This past Sunday, I was on my way to a lacrosse tournament with my son north of Baltimore. It was still dark outside, about 46 degrees and raining. We would be there all day and I wasn’t in the best mood. Then, I listened to a podcast. It was On Point with Krista Tippett. On Sunday, Krista was interviewing Sharon Salzburg who is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and author of Real Change: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World.
One part really made an impression on me. Sharon was speaking about how we can sometimes get stuck in our thinking. In the Buddhist tradition, this getting stuck is referred to as the five hindrances. The hindrances tend to give us tunnel vision, cut off our options and imprison us in some way. The five are attachment, aversion, sleepiness, restlessness, and doubt. As we get close to month 9 of the pandemic, I find myself sometimes getting stuck.
On Tuesday, I was in a virtual conference and one of the sessions was called Don’t Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste led by Arthur Brooks and Simon Sinek. Brooks is a Harvard professor and Sinek is a motivational speaker. Similar to the podcast on Sunday, the discussion was about how our emotions can muddle our thinking and I thought of the five hindrances. One point they made is that there is a difference between uncertainty and risk. Risk is when you know outcomes and can assess probabilities whereas uncertainty is when you don’t know outcomes. As humans, we love to try to turn uncertainty into risk with the idea we can assess outcomes. However, we are constantly surrounded by uncertainty and our awareness of this uncertainty can create anxiety and perhaps poor decision making. We would be better served and more content to accept uncertainty and let go of those hindrances.
Change is constant; just look back and see how much things have changed in the world and for us personally over the years. Staying in the present is more productive. At the same time, have compassion for those around us who also are struggling and hindered but also have compassion for yourself and don’t judge yourself or others too harshly. We’re all in this together and no one has the answers.
This week’s selection is:
On Being with Krista Tippett
What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? And who will we be to each other? Each week a new discovery about the immensity of our lives.