Zia Hassan

Stay In Control

Today, in the midst of quite a thunderstorm, I was parked near a auto repair shop. Through my windshield, which was streaked with rain, I noticed a sign that simply said: stay in control.

I immediately felt more grounded after reading it. I do teeter off sometimes, losing my control and poise, and as soon as I had read these very authoritative (nearly commanding) words, my mind snapped back to center. I felt victorious.

But that experience was not the essence of the message of this sign. What I had done was regained control, and almost anyone can do that under the right circumstances. Though it isn’t exactly intuitive, many people have props or tools that bring them back into the moment.

Snapping a rubber band, hitting a gong, striking a singing bowl, strumming a guitar… all of these are rituals that, if we lose our way, can bring us back to the path (whatever that means for us individually).

We can reclaim control. But to stay in control? To not let the mind wander or the attention slip? That might be an act of God. At the very least, it’s an impossibility for many folks. Even those who have reached enlightenment won’t stay in control – they’ll just reclaim control more quickly.

But I assume the writer of this sign didn’t actually mean to instruct us to stay in control. Staying in makes it sound like a river. You just stay in and you end up where you’re going.

But control doesn’t work like this. It is a bit more like like making the bed, or setting the table, or opening your eyes after nodding off. The momentary lapse in attention is reclaimed often enough that control seems to flow. But that’s just an illusion.

We can’t ever stay in control. The best we can do is avoid wandering too far.