ASK ABDI: WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY STAY IN THE UNKNOWN?
QUESTION: I am going through a deep transition with my job and relationship after dealing with some health issues. I sense my life is going to really change, like a fundamental rebirth. It is intriguing and it is piquing my curiosity. I do not know how nor am I impatient to know, but already I sense that something is growing within me. I feel like I am a plant and that sap is flowing again - to feed me and regenerate me after a long drought.
You often talk about staying in the unknown in times of deep change. Could you please explain to me what you mean? I do not want to miss its understanding, as I know it is an important message.
ANSWER: In times of deep change, it is imperative that we stay in the unknown until we are guided to what the next step is. Normally, and as a response to feelings of unsafety, we all attempt to control life by constantly planning, strategizing, and thinking about possible outcomes, and in general holding on so tightly that we strangle all life within us. This common behavior also does not allow us to pay attention to all the signs and guidance that life constantly is gifting us. So we tend to jump the gun and take actions out of anxiety, rather than knowingness, which just compounds our pains.
When we are in a rapid and/or deep transition, it is important not to be bound by old conditioning. Otherwise, we will go through the pains of external change while the internal landscape that brought suffering will stay firmly in place. We all have experienced this, where we terminate a relationship or job only to land in the same place but with different external actors. We are guided - if we can breathe through our anxiety and take a peak at what life is attempting to communicate to us. This communication can come through a moment of clarity, a deep word from an ally, a dream, or a feeling that we need to pay attention. And sometimes through a loud warning. Recently, while on a long motorcycle trip, I observed a friend staring so hard at the GPS on his handlebar that he missed a barn-sized sign for the destination we were heading to. That image is one that we all suffer from at one point or another. We so do not trust our intuition that we keep staring at the map instead of looking at the terrain and watching for signs.
So staying in the unknown means exactly that: stay with “I don’t know”. “Yes” is one mode of knowing. “No” is another mode of knowing. “I don’t know” is the third mode and as valid as the first two. It does not mean "I will never know", it just means - in this moment I am in a time of transition where old information does not apply and the new has not revealed itself yet. This fact is even more crucial given the speed and demands of change asked of us presently. We are many times not given any more direction than one step at a time. Our anxiety wants to know the destination, arrival time, the lodging, and the meal served. Yet, we are given only one or two steps at a time, exactly because our conditioning can not and is not open to more than small pieces of information at a time.
Being that we are in communion with a living system, it has its own time and rhythm for revealing what awaits next. Sometimes things are not shown immediately because we are not yet open to what is communicated because of fear or resistance. At other times, it is because a certain situation has to be completed or opened before we are informed of the next step. Again, learning to tolerate the anxiety of being in this state while paying attention to what life is communicating are the keys to being in the unknown.