Several years ago I heard a radio interview with a devout Jewish woman who had a practice of laying prostrate—face down on the ground, arms outstretched. She said she did it to remind herself that she was not in control of every little thing. She was in God’s hands.
In other faiths too, the act of laying oneself down is one of humility or surrender. While I might not share the beliefs from which this tradition springs, I do appreciate the value of acknowledging that I am not always in control.
In the Western world, we like to be in control. Just take the temperature of the air around us for example. Few people can bear the sensation of being too hot or too cold without commenting on it. We have heat and air conditioning so that things can be “Goldilocks just right” at every moment. Tell us we can’t change the thermostat at work or in our hotel room and you’re likely to have a revolt on your hands.
This past week has been a test of my willingness to admit I cannot control everything. At the same time that I was blogging about the excitement of our upcoming adventure, things were unraveling behind the scenes: the very specialized school which we deem absolutely necessary for our son’s development contacted us to let us know that there will probably not be a space for him when we arrive. Maybe not in the fall either. The gatekeeper even suggested that we keep him home until school starts in the fall.
I flew into a panic. How could this be happening? How could they do this? Didn’t they tell us everything was all set? Didn’t they know that I had just sold my house, that I quit my job, that our very future was in their hands? Did they know how much he would regress? It was so painful that I couldn’t even let my mind think about it.
That’s when I remembered the woman who lays in prostration, and I mentally allowed myself to lay down beside her.
I cannot control everything. I cannot change the order of the waiting list. (Maybe in other countries you can, but not here, and I’m grateful for that.) I cannot make different words come out of the mouth of the gatekeeper. I just cannot. And if I cannot accept that, the next few months and years, indeed the rest of my life is going to be filled with suffering.
Interestingly—and perhaps here’s the point—when I let myself do that, my body and my emotions could relax enough to let my brain turn itself back on. It could mobilize. I was able to come up with a few unconventional alternatives and email them to the gatekeeper. Suddenly my “things will work out” mantra didn’t seem so desperate and hollow.
This morning I heard back. There is a school in another town with the program that we need. They have a space. He can start right away. I am breathing deeply again.
Prostration. With this one posture, one throws oneself at the feet of God or the Universe or circumstance or life itself and hopes that in the acquiescing, the surrender, there may be mercy. This time, there was. Will there always be? Hard to tell. Maybe not mercy, but maybe less terror and more creative problem solving.
And that is something I have faith in.