At a recent staff meeting, I said it was time to “throw control out the window”. We paused to chuckle and ponder that possibility before returning to our meeting agenda.
What would it look like for us to throw control out the window? Is that wise?
Throwing control out the window is particularly challenging for those of us who are addicted to figuring out the “right answer” and for those of us whose egos ride on the ebb and flow of getting things done and doing them perfectly.
The problem with control is that it is an illusion. Of course, we all know this, but like any addiction, we keep groping for its illusive satiation.
So how do we tend to what’s in front of us without being controlled by control?
First, we have to realize that we’ve been seized by control. Are we holding tension in the body? (For me, it’s usually tightness is my chest.) Are we snippy, reactive or defensive? Another sign is that a beautiful moment is occurring, but we have no capacity to embrace it. These are my clues that control is in control. What are your warning signs?
Once we are aware that we have become controlling, what can we do about it?
Many years ago I dated someone who was a manager of the men’s clothing section of a department store. Every time there was a sale, customers wreaked havoc on the neatly folded apparel, rummaging through assorted colors and sizes to find the perfect bargain. The flummoxed salespeople griped about the hurricane of disorder that had befallen their department as they frenetically tried to restore order each morning. As their manager, he would say: “Get a grip people! This isn’t the hospital emergency room. We’re just selling shirts.”
Everyone once in a while when surrounded by my own maelstrom, I’ll remind myself to get a grip…or perhaps to loosen my grip on control and thus control’s grip on me. The truth is that most of what I am trying to control is temporary, ephemeral, and nowhere near “emergency room” importance. I remind myself that this is all “just stuff”.
I bring my attention back to who I am and how I am. I Am a manifestation of the Infinite Essence that precedes and endures beyond all that I’m trying to control. (Some refer to this as “made in the image of God.”) That Essence includes yet exceeds all that my controlling little ego is trying to prove itself to be: right, smart, competent, lovable, worthy, important, better than, and…well, likable.
When I relax into that spacious awareness, my ego needs are mysteriously met in a way I can neither explain nor control. I have a sense that all is well on the deepest level possible.
Recalling who I am shapes how I am. Living from inner spaciousness frees me to be how I want to be: gracious, open, patient, creative, surprising, flexible, happy, present, grounded, and adventurous.
What I’ve been trying to control shrinks to the size of its actual importance.
Elusive solutions often reveal themselves to be already present.
How I treat others and myself is less Scrooge-like and more Christ-like/Buddha-like.
The situation hasn’t changed, but how I am with myself and others midst the situation changes. And that changes everything.
My controlling efforts will likely have little import to anyone fifty years from now. But how I am today midst my efforts will send waves of loving energy beyond my tasks, myself, my imagination…far beyond anything I can control.