.

You are here to play, to create.  And no, you are not in control.  You are a part of something much bigger than your little personality.  That is why your efforts to control reality and get it to do exactly what you want are always doomed to fail, in the long run.

When you understand this, and learn to relax in those “out of control” moments — then life really begins to get juicy, and fun.