A part of you is ready.
And a part of you is not.
This is the essential atmosphere of any person on the precipice of wanting to trust the universe. It’s like standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and nobody’s jumping but everyone’s curious what it feels like to dive from such height. So we’re all yelling, “Go! Just do it!” to one another, feet firmly planted on rock.
Being in the flow of your life and surrendering control means taking that leap. It’s shifting from doubt and certainty to considering the universe your ally even though you have no idea what will happen next.
It’s leaning into help, confidence, protection and support — the essential elements of trust.
But how do you establish trust in the universe when these qualities seem to be lacking in the external world, and perhaps even your own life?
Is it really just as simple as taking the leap?
My journey of trust
Growing up, I was a pessimist disguised in the phrase “realist.” I often chose to see all the reasons why something wouldn’t work out before it even got started.
Still, a tiny voice inside me that believed that I was where I needed to be. Even if that meant depression, anxiety or heart break. This is the seed of trust, just waiting to break open and grow.
I am not unique — this seed is within you, too.
It wasn’t until I began practicing yoga and meditation that I noticed the connections among the events of my life. Each event, person and job seemed to propel me toward the next. And more important, I started noticing how my thoughts were influencing my life.
The techniques I share here have been personally tested and lived through. All of them have helped me inquire into the real root of distrust and replace it with surrender. If you don’t know where to start on your quest for trust, start with any technique that calls to you.
Side note: When I refer to “universe,” I’m referring to the indescribable spiritual mystery that is beyond categorization. Call it Higher Consciousness, Divine, Cosmic Energy, God, Universal Life Force, Great Spirit.
Whatever word you use, my belief is that this force resides within and without us. Your belief is welcome here, and feel free to use it to replace “universe” if that works better for you.
- Develop your gut feeling.
- What does/did your religion teach you about trust?
- Loosen your viewpoint on “fairness.”
- Drain the well of sorrow inside you.
- Watch how and why you numb yourself to life.
- Recognize that you are not a victim of your thoughts.
Develop your gut feeling.
Trust has a home in the body and it’s clearly not the mind.
Instead, trust lives in the heart.
Long ago, the yogis believed in a spiritual epicenter of the body called the “lotus of the heart.” Within this sacred space is the “light of all lights” (Mundaka Upanishad) and fixing one’s mind upon it can lead beyond sorrow (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.36).
The heart gives and receives non-stop to the whole body through blood. Energetically, our heart space expands and contracts with compassion, love and forgiveness for all beings. It physically feels bliss and grief and everything in between. Its beat is taken for granted, yet an ever present reminder of our aliveness — our connection to each other.
“Though old age comes to the body, the lotus of the heart does not grow old.” — Chandogya Upanishad
What does this have to do with trust? I’m sure at some point you’ve felt betrayed by your body. It’s incredibly frustrating, painful and downright scary sometimes to be living in a body. Whether it was illness, injury or trauma, our bodies have their own timeline and way of healing (or not).
Before you can show up with trust in your heart, you have to relearn how to listen to your body’s intelligence in the belly brain, or what many refer to as “gut feeling.”
Sensing how your body feels at any given time is a good indication of where trust might be abundant or lacking in your life. This simple concentration and meditation technique will help you tap into your body’s inner knowing so you can begin to live from your heart and not solely your head.
What does/did your religion teach you about trust?
Whether you consider yourself religious or formerly religious, beliefs have a profound effect on whether you do or don’t trust the universe to be your ally.
I grew up in a religion that told me I was unworthy of God and that I needed to become more pure and selfless in order to earn God’s love and goodwill. I literally recited these words every Sunday until I was 18, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…”
Rather than propel me into spiritual stardom, this conditioning gave me a deep core belief to strive for perfection in all things. The result? An even deeper core belief that I could never be good enough. Not for God or anyone.
Every time I didn’t get what I wanted or what I worked so hard for it became my fault. I should have done more. I didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t worthy.
Feeling not good enough erodes trust. It breeds an environment of becoming more controlling and possessive, and then more miserable and disappointed when you realize you’re not super human.
Unhelpful religious beliefs that drive you away from the universe tend to be very ingrained and even subconscious — after all, they shaped or continue to shape the social, moral and ethical aspects of your life.
You are a creation of the Divine. Nobody can take that away from you. By your very nature, you are good enough and worthy enough. When you start to believe this, trust will follow.
The yogic guideline of aparigraha, or non-possessiveness, encourages us to release stale identities that keep us from union with Spirit. Become more discerning about the types of things you genuinely believe about God, rather than the beliefs that were handed to you by someone else. What beliefs can you eliminate or trim?
Loosen your viewpoint on fairness.
In The Alchemist, the shepherd Santiago goes on an adventure to seek treasure. After selling his sheep and traveling to a new land, he loses all his money to a man whom he trusted for help.
Santiago says: “I’m like everyone else—I see the world in terms of what I would like to happen, not what actually does.” He weeps because “God was unfair and because this was the way God repays those who believe in their dreams.”
Dramatically and suddenly, our sense of protection can vanish. Like Santiago, perhaps you’ve taken steps toward a dream only to be double-crossed or disappointed.
At times, it feels like life itself fails us. Life should be fair, we think. If we put in the time, want it enough and do the work, we should get the reward.
But whoever said life was fair or that it should be fair? When we see the world in terms of what we would like to happen, there will always be “unfairness” lodged in our minds.
In the wise words of one of my favorite singers, Alanis Morissette:
Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face
(Lyrics from “Ironic”)
Life is as it is. This spiritual truth has been passed along for centuries, reminding us that we can ease suffering by loosening our attachment to a specific outcome.
Fair or unfair, your challenges in life are different from others’, and working through these obstacles is key to your own personal evolution.
After the robbery, Santiago discovers he still has two stones given to him for the journey that help him access intuition and read omens. He gains confidence and starts to see the progress he’s made despite the setback. “He realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.” He chose the latter.
How do you feel when you think about the “fairness” or “unfairness” or life? What do you choose to do when life seems “unfair?” If you find yourself focusing on lack, practice gratitude for what you do have and choose to honor the progress of your life rather than focusing on the destination.
Drain the well of sorrow inside you.
It’s difficult to trust the universe when we’re overburdened with mental and emotional pain. We collect this sadness over time and when it’s triggered — by trauma, loss, chronic pain, to name a few — the tears that naturally arise have two places to go: out or in.
It may not have been socially acceptable or encouraged for you to cry, so into the deep well they went. Or maybe you manifest tears easily and readily, yet it seems like this eternal wellspring never runs dry because you don’t receive support, only ridicule for being “too emotional.” Our culture constantly tells us that as women we’re “too much” in this regard. When we get that message, the emotion stays inside and festers into discontent and distrust or ourselves and others.
Even though your subtle body knows everything’s not okay, your mind convinces you otherwise because it’s often not safe to be ourselves in our less-than-sensitive world.
During my Path of Love retreat, tears were the first thing to arrive as I talked about why I was there. I remember saying, “I have no idea why I’m crying” as I talked. What happened next was not what I expected. Perhaps for the first time, I was genuinely encouraged to cry while being supported and accepted — not criticized or told to stop.
These spontaneous tears of mine started in doctor’s offices. As a teen and young adult, I was in and out of exams where doctors claimed nothing was wrong with me and I was “making it all up.” The tears have continued every physical exam since, even though I’m well past my depression and physically healthy.
But in 2017 at Path of Love, the deep fountain of sorrow inside me finally drained. All the pent-up misery from depression, failed relationships, difficulty with family and anxiety poured out of my body. Deep, heaving sobs. Quiet, silent tears.
When you pour out your depths of hurt, sadness and shame, you create space to fill yourself up with peace, love and trust in your life’s path. Not a drop is wasted in the shedding. One of the retreat leaders kindly told me something I will never forget:
“Tears are just prayers to God.”
Go into a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed, bring tissues and put on this playlist I’ve created on Spotify. Let the music move you into any current sadness, disappointment or grief you may be feeling. Know that it is safe to feel and express it through tears. Let it last for however long is comfortable. When you are finished, say a prayer or intention for support and help to continue to move through the sorrow.
Watch how and why you numb yourself to life.
The experience of your mind is very personal. No one else knows what you’re thinking right now. Sometimes, it feels like even we don’t know what we’re thinking!
When we operate by automatic habits, there’s little space between thought and action. If you’ve ever tried to quit an addictive behavior (I don’t know a single person who hasn’t), you’re familiar with the part of your brain that feels the craving and says, “Do this now!” And you do it.
The same goes for not trusting in the flow of life. When a few things go poorly, our minds can get in the habit of automatically assuming the worst. So much so that many of us never fully celebrate or get excited by good news because we’re waiting for the bad news to arrive.
The moment something negative happens, we recoil and reinforce the belief that the world is out to get us. “I knew something like this would happen!” As we keep ourselves safe from disappointment, however, we deaden ourselves to contentment and joy.
Brené Brown, who studies human connection, said it best in her TED talk “The Powerful of Vulnerability:”
“You cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb [hard feelings], we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.”
It’s vulnerable to trust the universe and to acknowledge that you are not in control. It means that certainties begin to crumble back into uncertainty. It means recognizing the stories that you have built in your mind to numb yourself against life.
Write down a list of all your addictions, cravings and repetitive habits. Which provide momentary pleasure, but then induce pain? Are any so automatic that you’ve never recognized them before as unhelpful? As you begin to see how and why you numb, you’ll create space for your mind to make a decision about whether to continue the habits or not.
Which brings us to…
Recognize that you are not a victim of your thoughts.
You are not the contents of your mind — you are the Consciousness that gives life to it.
When we identify strongly with the mind, any thought could be seen as true. But just because I think mermaids exist doesn’t actually make that belief true.
“Just imagine if you were to follow the commands of every thought. What kind of person would you be? What type of things would you say and do?” writes Lila Lolling in Walking the Ancient Path of Yoga.
It would be exhausting to act out the dialogue of the mind — all voices competing for attention and space — many of which have been lodged there because of other people.
You know those movies with predictable dialogue and plots where you know exactly what’s going to happen next? When you are seated in a place of observation, you can watch what the mind says as easily as if you were watching a movie.
It becomes easier to recognize your own blind spots when you take the time to get outside of your own story.
Once you cultivate this witness or observer awareness, as it’s commonly called, trust takes hold. From this detached place, thoughts no longer have control over you. You take back control. You are no longer a victim.
A regular practice of Yoga Nidra meditation is a beautiful way to guide yourself toward becoming an observer. If you’ve never practiced before, lie down on your back (on a bed or the ground) in a relatively quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. Press play, listen and follow along with my guidance.