The One Question You Can Ask Yourself To Help You Navigate Times of Uncertainty
In Healing With The Muse this week, we had a surprise special guest- Maja Apolonia Rode, who read us her An Invitation To Play poem, taught us how to “grow” a mandala so everyone could make one themselves, and then we rolled the “Divine Dice” to get the prompt for our spontaneous and intuitive “Creative Presencing” group process. The dice also gave us our creative prompt, which we then shared in breakout sessions. All in all, a very fulfilling, resourcing, creative day with the muse!
While I always revel in all the ways Maja’s Divine feminine creative muse delights, the take home point that really landed with me was the primary instruction in her How To Grow A Mandala drawing process.
Instead of planning what the mandala would look like beforehand and then reverse engineering how to get there, the way many more masculine principle operating systems work, we started with only a dot in the center of the page. Then we drew a circle around the dot. Then we drew 4 lines coming out of the circle to the north, south, east, and west. Then we drew 4 more lines between the other 4. (We laughed at how much our mandalas looked like a coronavirus at this point!). Then we ask “What’s next?” from this mandala seed. You might add C’s or V’s or squiggly lines or spirals or curlicues. Then you ask again “What’s next?” You tune in and get the next cue, then after you’ve executed it, you ask again “What’s next?” And you do this as a meditative art practice and act of trust until you feel complete. The mandalas drawn today by those in our community were astoundingly beautiful.
The Million Dollar Question: What’s Next?
It occurred to me as we were making our mandalas- This is how I operate my life.
What’s next is the guiding principle of how I navigate uncertainty, whether we’re talking about a book writing project, an activist idea, or a challenging relationship.
If what’s next is clear, this isn’t hard. But often, my conscious mind doesn’t know what’s next, so every impulse begins with humbly acknowledging that I don’t know, leaning into uncertainty, surrendering to the mystery, asking, “What’s next?” and then quieting myself, tuning in, and seeing if I can open to receiving the answer to “What’s next?”
Becoming a doctor was just the opposite. From the time I was 15, the course before me was set, the next 15 years of my life carefully scripted with preplanned obstacles I’d have to overcome and check off. The map of sequential “What’s next” steps was all predetermined. If you skipped any step, you would not arrive at the destination. By the time I was 30, the goal I hoped to achieve when I was 15 was cemented. Discipline and self sacrifice got me there. I had arrived.
Only I hated where I wound up. When I left my job as a physician in 2007, I entered a whole new phase of my journey, one that had no scripted course or guarantee of success, one I couldn’t have mapped out and might not have even chosen had I known where it would lead. Becoming a professional author has no guarantee. Talent isn’t enough. Neither is luck. Discipline alone won’t get you there. The competition is intense and some of the best writers never make a living at it. Many more never even get published. With no way to game the system, I had to trust something mysterious and keep asking, “What’s next?”
I’m now uncomfortably aware that I may have benefited from certain unearned privileges as the result of my race, the way I looked, my age, my education, my socioeconomic status, my heterosexuality, and other privileges that might unfairly make me more attractive to publishers and readers. So I’m not suggesting that asking “What’s next?” will always lead to success. But it has helped me navigate uncharted territory, whether we’re drawing a mandala or leading a social justice movement.
Maja and I have been talking for ages about “we spaces” and how to co-create collectively as a group, which is the foundational principle the Creative Presencing process she modeled with us in Healing With The Muse is based upon. In uncertain times when rapid change is needed if we’re even going to survive as a species on Planet Earth, technologies for harvesting the wisdom in the room, the talent of everyone involved, and the creativity of all kinds of personalities is greatly needed. We need our leaders to step back and we need those who usually follow to step forward so leadership is more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and most of all- effective.
I just finished re-reading Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, the book I began reading after being mesmerized by nightly appearances of a flock of starlings every night for two weeks during the height of the pandemic over the winter holidays. (Read about what the starlings awakened in me here.) Ever since, I’ve been pondering how to synchronize systems and give every starling a chance to be an equal part of the murmurations our culture is wrestling with right now.
What’s Next For Heal At Last?
Emergent strategy is the only way I know how to bring my grand Mission Impossible vision for my new non-profit work Heal At Last into being. Other than asking “What’s next?” my pea brain can’t imagine how to get from here to there. “What’s next?” is my guiding principle, as if I’m asking the Divine to show me the way and then deeply listening from a place of trust to discover the answer.
So far, if I hold the vision in my heart, let go of attaching to the outcome of it, tune into my inner and outer guidance, and ask “What’s next?” the next step becomes clear. But I don’t get much beyond that. Like right now, what’s next is to gather a circle of humble healers who are cross-trained in many cutting edge trauma healing modalities (IFS, energy psychology, Somatic Experiencing, NeuroAffective Relational Model) and perhaps also some energy medicine methods (Eden Energy Medicine, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Bengston Method) to see if we can organically ask “What’s next?” in a “we space” and find some consensus about what our version of the 12-Step Model might be so we can democratize and scale healing for anyone who is game for the journey.
I find that following this path of mystery is challenging, because once you know the next step, you have to be brave enough to actually take the next step, even though you may not have any idea where it’s leading you. I often comfort myself with the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote- “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Somehow, if I find the courage to take the next step, the step after it appears. In this way, a mandala forms as an act of trust in the mystery and devotion to being a vessel for Divine will in the world. In this way, the answer to “What’s next?” can use me to serve an impossible vision.
What’s Next For You?
There is a lot up in the air for so many people right now. Where will you live after the chaos of the pandemic? How will your work/life balance change? What did you lose during the pandemic that you don’t want to get back?
May “What’s next?” guide you.
Maybe the answer to “What’s next?” is to join us at Healing With The Muse, where we dive into mysteries like this!
Our next session will revolve around Stephen Porges work around “Polyvagal Theory,” which our community is now lovingly calling “poly bagel theory.” We’ll be working with practical applications you can try at home to become more attuned to the state of your nervous system so you can develop your “interoception” and take active measures to help your body return to the self-healing “ventral vagal” aspect of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Join Healing With The Muse now and you can watch the recording of Maja and I talk about “What’s next?” as well as the follow up video we recorded for our members about emergent strategy and harvesting collective wisdom and creativity in “we spaces.”
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