A lesson in letting go of being in control

I am writing from snowy Europe. I am hoping the weather will not delay my flights today and that I can return to warm and sunny Cape Town.

This reflection on the weather as my starting point for March’s newsletter is filled with irony. I want it to stop snowing in Europe so that my flight schedule is not disrupted. I want it to start raining in Cape Town so that we can get relief from the drought.

And is my wanting going to make any difference to the weather? Unlikely!

We are so deeply desirous of control, and that we have so little of it.

I’ve recently had two stark examples of this human conundrum: I’ve been in Europe working with 24 people from all the contours of the map: from South America to the Philippines and many countries in between. The topic was Facilitation.

This was a courageous group of learners, who spent much of their time with us stepping out of their comfort zones and into the challenge of being present in front of the room.

Prior to their final assignment, I was struck by the trajectory of their questions: many of them boiled down to this:

How can I control the outcome of what happens when I facilitate a group?

And how can I make sure that I get it right?

And we know, don’t we, that the answer to that is: you can’t.

Life is what happens to you whilst you are busy making plans! There is a delicious paradox embedded in this puzzle.

Because the answer is not to not make any plans. Nor is it to abandon preparation. In fact, we worked in some depth around preparation.

Preparation and plans, being organised and thinking ahead:
all of these activities create a sense of stability, a platform, a foundation – from which to move into the unpredictable nature of each moment of NOW!

I think of the moment when birds take flight and trust to the air currents. I think of the sailors for whom the earth was still flat, who nonetheless set sail for the edge of the world.

I think of the fathomless depth to which our courage must plumb in order to step into each moment of this wild and chaotic experience we call life.

I think of the Thinking Environment components of Encouragement and Ease – the human wings that can support us as we face the unknown arising of our futures coming to meet us in each moment.

I don’t have a single answer: but I do know that control has little to do with it.

My second experience, an ongoing one, is supporting someone I love who is gripped in the despair of depression. As I listen and listen I have to sit with the helpless knowing that in the end only she can find it in herself to make a different choice: the decision to be happier.

How to stay open and loving and compassionate in the face of someone’s seeming to have forgotten how to make that choice. Are they able? Are they willing?

And to have no control over the answer to that, when I want it as badly as I want rain to fall in Cape Town: well that’s a lesson in letting go of being in control.

And what ignites hope in me time and again, as I have often said in my newsletters, is my unswerving faith in the human spirit.

Watching the Facilitators in our seminar step up to being at the front of the room, embodying their own unique presence, was inspiring.

It showed me, again, as I have been shown so many times, that the courage to own who you are and inhabit yourself as fully as possible is a form of personal authority that supplants control, and allows each of us to take to our own inimitable flight path through life.

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