by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.
The other day while I was driving my car, I began to hear a rattle that I hadn’t heard before. Since my car is 15 years old, I had gotten used to new rattles showing up. My usual remedy is to find the rattle and push on it, or give it a knock with my hand. Sometimes this works, other times I just have to find a way to let it be. This time it seemed to be coming from the dial that turns the headlights on. I pushed on the dial and then gave it firmer tap, but the rattle persisted. Then I tried pulling on the dial and to my surprise, not only did the rattle stop, but it turned on the fog lights that are set underneath the main headlights. I’m a little embarrassed to say, I never knew that this is how these lights turned on. I assumed that they were on as running lights when the car was on, but hadn’t noticed in my 15 years that they had their own control on the dial. While regular lights are useful for looking further down the road, fog lights are more useful in a fog. When a brighter and longer reaching light is reflected in the fog and can actually make it harder to see. I think that things tend to happen for a reason, and if we are paying attention, we are constantly given information that is relevant for each moment. So it wasn’t lost on me, in this time where the future is so foggy, that I finally discovered my fog lights.
Most of us strain ourselves to try to look into the future. We believe that if we can just see what is coming our way, we can better prepare and avoid some of the suffering that may be in store. While there is some benefit to looking ahead and preparing as best we can, the future is a mystery. It is enshrouded in a sort of fog that is always going to be beyond our ability to predict or understand. We can drive ourselves crazy going over all of the possible scenarios in an attempt to feel more in control, to feel safer. But it is truly a fools errand to try to predict the future: As the saying goes “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” This is especially noticeable in times of great uncertainty.
No one knows what is coming, we are all improvising.
It is times like this when we can take some inspiration from fog lights.
Rather than focusing the light far ahead towards the horizon, we bring the light closer to where we are. If we are trying to look too far into the future, it is like shining your high beams into the fog…it won’t help you see more clearly. In fact will probably serve to make it harder to see.
When you turn off the high beams and rely on fog lights, you are focusing your light closer to where you are: You are shining it on the here and now. You could say that fog lights are more for the moment at hand, rather than what is further ahead. Not only does this allow you to be more in the moment and to better address the most pressing needs, you also lessen the likelihood of over-illuminating the the foggy terrain ahead and blinding yourself in the process.
So how does this translate to times like these? I have to keep reminding myself to stay with the moment. Like most people in the world, I am noticing waves of fear, confusion and grief. When I check in with myself I am noticing that typically these emotions are at their strongest when I am straying too far into the future. When I pull myself back into the moment I notice that these challenges are joined by a sense of curiosity and hope. I begin to wonder what the silver lining of this great upheaval will be. Typically, great moments of evolution and growth are born from moments of great challenge and confusion. These moments of hope and trust come more readily when I am focusing the light of awareness on the things that are close to me. In these moments I notice the kindness of the people around, though I know that they too are struggling. I see the small miracles and acts of courage that arise when we are pushed beyond the comfort of the familiar. I see the love and the commitment that grows stronger with each new challenge. I am also asked to explore deeper parts of myself that I haven’t had as much reason to explore until now.
It is still very foggy ahead, and if I try to look too far down the road, I find myself disoriented. If I bring my gaze back to the light that is right near me, to the depths of myself, I find courage I didn’t know existed. I find love and hope and appreciation for the simple ways in which life still goes on. I can see greater detail in the path that I am traveling. I may have to go a little slower, I may not arrive to the place that I originally thought I was heading to, but I arrive into the moment. This is place where faith lives. This is the place where the truth resides. This is the place that the fog lights illuminate.