One of the many illusions afoot in American culture is that we are the masters of our destiny, that we can control what happens to us in both our private and public lives. And so we go about our business until suddenly we are bowled over by events or circumstances that reveal that nothing is ever controllable or secure. This insight about our fragility and vulnerability came home to most Americans on 9/11.
Susan Jeffers, author of the bestseller Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, believes that embracing uncertainty is a wisdom path that makes perfect sense in these insecure times. In this very practical volume, she shares 42 simple exercises specially designed for the "control freak" in us all. Living with impermanence and constant change, facing countless fears and foibles, takes a resilient spirit and plenty of perseverance.
One exercise is called "The Scissors in the Mind," which is ideally suited for those of us who always want things to go our way. The Buddhists point out that our moments of anger, disappointment, and greed are caused by our attachment to something. Jeffers suggests keeping a pair of scissors as a permanent feature on our desks to remind us to cut the chords that get us in trouble.
Another appealing exercise is "I Can Learn From This." It is about being open to the treasures that can hide in problems or setbacks. We can repeat the mantra "I can learn from this" when we lose a ring or go through a deeply humiliating meeting. In a chapter on "Collecting Heroes," Jeffers draws out some fine points from the lives of Viktor Frankl, the concentration camp survivor, and Ram Dass, the New Age guru who was hobbled by a stroke. We also liked the following vignette which the author includes in a "Jump Right In" exercise: "I was once told that certain spiritual masters in Tibet used to set their teacups upside down before they went to bed each night as a reminder that all life was impermanent. And then, when they awoke each morning, they turned their teacups right side up again with the happy thought, 'I'm still here!' This simple gesture was a wonderful reminder to celebrate every moment of the day."