Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Overwhelm Is Always Just a Story

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, as I often do, and, before my viscerally-held self-concept could come in and claim what was happening, what was happening was just happening. There was no past or future. There was just the simplicity and completeness of this, exactly as it is right now, exactly the same as it is for you.

Cindy had just arrived home from an event and she had accidentally woken me up. I don’t remember all the details of what was said, but there was definitely the use of the word “cornucopia.” I just asked her what it was: apparently I was telling her about the cornucopia of boogers that flow forth from my nasal cavities. Perhaps I was just half-asleep, suffering from what we call hypnopompia, the state of consciousness that transitions out of sleep.

The thing is, without any context, what is happening is just what is happening. It’s never overwhelming in itself. It’s always beyond manageable; it’s always whole, and complete, and deeply satisfying. In that infinitely creative crucible of wholeness, it’s possible to concoct stories about how life is too scary or complicated or overwhelming.

The mind seems to create these stories about the past and the future, about how it’s going to be too much, or about how something is going to go wrong, or about how we will be punished or shamed or embarrassed in the future, perhaps reflecting stories we have about the past. When that’s not happening, we’re often creating stories about how the future will instead be better or more satisfying.

But when what is happening is recognized for what it actually is, including the thoughts, the sensations, the emotions, and all the other senses, it’s always found to be whole and complete and satisfying in itself.

Recently, I’ve been noticing how completely unpredictable what is happening truly is. I have no way of knowing what might happen next. I used to think I knew. I had a false sense of knowing. I thought I could control or predict the completely random events that arise in what is happening. When new projects or new commitments seem to suddenly appear, the old habits of this brain tend to be to worry about not being able to fulfill those commitments, those things I seem to be saying “yes” to, those things I often seem to be unable to say “no” to.

In reality, I don’t really have a choice about what shows up or about how it’s handled. I can’t control anything in the future (or the past) including how I will respond to what’s happening at that time. Even now, I have no control. So all I can do, all I need to do, is enjoy the absolute continual perfection of the ride.

Last night it also became clearer that nobody can truly know what it is that’s happening. It’s wonderful and complete, but completely mysterious. I used to think I could understand it, but that was a trick I was playing on myself. The illusion of understanding was occluding the profound mystery of what is actually here.

So overwhelm is always just a story about the future, a story about how I will somehow not be able to manage in the future. But I can’t manage even now. I can’t even deal with what’s happening right now. It’s so arrogant to believe that this will somehow change.

What is happening now is beyond completely manageable: it’s completely effortless. Even sensations or emotions that might be labelled as being related to “overwhelm” are also arising and passing away completely effortlessly. Everything is happening effortlessly without “my” involvement in it at all. It’s the same for you too.