Saturday, March 21, 2015

About Being with Not Knowing

I love stories. I really do. I have gobbled up fiction from the time I was a small child. In the neighborhood I grew up in, there used to be a book mobile. A large RV filled with books. It stopped right across the street from my house every week. My great pleasure was going in to the RV and filling my arms with as many books as I could carry. I traveled all over the world, back and forward in time and into the lives of very different people through the fictional and stories.

These last three years I have read very little. Instead I have become deeply interested in the lives of  people who I encounter on a regular basis. I become intrigued with who they are, how they live, what motivates them. All these stories are happening all around me all the time.

I learned something about the human brain from a lecture I heard a few years back. We have what is known as a Reticular Activating System, RAS. This is the part of us that filters, sees and sorts what is happening all around us. In that same lecture I learned we have this other system, the MSU. For those places that we do not have data our brains do this amazing thing. We Make Stuff Up to explain what we do not see or know.

The thing about written stories is that they have a beginning, middle and end. The lives of people are not so neat. There is not always the way to know and understand. So very often I find myself inventing, Making Stuff Up in an attempt to understand and explain the lives of those around me and my own life. The problem with this way of engaging with life is that it takes up a lot of time and effort and rarely is my MSU correct.

Much more difficult, and a dear friend said 'terrifying, at first' is to realize that I do not know. In a culture that has trained us to have the right answers and 'know', leaning in to not knowing is a very new place to be. Greeting the unexpected or anything that arises with a 'not knowing' attitude asks me to be in curiosity. When it comes to myself and the melody of emotions riding through or the stories I tell to explain my own life to me...staying in 'not knowing' is beginning to create more spaciousness. My one year old grandson does not know anything more than what he is doing in the moment. Can I gift myself with that same freedom? And when it comes to being with others around me....what about greeting whatever arises with the same generous curious place rather than leaping in with my MSU?

Another friend said, "not knowing is the safest place to be". This was in response to my attempts to understand why my brilliant and well loved cousin chose to end his life. And what choosing to not know does is to free me from the mind and return me to what is real and present in front of me now, the only time in which I can truly be here.

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