For those of you who love irony, the subject of this post came from my not knowing what the heck to write about. It all came down to one simple phrase: I don't know. It's a phrase that I'm very familiar with -- first resisting it mightily and then embracing it lovingly and enthusiastically.
When I was in my teens and early 20s, my favorite go to answer was "I don't know." Ask me what I wanted to do with my life -- I'd respond with "I don't know." Where did I see myself in 5 years -- "I don't know." What do you want -- "I don't know." The answer made me -- as well as the people who asked me these questions -- uncomfortable, as I somehow thought that I should have things figured out and that I should know. My free-spirited "I don't know" turned into canned answers that sounded like I did know and were what other people wanted to hear.
Now I had all of the answers -- I knew everything. I spoke with authority. I felt like I had a path. What I actually had was a life that felt ill fitting. It was gaping here and strangling there. The truth was that everything I thought I knew (and had convinced others that I knew) was just wrong. That's when I started trying to find right. Years of trying to learn something new, chasing after some sort of answer to get back to "I know." Then I realized rather than try to know, I had to unlearn what I thought I knew. Ah yes, the old adage that one must empty one's cup in order to fill it. That was one little truth bomb that made me feel like a complete and utter failure.
I had a dark I-just-wasted-my-life-with-utter-nonsense moment and admitted to myself that I had to get back to nothing. That innocent, in-the-moment place of not knowing was calling my name. It was an invitation to question everything and jump into the void and watch what arose. It reminded me of when I took swimming lessons at age 11 and decided to dive before I even knew how to swim. My poor mom would anxiously look over from her folding chair as I stepped up to the diving board not really knowing what I would do after jumping into the water head first. Yep, it was definitely like that.
I had invested so much time and money into learning, into finding answers, into knowing, into feeling comfortable and safe that the thought of throwing it all away seemed terrifying (and not all that smart). Then I watched myself in my yoga practice, trying to apply principles and learnings and guidelines to myself and my students rather than look at myself and the individual in the moment -- that's when I realized it needed to change. I was trying to make the actual landscape into what I saw on the map rather than realize that the landscape is a living thing that changes and shifts. My training knowledge tells me that the student has an imbalance here and do work with it using x, y, and z postures but my student isn't some case study to which I can always apply certain therapeutic rules. Thinking I know can actually hinder my ability to work with my student.
Same goes with my life. I had a partner once who was a smart, logical kind of guy. Whenever we would have a discussion about something, I would go into full-on lawyer mode. I'd lay out my case -- often using numbers, statistics, and the like -- so he would, without a doubt, know that I was right. I felt compelled to make him understand my point of view, my stance, my actions, my feelings. Rather than just have some feelings or desires or opinions, I got wrapped up in justifying them, proving them, backing them up with logic. I was so caught up in my knowing, I failed to actually understand my partner. Knowing was not my friend in this case, and it made me a less than stellar partner for sure.
These days, with something like a thousand hours of training, countless books read, workshops and classes attended, and 43 years of life experience under my belt, I am firmly in the land of "I don't know." Just last week something happened that was inexplicable. I could look at my past experiences, my actions, the vast catalog of information in my brain and define or classify what happened. Been there. Done that. Instead, when faced with the question "How did this happen?" I responded with "I don't know."
There's something freeing about those three little words. When you say them, you allow yourself to see things with new eyes rather than rely on information. When I look back to those questions at the beginning of the post -- well let me just say that the answers I was so confident with back then are nothing like what my life is actually like now. If I had stuck with what I thought I knew back then, my life would look very different. And that would be a crying shame, as my life excites and delights me on a daily basis.
All those desires that I was so sure that I knew about -- yeah, don't want them. All of that great knowledge that I could force onto my clients -- it doesn't come close to actually listening to a client and following my gut in regards to which direction to go in. All of those plans that I was so sure about -- I'd rather do what I'm doing now, which isn't even close to something that I could wrap my head around 20 years ago.
I am still in the process of unlearning, reminding myself when I want to jump to a tried and true answer that I don't really know anything. Every day things happen that I can't explain, don't want to try to, and wouldn't change for all of the Matcha in China. It makes me realize that one of the boldest "spiritual" moves I can make is to say, "I don't know," and let whatever needs to rise to the surface.