Certainty and Uncertainty

Written by Tobi Warzinek

Today I am here to reflect on a topic that’s particularly powerful when it comes to the fabrication of of fear, worry and anxiety. The assumption that there’s a controlling me that can somehow make the future certain gives rise to many sleepless nights. This belief is often coupled with the idea that this sense of self is inherently unworthy and doesn’t deserve happiness or love. While trying to find certainty it finds itself continuously reminded of uncertainty – and that’s painful to the little “me”.

Is there anything that’s certain?

First of all, let’s have a look at what we mean by “anything”. To make it simple, we can condense “anything” or “everything” into six categories: Sound, sight, smell, taste, touch and mental fabrications. Those are all the conditions we can experience. Whatever we experience, it’s either one of those six inputs. Now, what do we mean by “certain”?

Usually people would consider something to be certain, when we perceive it as stable or reliable in some way. And that can very well be the case, at least on a conversational or conventional level. We can say things like “only death and taxes are certain”, for example – and we are right! But here I am talking not in terms of conventions, opinions, views and thoughts. I am pointing to the living experience in this moment. Upon observing it closely, we will see that it arises and passes within the space of consciousness. This process of arising and passing is true for all the six inputs I mentioned above.

Everything that appears, lasts only for moments within the conscious space. Thoughts come and go, feelings, and other sense-perceptions come and go quite rapidly. We learn to observe this flowing nature of experience in Meditation practice. Whether you are remembering something or anticipate a future event, it happens as a fleeting and momentary experience in consciousness – right now. Since all things are in a state of continuous change, unstable and fleeting we could say that there’s no true certainty inside of this universe we experience.

What’s certain?

Well, “death and taxes” of course! 😀 I’m kidding – even death and taxes aren’t certain actually. Let me explain what leads me to utter such strange words. And remember: I’m simply an imperfect being playing with an interesting reflection here. It might inspire you to see things through the lens of a different perspective for the sake of growth and wisdom. Or it might even lead to the falling away of all lenses, revealing the way it is.

From the perspective of thought – and thus time – we can find all kinds of possibilities. Death is certain in the realm of body and thought! We can develop mental views and opinions and feel very certain about them. But if you learn to receive experience with awareness, things are very different. You will often gradually notice that there’s a falling away of trusting your thought-constructions and “mental movies” about life. You will see that all these things are simply conceptions and thought formations arising and passing within consciousness from moment to moment.

Thinking about the future, dwelling in the past, fabricating worlds, hoping, fearing, speculating, ruminating, wanting, disliking, sense perceptions and the host of infinite possible experiences are just arising and passing in this moment. They follow their impermanent and conditioned nature. With enough proficiency and stability in spiritual practice you will begin to see this for yourself – in a way that truly has an impact on the way you experience life. There’s a shift from “being lost within and identified with the body and mind” to “relaxing into the knowing quality”. Resting there we loose interest in “certainty and uncertainty” – and with it there’s a falling away of fear.

What needs certainty?

The same thing that’s afraid of uncertainty. It’s the same entity that seeks to be in control of itself, the future and other people. This entity is our conditioned fabricated sense of self. The same one that says “I”, “me” and “mine” a lot. It’s this illusionary transient “me” coupling with the emotion of pristine fear. A manifestation of this fear is the wish to be in control of external events. We want to make sure that we won’t experience discomfort in the future. We want to make sure – but sure doesn’t really exist.

Some people always come up with statistics or likelihood at this point. This is funny as it simply confirms that nothing is certain! Nothing is ever a 100% reliable and safe in this world. It doesn’t matter if something is 99% sure or 1% sure. These numbers are mental constructs created by a fearful mind that doesn’t trust itself, others or life. It uses these numbers to create an illusion of certainty and thus perpetuate the controlling little “me” that lives for the future and repeats its’ past. Since a fearful me is at the root of this need we can make steps to comprehend it and let go.

Letting go is the result of clear comprehension. You can’t force this or pretend to let go. Through calmness you have to look at your present experience and understand it deeply. When true insight grows you will see right through the various mental fabrications. You realize that nothing can ever be guaranteed, nothing else can ever fulfill you or make you happy. If you look for freedom, true happiness and release you will never find it outside of awareness. It’s not elsewhere, not in the future, the past or the concept of certainty. To be at peace, the one that’s not at peace must dissolve. It dissolves when awareness reveals it as unstable, unsatisfying and not-self.

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Tobi Warzinek

Phuket Meditation Center

Tobi Warzinek

Tobi Warzinek - Meditation Teacher

About The Author

Tobi Warzinek has been working as a spiritual guide and mentor since 2009. His journey started in early 2002 when he entered the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Rabten Choeling. He spent approximately 7 years in the community and studied the Tibetan language, mind-training and various meditation methods. Additionally he trained in traditional monastic debate and Buddhist philosophy. In 2011 he subsequently began practicing within the “Forest Tradition” in Thailand. Altogether he has dedicated his life to the exploration and refinement of introspection throughout the past 18 years.

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