In our hallway are two small, square, signs spray-painted on wood, made by a once-was-local artist, Mud. One reads, “Trust the process.” A few weeks ago, I sent a picture of it to a dear friend with my hand in a one-finger salute in the foreground.
I had just returned from a walk-and-talk with this friend, each of us on our cell phones in our respective towns. We were talking about this idea, this trusting – what process, exactly, now? – of a process with a “the” in front of it as though there is one single, solitary process to trust, one for all of humanity, now get on it, folks!
The salute was because we had been doing a little grousing, a little kvetching, from the parts of us that want, like most humans, the right way, the correct answer, not an undefined and unpredictable process to trust-fall into. Hence, the salute.
This is what I like to call the bumper-sticker-ization of ideas.
See, there are these big, complex, juicy ideas, is my point, and because we want to share them widely, we try to distill them down to their essence… and in that way, refine out all of the nuance of meaning.
There is, of course, no the process.
What there is are…
…everything that’s happened up to this point – in your life, the lives of all the people in your lineage up until now, and all of Earth’s history to now – and the Now all of those machinations have led to.
…whatever options are actually available to you in this moment. (Spoiler: Neither changing the past nor predicting the future are on the list of actually-available options.)
…the values, tools, priorities, and boundaries that help you navigate from one Now into the next Now and so forth ad infinitum.
Except not ad infinitum because we are finite beings which is what makes all of this feel so consequential and weighty.
That is, there’s a quiet question in each of us that asks how to live now because this is our only Now and we only have so many of those Nows in these lives of ours.
If we were, then, to expand beyond the boundaries of the bumper sticker, we might, instead of “trust the process,” say:
We are, each of us, living lives of microscopic and macroscopic experiences of cause and effect. The causes are already in the past and therefore uncontrollable; the effects, when combined with our reactions/responses, are ever-becoming the causes of the next effects. And so on.
Moreover, the causes and effects that are painful in some kind of way, they’re not divergences from our lives-as-usual but, rather, fully a part of our lives. Each successive cause and effect is creating the process; each decision/action/way of being further shapes this process.
When we can truly lean into this reality – this complex trusting of the process – we can achieve what Tara Brach compares to querencia in her powerful book Radical Acceptance:
In bullfighting there is an interesting parallel to the pause as a place of refuge and renewal. It is believed that in the midst of a fight, a bull can find his own particular area of safety in the arena. There he can reclaim his strength and power. This place and inner state are called his querencia. As long as the bull remains enraged and reactive, the matador is in charge. Yet when he finds querencia, he gathers his strength and loses his fear. From the matador’s perspective, at this point the bull is truly dangerous, for he has tapped into his power.
Or, we might make it a slightly-longer bumper sticker that reads:
Again and again and again,
Start from exactly where you are: logistically, energetically, cognitively, and so on.
The rest will inevitably emerge from there.