Admitting to not knowing

 

There are a couple of different types of not knowing.

One is that we don’t know anything for certain. Any thought is tentative and inherently a question about the world. It can be a practical guide to help us orient and function in the world. But it has no finality to it. It’s not the last word. Most or all of our collective and individual knowledge will eventually seem outmoded and belonging to a certain phase of our life and development. We can still act on our tentative knowledge while realizing it is tentative. That opens for receptivity and curiosity. 

Another is not knowing in a conventional sense. We may miss information or knowledge, or just don’t know what to do in a certain situation. 

It’s common for us to realize this in a general way while not realizing it thoroughly in all areas of our life. Often, some parts of us believe we know something in a certain area of life.

For instance, I notice I am not always 100% comfortable with my health situation or general life situation, and that shows me that some parts of me believe thoughts about it. Some parts of me don’t realize that these thoughts, that come from culture, parents, friends and more, are tentative. They are questions. They are not the final word.

The examples here are innumerable. Most of us have some ingrained beliefs about ourselves, others, or the world. They can take the form of rigid views and assumptions, wounds, trauma, and hangups. And they can also take the form of believing we ultimately are a separate being and that the physical world is something more substantial than awakeness itself. 

This is where inquiries like The Work or the Living Inquiries come in and can be very helpful. They help us identify and question these thoughts that some parts of us hold as an absolute truth. 

I want to mention another special case of not knowing. When a facilitator or therapist works with a client, it’s normal to sometimes not know what to do next or how to best approach an issue. One way to deal with this is to be transparent, say it out loud, and invite both of you to sit in silence for a while to see what happens. Maybe something will show itself. Maybe not. 

As a footnote, I can mention that when it comes to the reverse, knowing, we cannot know anything for certain in the sense mentioned above. But there is another form of knowing, and that’s knowing what we are. This is a wordless knowing and a resting in and as what we are (that which any content of experience happens within and as). 

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