i just wanna feel better

Finding control by losing it

Posted 8/31/22

It’s been a hot, quick summer. I remember being shocked when we whizzed by Memorial Day, and I’m a bit flabbergasted that we now face the beginning of September. In a blink of an eye, it …

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i just wanna feel better

Finding control by losing it


It’s been a hot, quick summer. I remember being shocked when we whizzed by Memorial Day, and I’m a bit flabbergasted that we now face the beginning of September. In a blink of an eye, it will be the onset of winter.

The pace of life is speeding up. Peter Russell, in his book “Waking Up in Time” describes our era this way: “Technological breakthroughs spread through society in years rather than centuries. Calculations that would have taken decades are now made in minutes. Communication that once required months occurs in seconds. Development in every area is happening faster and faster... We are faced with more information to absorb, more challenges to meet, more skills to learn, and more tasks to accomplish. Yet the time to fit it all in seems to be getting less and less.”

Indeed, when you factor in the speed of news, not to mention the quicker-than-expected melting of the ice caps in the midst of great ideological divides and the inability to communicate, everything seems well beyond my own sense of control.

Which leaves me no choice—if I truly wanna feel better—but to figure out how to let it all go.

I’m not talking about sticking our heads in the sand; I am talking about letting go of expectations of how things ought to be.

I am reminded of a wisdom story in which a student goes to the Zen master and asks to be taught. The master pours tea and even as the cup fills, he continues to pour. The student, as the tea is spilling onto their lap, beseeches the master to stop. The master, smiling, uses the moment to let the student know that they are full of themselves, and that they cannot be taught Zen until they empty their own cup.

Whether our cups are full of our own opinions, speculations, self-importance or fears, unrecognized assumptions and expectations, we would do well to empty our own cups.

We would do well to let go of our fears, learn that the essence of the universe is in the natural world of which we are a part, and to unlearn that the power of the universe rests in the illusions and delusions of humans.

For me, this summer, that unlearning is flourishing in the garden.

Never have Stephen and I had such a beautiful and productive garden. Never has there been so much food produced in that large sanctuary space.

We have tended and enhanced the soils. We have delineated raised beds that help us keep the weed pressure down and we have systematically watered. We are picking pink tomatoes ahead of the chipmunks who are munching down the red ones. And still, there is abundance. Abundance in a world teetering with scarcity. Harmony in the midst of disharmony.

In the garden, I attempt to empty myself of my anxiety about the state of the world, journalism, community, the planet and life itself. In it, I remind myself that I am not just a body that is being acted upon, and I try to center on the spirit. Usually my anxiety wins, and I am unable to truly empty myself to simply be present in the moment.

The garden also provides me with an outlet of refuge with action. With so much produce this year, I am challenged to figure out how to utilize it. I spend time picking and packing bags of veggies to give away. In my kitchen, I spend hours preparing and preserving food. I take pleasure in it, and in that space of letting go of the fears of the world, and connecting with people around produce, I find hope. I find connection.

In fact, I am practicing elevating the things in my life that are working and using them to bolster my spirit to live beyond my fears.

In letting go of control, I am more resilient in the face of the unknown. I feel better.

“We try to control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t. In other words, control is rooted in fear,” writes Dr. Amy Johnson in her blog Tiny Buddha. Control, she says, is a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us. However, in letting ourselves trust that we’re okay, we open ourselves to all sorts of possibilities that aren’t there when we’re attached to one “right” path.

And finally, she writes, the energy of surrender accomplishes much more than the energy of control.

I see her points.

In control mode, I am anxious and, when I notice, I remind myself to breathe. My mind jumps from thought to thought. I am situated in the past or the future, and see mostly doom in the present. I am not a happy camper.

But when I surrender, I am rooted to the present. I think more clearly. My vision extends out, allowing me to see the larger  picture. The present moment. The only moment, actually, where I have a shred of control by my decision making.

It’s not surprising, really, that in letting go there is great irony. In letting go of control, we find that we have a bit more of it.

For me, this letting go is allowing the garden, the produce, the fruit of the kitchen to take precedence over the uncertainty of the state of the world, the funding of local journalism or the changing climate.

And this, being in the moment, offers me more of a perspective and the possibilities to be a positive agent of change, who actually has a bit of energy for it.

Who knew?

“I Just Wanna Feel Better” is a monthly health-reflection column by Rev. Laurie Stuart. The goal of the column is to connect readers who want to explore and create community and change around their own well-being. Visit riverreporter.com/publishers-log for more.

September, time, speed, letting go, garden, surrender


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