Situational vs. foundational trust

We’re often advised to “trust,” as if trust were a monolithic thing that we all approach the same way. It isn’t. Trust can be situational or foundational, as well as immature or profound.

Most of us don’t need to think too long or hard to find personal examples of both immature trust and earned situational trust. This learning requires life experience; we make mistakes and we may never feel fully confident of our ability to trust wisely.

The wisdom of foundational trust says that life itself is trustworthy. Cultivating foundational trust begins with our attitude or stance toward life. The moment we are open to the idea that life is essentially kind and nurturing, we begin growing our foundational trust.

Living from a place of foundational trust affects every aspect of life. It means that we meet life’s circumstances and challenges with our hearts, minds, and eyes open for the blessings and possibilities. If this comes with any desire to pretend that what is happening is not happening or to change what is happening because it’s something we don’t like, it misses the point. Foundational trust is not a Pollyanna approach to life. Far from it.

Foundational trust meets life where it is. “Ah, here is what is happening. I don’t love this and yet I trust that there is something that wants to happen that is ultimately going to serve.” Meeting life from this place means that we are not in opposition to whatever is happening in the moment.

Who we are really – that place at the very center – equals how we show up in life. Cultivating foundational trust moves us from the surface of our self, from roles and reactions, into our depth, our strength and our authenticity. When our actions in life arise from this depth they have an entirely different order of impact. And perhaps best of all, life tends to deliver very different lessons to one who trusts.

A big shift in my life was when I stopped trying to manage it. I gave up all my strategies for getting what I wanted and avoiding what I didn’t want. I clearly remember my decision to live life differently, my fear of letting go of the ways I knew, and the moment I opened to not knowing.

I was out for a morning run along a beach near where I lived, and really in my head. “How do I let go, how do I change,” kept repeating in my mind. Then out of nowhere I noticed the wind off the sea as it brushed my skin and heard the gulls and bird song and the sound of waves. A quiet settled over my mind, and it became this recognition: “I can’t control any of this, the wind, waves, sounds, I can’t control any of this.” And that was it, really. That’s when I began to shift from a life driven by will to one based more and more on trust.

That happened in 1983. I had an inkling that everything would be on a different footing from then on, but I had no idea how completely and profoundly the moment on the beach would change my life. New career opportunities were given to me, and I said yes. The chance to go out into the world in an experiment of trust came, and I said yes. New people with unfamiliar perspectives showed up again and again, each inviting me to question my beloved viewpoints and opinions. Every opening and encounter took me naturally on to the next.

In 1989, I landed at The Findhorn Foundation (an intentional spiritual community in Northern Scotland). There I was challenged to let go of lingering victimhood and step more fully into leadership. That’s also where I met the woman I have been married with for the past 27.5 years. And believe me when I say that this relationship has called for ever deepening trust – to trust that I am safe, to trust that I am loved, and to trust that I know how to love without holding back.

When I tell this story, some people listen hungrily, and others listen with a degree of skeptical reserve. That’s okay. The hungry ones will find their own ways to connect with deep trust in life and the skeptics will find whatever path best suits them. There are many paths; some are less direct, but none are wrong.

Editor’s note: This is TEZ team member Evan Renaert’s first post for The Enlightenment Zone blog. Thank you, Evan!

Photo by Purnomo Capunk on Unsplash

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