Knowing About Not Knowing

Knowing About Not KnowingCindy’s Column

Knowing About Not Knowing.

Last week I found myself in a habitual pattern of planning. My attention was focused on the content of the week’s to-do list. I wanted to know what time I needed to be where and with whom. The problem was that the schedule depended on those other people who couldn’t or wouldn’t commit, the unpredictable weather, and the unconfirmed reservation for a hotel room for an out-of-town workshop. Obviously, these were the problems!

Except, as I watched the unfolding mind-stuff, I realized that the internal process was the same whether I focused on the calendar, the weather, or the hotel room. A big part of me seriously wanted to know the answers. This isn’t new information for me. I’ve been a planner since Mom taught me the words, “What’s the plan?”

What caught my attention this time was that I realized that I felt insecure when I didn’t have an idea of what might happen. Read those words again. I felt insecure when I didn’t have an idea of what might happen. How crazy is that? I know the process is crazy making because absolutely no one can ever know what the future will bring. I got enamored with the process without realizing how the core emotion of insecurity was the piece that held the process in place. I didn’t want to feel insecure.

A Zen Koan I frequently call upon is “Not-knowing is (the) most intimate.”

Meditating on this can remind me to settle into not-knowing. But in this instance, I was able to experience the root of the process—the insecurity. Sitting still (literally and figuratively) with not-knowing demands that I sit with the uncomfortable physical, mental, and emotional feelings of insecurity.

My belly feels nauseous, my heart rate increases, my jaw tightens, and the mental mind starts planning.

In the past, my neurotic planning mind kept the discomfort at bay. Not any more. When I stay with all of those physical sensations for only a little while, they dissipate and life goes on without the planning. It’s like being in revolved triangle pose. When I stay with the uncomfortable or unfamiliar physical sensations, they eventually dissolve and the pose becomes comfortable or at least manageable.

So…I let go of trying to figure out what was going to happen. And…people got back to me about their schedules, and their plans meshed with mine. The sun appeared and the picnic happened just as we had hoped. And today, the hotel called back and the room is available. Yes, all of this without anxiety about the imaginary future.



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