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  • Emily Corley

In Praise of 'Not Knowing'

One of our most familiar experiences in life is not having answers, not understanding a situation, simply not knowing. We are schooled to ‘know’ and figure out how to gather information, insight, and resources to come to know how things are.

Despite our ability to do this, there are many, many, many situations in life where we simply ‘don’t know’. Here we are in the depth of water energy, in its 'unclear' manifestation.

‘Not knowing’ happens in every transition we experience, every anticipated activity, every unexpected happening. It happens a lot. Being schooled to ‘know’, this frequent and utterly ordinary human experience makes us uncomfortable, causes anxiety, drives us to ‘fix it’.

Let me sing its praises!

The simple experience of ‘not knowing’ turns our mind from how we want life to be - knowable, safe, happy, predictable, successful, comfortable - to how life really is – changeable, uncertain, sometimes uncomfortable, messy, scary, and real. In short, when we relate consciously and bravely to how life really is, we continue this process all adults experience: the process of growing up a bit more. We take another step courageously into reality rather than our version of reality.

When we do, we abandon strategies of control, which limit life experience, and develop strategies of courage. Our strategies of courage fuel tremendous personal growth.

From strategies of courage, we learn to become comfortable with what is new, different, uncomfortable, unpredictable, messy, scary, and perhaps quite painful.

We drop attitudes and opinions that don’t serve us or others in our life. We find our confidence to do so. We develop a healthy relationship with failure, our ideas and efforts that didn't pan out. From failure, we develop greater clarity. When we do, we discover possibilities and capacities we may not have imagined.

Becoming clear about how life really is and how 'we' really are is the entire path of waking up, what Buddhism refers to as the experience of 'enlightenment'. Becoming clear is a worthy goal!

Most importantly, when we abandon our need to ‘know’ in those situations when knowing isn’t forthcoming, we make space for the insights we are looking for to emerge. The first step is simply acknowledging that we don't know. The second step is getting comfortable not knowing. And curious about it.

We discover that insight generally does emerge, often not in ways we ‘want’ but aligned with how things are. It can take weeks and months and years for insight to emerge. If we are patient and open, it will. This is wisdom, the fruitional experience of clarity.

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