The Yoga of Not Knowing

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I recently discussed the concepts of the “unknown,” or “uncertainty,” with a group of teens at the public high school where I teach yoga and meditation (through the Lineage Project). Admittedly, it’s a rather heavy concept to discuss with youth, but their thoughtful answers never fail to wow me.

When asked how they respond to uncertainty in their own lives, several of them spoke about the ability to connect to a “knowingness,” or sense of inner trust, and a willingness to believe that, no matter what, everything is actually okay. One especially bright student offered this wisdom: “I work hard so that the unknown can become known to me.”

Impressive, right? The fact that these teens, with all they face in this vastly uncertain world, can tap into such a deep and intuitive sense of strength gives me hope. And hope, as one of my favorite teachers likes to say, “…is the experience of welcoming the uncertain in your life.”

What we know pales in comparison to what we don’t. The unknown surrounds us. It’s in the face of every stranger we pass, it lingers inside every bus, car, train, and plane we ride, and it lies beside us each evening as we drift off to sleep. It’s there when we form a new partnership, start a new job or creative endeavor. It’s certainly there when we start a family, bringing children into this world, as many of my friends are doing.

There’s no getting over on it. It’s a clear and simple fact of human existence. A fact that we can either resist, learn to tolerate, or welcome completely. I vote for the latter.

Just like the teens, I want to cultivate a sense of inner trust, and I want to allow the unknown, through perseverance and practice, to become known.

The question is, How? How can we learn to welcome what we don’t know, to trust what we can’t yet see, and actually be comfortable in that uncertainty?

I humbly offer what I call the “Yoga of Not Knowing.”

Each time we step on our mat, there’s no outline, no script, no prescription for how you should feel or what you should experience, in my view anyway. I’ve found that there is great value in coming to the mat with as little expectation as possible and learning, in the moment, to be present to whatever arises, be it emotional or experiential. This teaches us to trust our instincts, and to breathe and participate in an ever-­unfolding process. It also teaches us to cocreate, rather than control that process.

Once we get good at this, at participating in our own awareness, then the practice truly becomes one continuous meditation. A meditation that allows us to slowly, over time, build deep inner reserves of steadiness, trust, resilience, clarity, knowingness, and yes… hope.

The same favorite yoga teacher that I mentioned earlier often reminds me that the point of all of this is not to meditate “better” or finally nail that handstand (though that would be an added bonus). The point is to get better at living your life with skill, courage, and grace.

I think this is what my student was referring to, bright young man that he is. By practicing the “Yoga of Not Knowing,” and participating fully with dedication and curiosity, we slowly learn to navigate the endless sea of uncertainty, eventually swimming our way to the solid shore of knowing.

Of course this is just a theory, albeit one I’ve been practicing for some time, so don’t take my word for it. Try it on for size, try getting good at not knowing for awhile, welcome the waves of uncertainty, and live your way into the answers you seek.