Life without a Plan

Here's an easy trap to get caught in: the sham security offered by always having a plan.  Plans for your career, plans for how your house is going to look one day, or where you are going to live, plans for what you are going to be like when you've lost weight/got fit/run that marathon, plans for your relationship or for your children.

What do you think is the real reason for all the plans that you have for yourself and for your life?  What do you think you are protecting yourself from?  What do you think you are missing out on?

It is true that we need to make some plans - if I don't go to the supermarket, then I won't have anything to cook for dinner later.  But I wonder if sometimes we don't make plans to protect ourselves from the fear of not-knowing.  In truth, not-knowing is an ever-present state.  We don't know where we will be tomorrow - we think we might be at work, sitting at our desks with a coffee and this might well be the case; but we could fall ill, or need to be somewhere else with someone who needs us, or any number of other things that might come to us out of nowhere.  When they do, we will have to respond to them in the moment - the only way we ever truly get to respond to anything.

I wonder also about how making plans for the future gives us a way of avoiding the truth of situations in which we find ourselves now.  If we are unhappy, or stressed, or living in ways that aren't making and keeping us well, then in many ways it is easier not to think of that (and what changes we might have to make to create a new way of living), but rather to project our imaginations into a rosy future, where the promotion, increased salary, new relationship, world trip makes everything ok.  Of course, what we need to do is to look at our lives how they are today. If something is wrong, we need to put it right, not by making sunny plans for the future, but by honestly assessing where we are here, now, this moment.

There might also be things that we miss out on because we have been so invested in a plan; in an idea of who we are, where we are going and how our lives are going to be, that we inadvertently close ourselves off to the many opportunities that present themselves to us out of nowhere.

Being without a plan can feel vertiginous, scary.  We might feel that we are floundering in nothingness, without direction; we might panic because we have nothing to hold on to; we might lose ourselves, because we had so much invested in a plan that we had let it define us.  This is when you practise presence.  Go and meditate; go and practice asana; go for a walk.  Give yourself some peace and time not to be flummoxed by the directionless state you find yourself in.  Wonder to yourself if it might actually be an opportunity, a necessary hiatus.  Be brave, have patience, wait and see.

There is a spiritual element to not-knowingness, summed up by the term ishvara-pranidhana - surrender.  When you look back on your life, you see that some of your best-laid plans came to naught, but that everything worked itself out somehow; that you have learnt even from the periods of sorrow, pain and grief.  In this way we are able to make sense of our past, and yet we don't trust that future has the same rightness to it.  If only we could trust that much; have that much faith; surrender to the idea that there is a wisdom inherent in our life-path, and one day we will be able to see it.

Try to trust in the rightness of where you find yourself in the world, however discombobulating it might feel to not have a plan for what's next.  Stop fighting so much; try letting go a little bit; try having faith in the path you're walking on, even as you realise that you will never truly know what exactly is coming round the next bend.

Comments

  1. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. V.

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