Give Yourself Permission to Embrace Life’s Mysteries

“The hearts of little children are pure; therefore, The Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.”                                                                                                               –Black Elk

I am in the process of writing a talk, “Embracing the Great Mysterious—Change.”  The “Great Mysterious” is one of the terms that Native Americans have used to describe God

–The Great Spirit. In my talk I suggest that change is relentless, at times immune to all efforts to control its effect on our existence, collective and individual. 

This term reminds us that we will never prosper unless we come to terms with the mystery that inevitably visits our days–the mystery of change, and its most unpleasant aspect, uncertainty.  Because, after all, change wouldn’t be too bad to take if it were incremental, predictable by certain gradients, would it?  But it’s not.  So how, indeed, do we understand, then accept that every day uncertainty lives within each of us as well as around us everywhere—even in a walled garden, say.    

Rachel Naomi Remen is a gifted physician and healer. To paraphrase Dr. Remen, we have constructed a society not of mystery but of mastery. What she tells us is that we are control-oriented, but our attempts at controlling our neat, safe, orderly lives can take us only so far.  

She is aware that if we learn to embrace life’s unknown outcomes, partly by embracing curiosity, we will come to realize that what often lies on the other side of mystery is awe and wonder!  Not hazard and certain death. 

Surely you have witnessed the wonder that registers on a child’s face when he or she comes upon a new discovery or realization?  When was the last time you felt your face expressing such wondrous spontaneity?  In my book, Humanity at Work: Encouraging Spirit, Achievement and Truth to Flourish in the Workplace (Chapel Hill Press, 2008), I touch upon the reasons children and adults often have dissimilar reactions to new experiences, and how adults can reclaim the proper sense of wonder they had as children:

“For years I thought achieving this state was easier for children. After all, their minds are not habituated to the biases and resulting judgments we adults bring to every encounter. Seldom do they have the reflective reactions, the Pavlovian responses so often triggered by the unwanted stimuli in our lives, but I don’t think that’s it. I now believe that children give themselves permission not to think, not to allow the thinking mind to define the reality of every given moment.”  

 “… [C]hildren are natural learners; as we age, we don’t trust ourselves to learn from our experiences. But a child’s mind is clear and open to discovery because it has not accumulated limiting and distorting self-concepts. Gallwey and Kriegel [, in their book Inner Skiing {Random House, 1997},] write that, ‘Children perform with little brain-imposed interference—that’s why their movements look so natural.’”

The Great Mysterious force of uncertain change ahead in our lives and our mental habit of regarding change with dread may be one of those “limiting and distorting self-concepts.” It’s not a bad idea, therefore, to move knee-jerk fear and dread to the back of the library shelf-of-the-mind.  The book I want to take down instead—for the days ahead—is the book of

  • Expectation,
  • Curiosity,
  • Openness,
  • A sense of wonder, and
  • Love of discovery,

saying to myself “I can’t wait to see what happens!”  And the title of the book with all those chapters?  Why, it’s The Great Mysterious.

Eugene Peterson wrote that “Wonder is the only launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness of human life.” My friends, embrace The Great Mysterious and infuse your life with the awe and wonder life can provide on a daily basis. I myself can’t wait to see what happens—you can so easily be like that, too.

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About Santo Costa

Sandy Costa is an internationally respected speaker and business leader. Check out Sandy’s website at www.SantoCosta.com
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