What is it like to be in a state of complete unknowing? How can you embrace ‘not knowing? How you can surrender ever more deeply into just not knowing and not being sure of hardly anything?
Deep humility is good start. Deep love for yourself, your loved ones and for everyone you know. And small acts of love and kindness every day.
In this post I will examine how we construct an internal point of view, especially in a stressful time like now, in order to maintain a sense of control. We have to do this, and yet this keeps us from authentically connecting with our true feeling, which likely is deep sense inside of not knowing.
As Thich Nhat Hanh writes….
“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer,
What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent, when they are not.”
As this pandemic crisis unfolds, I have encountered three main types of viewpoint about what is happening. It’s kind of laughable to come up with a number like three, but this is simply my experience. Of course it could be six or twenty.
First there is a large swath of people who believe the pandemic is bad, and if we just isolate, it will pass in a few months, and we will go back to normal. Get enough food for a few weeks. I call this group the Status Quo.
Second, there are a group of spiritually-attuned people who believe something much larger is going on, and this is a special opportunity for us all to go deep inside and change ourselves and the world for better. The earth is cleansing itself. This too shall pass. I call this group the Optimists.
Third is a group of people who believe something much larger is going on, and that the result will be much worse than most people believe, including some kind of global depression lasting for years. Stock up and prepare. I call this group the Pessimists.
Depending on which day it is, I can find myself in each of those groups. Ha ha ha!
These days, most of us have a lot more unfilled time, and so we can go a little deeper.
I ask you to go deeper now.
How we create structure
I ask you, what is the narrative that you have constructed to make sense of what is going on in your world? This takes some courage and some grit, and I wish that for you in this moment.
And this is an opportunity for you to go on a little adventure, something we all crave. As Joseph Campbell wrote…
Your adventure has to be coming out of your own interior. If you are ready for it then doors will open where there were no doors before, and where there would not be doors for anyone else. And you must have courage. It’s the call to adventure, which means there is no security, no rules.So to begin, what are your base assumptions about this pandemic?
So to begin, what are your base assumptions about this pandemic? What will happen to you, how many people will get sick, how many people will die? How long will it last, when will things get back to normal, will things ever get back to normal? When will the economy recover and everyone will be back to work? What is your personal and the global opportunity now? What is your point of view?
Of course you don’t know the true answers to any of those questions, but you most certainly have probable outcomes and answers in your mind.
Before you read on, take a second, and answer those questions above…..
What are my base assumptions about this pandemic? What will happen to me? How many people will get sick, how many people will die, and how long will it last? When will things get back to normal, will things ever get back to normal, and when will the economy recover? What is my personal and the global opportunity now?
Your answers are yours alone, and may or may not be shared widely by other people. You can safely assume that there is quite a wide range of answers! So very many points of view around what is happening out there.
And of course, you know that your answers to these questions are all unknown and change daily, and yet you do have to build a narrative structure inside of you. It is your human nature to assemble a set of beliefs so you can have a sense of meaning and control.
Questioning your narrative
How much are you testing these beliefs and this narrative inside you? Are you seeking out alternative views that don’t sync with your narrative? What information/opinions are you blocking out in order to keep our own beliefs in integrity? I see myself doing this regularly. For instance, I no longer watch our President when he is speaking in a press conference. I don’t watch Fox News because “I know they are wrong”.
I see at this moment, that the dominant narrative, at least where I live, is that we need to ‘flatten the curve’, defeat this virus, by essentially sheltering in place. What is the cost of this? Why is my acupuncturist closed when he helps keep my immune system strong and resistant to this virus? Why is my dentist shuttered? Why are legal marijuana stores closed, but liquor stores are open?
I see at this moment that the dominant narrative, at least where I live, is that we need to reduce deaths at all costs. This means essentially sheltering in place. But what is the cost? What about all the people that live alone, that aren’t getting any hugs? What about all the people that have lost their jobs, that can’t work from home, that are in great fear about their financial situation? What about the increase in substance abuse that is accompanying this economic contraction? What about the inevitable increase in surveillance and tracking that is creeping in? Is it possible to look at the tradeoff, or is that just taboo? Can you let this into your point of view?
I’m partly asking myself, what is the value of a life. I believe today that the longer the economy contracts, people are out of work, social isolation leads to more mental and physical ailments (and deaths for sure), and personal freedoms are curtailed, the less I will value the lives we are saving through these measures.
Please understand, I am simply looking inside, and asking questions. I am most certainly not advocating for any particular small or large outward moves. I’m just examining inside myself and seeing how I feel and what I believe. It’s pretty confusing to tell you the truth.
What about all the people, whether alone or in a family, whose fear and hence stress levels, are higher than they have ever been?
I can let myself feel much of this, and it breaks my heart.
And on the other end, this may be a great awakening on our planet, an incredible and singular opportunity to go inside ourselves and connect much more deeply, maybe for the first time, with the ultimate love and power within each of us. Maybe these conditions are allowing a great healing to take place in us all.
Many of my colleagues believe this, and the internet is so filled with these encouragements right now. It is part of their narrative. They might be right. There is lots of evidence for this, and I believe it, much of the time. But I also hold doubts and fear. I do not know. Every day I shift.
So I ask you, what is it like to be in a state of complete unknowing??? How can you embrace ‘not knowing’. How you can surrender ever more deeply into just not knowing and not being sure of hardly anything? Is this the same thing as fear? Maybe, but maybe not.
Deep humility is good start. Deep love for yourself and for everyone you know. And small acts of love and kindness every day.
Some of what I write here was inspired by The Coronation by Charles Eisenstein which you can find here…