Mindfulness Through Uncertainty
We were on a rock climbing trip in Colorado, this time with baby in tow. Five days into the ten day trip, I was so exhausted from consecutive nights of very disrupted sleep that I decided to cut our trip short. Bleary-eyed and unfocused, we headed back home hoping for restorative days in familiar territory.
Unable to initially stay in the present, my thoughts turned to our upcoming European "ideal vacation": How are we going to deal with this for a month in a foreign country with a night-and-day time difference? Will we even be able to do any climbing while we're there? And my mind settled on destructive labels: Our baby is a poor sleeper. I'm not doing a good job as a mom.
Then I heard this podcast interviewing Harvard Psychology professor Ellen Langer. In it she said,
"You want to go about life with an air of confidence, but uncertainty."
It seemed so backward. Why uncertainty? In her view, uncertainty is the key to mindfulness. If you are uncertain, you are open to any outcome, which translates to being completely in the moment. I'm uncertain if my baby will sleep better in the next few weeks, but I'm going to try things to see if I can help her. I am currently testing out a night weaning protocol that I read about, and so far things are looking up. And I'm uncertain if I will climb as much as I'd like to on this upcoming trip. But so what? There are other things to do, and I will be open to exploring them. I'm confident that my baby can become a better sleeper with time, and I'm confident that I'm not a bad mom for having a baby who has sleep issues.
I've also been embracing uncertainty over expectations with my work. Upon receiving my nightly email with my assignment for the next day, I used to obsess over the cases, worrying about how they would go. If the patient or the case looked bad "on paper", I would assume the worst. And yet sometimes, the day would go surprisingly well!
Next time you're faced with something scary, try dropping the labels and leaning into the uncertainty like I've been trying to do. What are you uncertain about today?