Solving for the Unknown

“Not just a fighter. Not Just a Dreamer. Amazing Creator. Relentless believer in who I am and what I’ve got inside”.”

—Tina Parol and Jason Mater, Live Your Story

The other night, my daughter was practicing math on this online homework program. She kept choosing the addition and ignoring the subtraction. When her long-time babysitter suggested she try, at least some subtraction, she began to protest. “I hate subtraction! I only like addition!”

I nonchalantly attempted to convince her that they weren’t actually different. But it was no use. She was determined to hate subtraction, her ears closed to any wisdom I was hoping to impart. So, I got a little pouty.

“Fine,” I said. “You can spend the first half of your life learning by trial and error, like I did, instead of benefitting from what your Mother already knows.”

It wasn’t my most attractive moment. Of course, she was going to do that. She’s a curious child. It’s kind of her job. Nevertheless, she did sit down next to me and listen. And honestly, my inner child sat down too, ears perking. I could tell something important was moving through me, but what I was about to say was going to be a surprise for both of us.

Do you know what algebra is? It’s a type of math in which you’re asked to solve for the unknown, often represented with the letter X. Can you give me an addition problem? I asked. 

One plus zero, she said cheekily.

Okay. I drew on the paper: 1 + 0 = X. See? X is the unknown. The thing you are solving for. Make sense?

Now, let’s move one of the numbers to the opposite side of the equation. You do that by switching to the opposite sign (from addition to subtraction or back). That would look like 1 = X – 0. It’s the same equation, but in a different form. 

You see? Addition and subtraction are really just mirrors of each other. They’re keeping each other in balance. It doesn’t make sense to hate subtraction and love addition, when the unknown—what you’re solving for— is exactly the same.

Believe it or not, she actually liked the idea. And so did I, the deeper truth resounding throughout my body.

There IS and ALWAYS HAS BEEN only One Unknown. One energy at the heart of the Great Mystery. And once we understand (“stand under”) that One energy, we’ll see there’s nothing to fear.

All we have to do is look to our own lives, our own planet, to see that the world of forms is constantly changing. And at least part of that creation equation (aka transformation) can feel like painful loss. In truth, we all have moments where we hate subtraction: our children grow up, things deteriorate or break, we lose a job, fall out of touch with a friend, a loved one gets angry at us, an important opportunity seems lost, a pet dies.

If our grief about the subtractions go regularly unprocessed, our body ends up carrying around old fear energy unconsciously in our present lives. We may not even be aware the fear is there, but we get stuck in survival mode and chronic stress, and unintentionally, end up living from this place. I know, because I lived there.

In fear, we turn to our “false” or “wounded” self to try to control Life. We attempt to seize power instead of allowing ourselves to BE empowered, which paradoxically occurs through the very process we are avoiding—Subtraction (self-emptying).

I believe all of our truly hurtful behavior, what one might call evil in this world, stems from a lack of trust in our own Presence, in the resonance that is drawing to each of us the exact experience we need to transform and expand into Greater Love each moment.

Perhaps, our mind’s error is thinking that there are two forces involved in this Great Equation. One that takes and one that gives. One that subtracts and one that adds. One that does “good” things in our lives and one that does “bad” things. If we separate and judge this energy, we lose the bigger picture.

Disconnected from the rhythm, the heartbeat of Life, we end up getting lost in the math, either focusing on only half the equation (positive or negative) or forgetting that our present moments are neither random chaos nor meaningless. Rather, there is a loving purpose—one might even say a harmony—in it All.

The good news is we don’t have to stay stuck in this fearful belief system. We can choose to embrace and honor a higher truth. To dance with transformation. Real empowerment is knowing this choice is ours to make. But learning to dance means we have to find our center, the deepest and truest part of ourselves that never changes. This unknown part of us already knows how to trust the rhythm of Life because it is intimately connected, even united, to this rhythm.

I was awed when I read that the word algebra comes from the Arabic word al jabr meaning “the reunion of broken parts.”

At some point in life, our soul calls us to do Spiritual Algebra. To embark on a journey of the heart and reunite subtraction and addition into one great process of transformation/ creation.

And when I say this, I don’t mean we have to immediately like everything that happens (or has happened) in our lives. Sometimes the present is wrapped in a prickly package. If we jump too quickly to positivity without making room for our grief and disappointment over the losses, we won’t really be able to digest the experience and unwrap the gift. We need to release what needs releasing, whether via tears, laughter or ritual. This helps us honor what served us in the past with gratitude and water the seeds of what wants to grow in the newly empty space—the Gift.

In my experience, it’s enough to long for trust that the subtractions and additions are a part of a bigger picture. To want to look for the gift in every challenge. To intend to seek the silver lining in every storm. And to hope that nothing was truly taken away, only transformed. Just making room for the magnificence of possibility opens the door that leads to a million others. And behind each door is a “past present” you can finally unwrap in wonder. A path of reunion that ultimately leads to THE PRESENT.

As we do this spiritual algebra, we get the opportunity to solve for the unknown. To ask: Who is at the heart of this process? Who is X? Who am I in this great equation?

Interestingly, the letter X symbolically represents what some might call The Christ or True Self (Chi, x-mas, cross). But even this is a mental concept, and ultimately, one can only understand X by experiencing it within. Even so, I can’t help but invite you along. Don’t hesitate to seek the unknown. The unknown is promise and hope and love. It is the space where all unconsciousness is processed into consciousness and all fear reclaimed as love.

Here’s what I believe. Love does not do math in a worldly way. This Great Mystery of Love is limitless. One plus zero does not equal one but rather ten, or collectively, one to the power of as many tens as we allow Love to add. And when we finally solve for the unknown in ourselves, what we find is a spiritual gift whose power is beyond what our human brains can ever imagine.

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