Updated: Feb 6, 2019
There is a lot of power in not knowing. Sounds funny doesn't it? It's not how I was conditioned as a kid. I was encouraged to know. My dad was a high school civics/social studies teacher and if he asked you about something, it would not be good if you said, "I don't know." Granted, he was probably asking why the garage wasn't swept out or the dishes done.
Knowing isn't all you would think it is. Knowing implies that you have the definitive answer and you are done with that subject. I know the state bird of Vermont. I know 1+1 = 2. I know all the words to Tom Petty's Wildflowers. It gets tricky when it pertains to the murkier things like understanding communications, understanding ideas and processes. These things are subject to interpretation - which arguably can be right or wrong. It gets really murky when we think we know people and relationships as if they are as static as the words to a song.
Our perceptions are tricky. They grow as a collection of experiences that define what things mean to us. If you ask me "what is a tree," I will picture in my mind's eye the Bradford Pear that used to stand in my front yard, but my son, who lives in Hawaii may picture the palm tree his hammock is tied to.
Sometimes we move so fast in life that we catch a glimpse of something and think we know what we saw. I moved the screen that divides the lobby from the yoga room and when I scan my eyes quickly, I perceive it to be someone standing in that space and not the screen. That perception sets off an energetic, emotional and mental response and we often act on that before we realize we were wrong.
Our perceptions are based on past experiences and tend to be tied tightly to likes and dislikes, fear and fun, past hurts, shame and embarrassments etc. So when things are unclear to us, instead of leaning in to get clarity, we tend to rely on our perceptions to tell the story. How many times have we assumed an acquaintance's silence is a form of reaction to something we may or may not have done. We can't know for sure because we haven't gotten all the facts. There was no lean in, no reaching out to ask questions to learn more. We simply thought we knew. 99% of the time we are wrong. Over time, more information comes to us and we then see that things were quite different that what we assumed. Remember what they say about assuming?
Not knowing is a way of letting go of the extra stories we tell ourselves. It's a way of not closing out the investigation into what is. Sometimes we don't need to lean in. The answers will come in their own time. Sometimes we need to lean in with interest and be open to learning more. After all, can't we always learn more? Are we full of knowing so much that we can't learn anything else? Hmmm. Are we holding onto old information? Are we assuming our own perceptions are broad, when in fact they are narrow?
Not knowing leaves room for the possibility that there is way more to learn. It sparks interest through curiosity. It adds richness to what we already know. But. And that's a big BUT, we need to let go of knowing first.
In the rush to get things done, knowing is convenient. Having to slow down, lean in with interest takes time. It takes patience and we may be a quart low on that. I know there are days when I am low on time, patience and interest.
In my quest this year to be more consistent in self caring, I am putting more than a little effort into not knowing. I am a student of the moment. I am opening up to knowing more. I have had to let go of the idea of being on the full side of knowledge in things I have done for a long time - like working on a computer, practicing yoga/meditation, loving music. I am officially open to learning more and I have made myself a card to remind me of my status. It says, "I don't know."
My mantra of "I don't know" is how I am chiseling away the conditioning of my father expecting me to know (in addition to knowing about my chores, I was expected to be a competent student and an independence seeking adult.). I am chiseling away at the conditioning from a 20 year career in Corporate America where you damn well better know. I am chiseling away at the expectation that I know all the answers as a mother, wife and friend.
I like learning new things. I like meeting new people. Knowing takes all the fun out of those things. Recently, we went to a Metallica concert. We met two guys that appeared to be really hard core metal fans. They graciously let us sit with them in a crowded bar and over the next two hours, I discovered that one was actually a big fan of 80's pop music and we shared some tears about the passing of Tom Petty. Who would have thunk it? It was a really enjoyable evening and I learned once again that you can't judge a book by it's cover. I'm sure they thought I was a washed up soccer mom. Little did they know I share an affinity for Judas Priest and AC/DC. We're all meeting up again for a KISS concert in a few months. I love it when the world gets bigger and smaller at the same time.
So I'm off to learn some more before the end of this day. Maybe not knowing makes things a lot more interesting...?