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The Freedom of Not-Knowing



"Not-knowing is true knowledge.

Presuming to know is a disease.

First realize that you are sick;

then you can move toward health."


Tao Te Ching



One of the hardest things for many people to admit is that they don't know. For instance; do you really know what will happen tomorrow, let alone next year? Do you really know what will unfold in your life for even the rest of this day? Haven't we all been suddenly thrust into situations that we never saw coming - the loss of a job, the end of a relationship or a world-wide pandemic? Situations that leave us shaken and starkly aware that life can often take the most unexpected twists and turns, events that remind us that we simply don't know what's coming next and don't have the control that we thought we had. And yet, one of the most difficult things for the human ego (the voice in our head) to admit, is that we don't really know what is going to happen - ever.


Perhaps you have been in a situation where there was a discussion about something that you knew little or next-to-nothing about, yet you found yourself giving an opinion as if you were an expert on the topic. Someone asks you a question about this subject and instead of simply saying, "I Don't Know", you carry on as if you know exactly what is being discussed, instead of just listening and learning. The point is - if we are honest - we really dislike being in a position of admitting that we don't know.


Yet many sages and saints have said that being in the space of 'not-knowing' (as in, knowing that we don't know), is actually the highest space we can live in. And the miracle of being willing to admit that we don't know what will happen next, leads us to the one place where we know exactly what is happening, the place where we can find stability and surety at every turn. Of course, that 'place' is right Now. Notice? Wherever you are as you read this is directly knowable to your experience, and is as real as your life is ever going to get. The surroundings your sitting in, your body, your breath, the screen that you're reading this on - all of this is happening right Now, and is known directly as the reality of your life. There's nothing else. In fact, nothing else can really be known. Everything else is conjecture and speculation; what will happen next week, your plans for next year, your projections of the future - all of these are fantasies playing in your mind, and none of them are real. The only thing that is actually 'real' is what is happening right Now.


When you see the truth of this, you begin to free yourself from the constant illusions of the wandering mind, and live an awakened life. What are you 'awakened' too? The Present Moment - which is all there ever is, and will ever be. When you begin to realize, and admit that you have no idea what is going to happen next (how can you, when its simply a projection of your mind?), you begin to be fully alive in the one space that you can know, and in which your whole life will unfold: the Here and Now.


Zen Master Seung Sahn (teacher of Stephen Mitchell, who is the author of a very powerful translation of the Tao Te Ching), constantly told his students to keep, 'Don't-Know Mind'. He invited them too, "Just keep the Great Question, Who Am I......Don't Know!" What he meant by this was, knowing who we are has nothing to do with the thoughts in our head - with the story in our mind. Who we really are is the Infinite Silence and Spaciousness that we fall into at the end of the question. A silence beyond any need to define ourselves with thoughts or concepts. Try it now; bring the question, 'Who Am I' to your mind, and instead of trying to answer with more thinking, let the question be enough - let the question dissolve into the Silence of your own Being; into the power and realization of the Don't-Know Mind.

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