Relinquishing The Need For Control, The Comfort Zone and COVID-19

Meadfoot Beach, Torquay

For those that know me well, will know I’ve recently read up a bit by Eckhart Tolle. I haven’t delved too deeply into his teachings yet, and I am mindful that perhaps not everything he says should be taken too literally, but as with all teachings out there, they’re entirely subjective and through my own experiences of life, interpretations and using my intuition as guidance I’m able to withdraw a lot of wisdom, without being particularly attached to any specific teacher. I advise you to do the same with what I write.

I’ve just completed a book called “The Power Of Now” (by Eckhart Tolle – it has been life-changing for me) and one particular statement caught my attention. It was actually quoted from a book by Carl Jung,

“Carl Jung tells in one of his books of a conversation he had with a Native American chief who pointed out to him that in his perception most white people have tense faces, staring eyes, and a cruel demeanor. He said: “They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We don’t know what they want. We think they are mad.”

This is particularly true for most of us in the Western world. How many times have you said to yourself “It will be ok when…” or “I can’t wait until…” and how many times do you think you’ve sacrificed the present in order to seek that destination of happiness; that satisfaction of having control?

“I have no money but I love my new car.”
“I can’t afford to eat nice food because I’m saving for a house.”
“I’m fed up with being stuck at home but I have a great holiday to look forward to.”

It’s no secret that it does feel great to make that purchase – it’s the satisfaction of all the hard work you’ve put in to earn that money, the sacrifices you’ve made and there it is – you finally have it. You drive around in your fancy new car for a while and then what? You’re satisfied because your old car broke down a lot and you have something new and more reliable, yet when the new gearbox goes, you realise it costs more than the past 2 years of repairs combined? You no longer feel fulfilled, that emptiness is back. You crave that feeling once again, so you aim higher, you aim for something bigger, something better. The cycle starts again.

When some athletes are asked how they feel after winning the race they’ve been training for their whole life, the feeling is usually a rush of excitement, followed by a decline into sadness. They have nothing to train for anymore. Their whole life revolved around reaching that goal, and now it has been achieved, it no longer exists. They set themselves higher and higher goals, making it more difficult until eventually they set themselves a seemingly impossible challenge – and then what? Disappointment, frustration and anger ensues as they keep failing.

Singers sometimes lose their voice, actors and models age, athletes break bones and suffer from injuries. Their whole identity is shattered and suddenly it feels as though all is lost.

Right now we are going through a period where the COVID-19 virus has catapulted the whole world into isolation. Dream holidays cancelled, festivals postponed, huge events disappearing, jobs being lost and people feeling their sense of freedom instantly swept away as we are forced to stay indoors.

I think it’s poetic in a way. People worldwide are now experiencing what its like to have their certainty stripped from them. Plans they thought were within their control, that couldn’t possibly be disrupted. Some are frustrated, but many have accepted their position. When your life is threatened and people around are dying because of a disease, suddenly it shifts everything into perspective. We can’t return to our reality after this, because it is our reality that was broken. We can now see it for what it really was. We’ve been thrown off our usual, broken program of repeating the same mundane tasks day-in, day-out in the hope that one day we’ll be able to splash out on a nice holiday, new car or fancy kitchen.

At the beginning of the year I made a new year’s resolution to become more comfortable with solitude. I had a huge road trip planned in a camper van I had invested 2 years of money and time into, only for it to be completed just 3 days before we had to head home and into isolation. My initial reaction was one of frustration, but I had to remember why I built it. So I could head into the hills, away from people and look within my own mind. Here’s what I realised though…you don’t need to be away and in the hills to look within. It’s available anywhere, and through meditation you can master the skill of feeling entirely comfortable with just what is and what will be. My camper van will still be there and waiting when this is all over, I’ll just be really good at the solitude side. Perhaps this is exactly what I needed. The timeline is irrelevant. Time was only invented by the clock companies to sell more clocks, right?

Once you allow life to just flow, amazing things happen and you hit a state of pure bliss. When things go wrong you just smile, nod and understand the lack of control you really have over reality. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we have no control whatsoever. We can of course influence the direction of life, providing we don’t get hung up over a particular plan.

So next time you’re setting goals 3 years down the line – a huge house, a nice holiday or fancy new car, remember that anything can change the timeline and in any moment. It can come very suddenly. Rather than get frustrated, adjust the sails and go with the new direction of wind. As long as you continue to work hard and support those around you, you’ll get there – just not perhaps in 3 years. Maybe, just maybe – even be open to those goals changing. Don’t ask yourself why you set those goals, but rather the feelings you hope to achieve within yourself by reaching those goals. Are there other ways to get to those feelings? Can you do something right now to get there? I know I can, mostly through the practice of gratitude and through other tools I’ve been able to implement into life (see my article, Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Life Sooner).

At the end of the day, is it just fulfilment we are working towards? If you’re working towards a fancy car for example, you are doing this so you can satisfy the ego’s need to look great, as society dictates the perceived template of success based on what we see the media. Does this car really make you look great in front of others? What if you were to spend that time earning the money engaging with those people that matter instead, taking the time to listen to them and contribute to their own journeys through caring and kindness?

If the time comes and you lose your job, break a leg or get thrown into isolation during a world pandemic, you don’t need to worry – you have all the fulfilment you want right here, right now. Comfort does not provide fulfilment, it just satisfies the need for control over things.

When we relinquish the need for control, we can accept what is and live a much more fulfilled life.

As the famous saying goes, “the grass is not always greener on the other side, the grass is always greener where you water it.”

Enjoy the journey.

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