Road to nowhere

Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out

Talking Heads

August was a month of searching. Returning from a few weeks away, my head was clear, my soul revived, I returned to Melbourne, confident that I was about to step into a new era, a new experience of who I was, who I was becoming. And then…………….nothing. Nada. Stillness. Wondering. Questions. Doubt. Get my drift?

Why is it so damn challenging to live the questions? To live in the not knowing? Oh, there is a question in itself! But seriously, it seems as a society we all just want the answer. Like just tell me how to do what I need to get done, and then problem solved. The how to process, the quick fix, the feeling of certainty when we have an answer and we can complete, conclude, finish something. But you know, I am slowly getting used to the experience of not having the answer. It’s kind of threatening, isn’t it. Not having a resolution, being in the dark, having to say to someone “I don’t know”. It kills our strongly entrenched desire for control and predictability. Like we are on some treadmill of collecting answers, and the experience of uncertainty, or living in the question is unbearable.

So, let’s say that you read this and you’re like, yeah! I get your drift. I am going to dedicate my day tomorrow to living in the question. So you do this, and what do you know, you stumble across an answer that you weren’t even looking for. Aha, you exclaim, that is the trick isn’t it. As soon as I stop looking for the answer, it reveals itself to me. Yes, good, certainty again, now I can be on my way.

But hang on. Did we just agree to a 24hr period of living the question? So okay, you have an answer, but what about what the answer doesn’t reveal? What would it be like to find an answer, pause there, and be willing to look beyond the answer into  what you have not yet seen? Would that be possible? To keep living in the realm of inquiry, even though we ‘think’ we have found an answer?

Man, there is so much out there to continue to be amazed and in awe of. It’s like, each time I chip away at something I think is a certainty, like, I don’t really want to go out on another date with that guy cause I know he isn’t the one for me……..something shows up that completely surprises me. The guy turns into the best thing that has ever happened to you, the job interview you didn’t want to go on because you presumed you were under qualified, leads you into a conversation that opens another avenue, the regular dialogue with your partner, kids, parents, friends, co workers becomes a new experience as you re learn how to actually listen, rather than presuming you know who these people are and what they are going to say.

Hooray, life opens up into that big mystery again. We get good at intentional listening. Listening from the heart which creates space and new possibilities. Are you willing to give this a try. Like have a conversation with someone, and catch yourself each time you fall into the trap of judging what they are saying, preparing what you will say next, or even just zoning out because you have decided that you don’t need to hear what is being said. It takes guts, it takes effort, and it takes a complete willingness to not be in control. There is a lot to learn when we aren’t in control. This will be the obstacle to living the question, weakening your control muscles so you can strengthen your don’t know ones.

You know, the most powerful place we can be in our lives is to be in the courage of asking the question ‘What am I not seeing that is limiting me’. Yes, you might have to face some things you have been avoiding by remaining in charge, but the reward of facing what needs to be faced, giving up what needs to be given up and being a yes to what’s next is well worth it.

So this is the challenge from this musing. To give up our need to know what is next and just get curious to what is unfolding, even if you have no idea where it is taking you.

May the force be with you

2 Responses

  1. suzie says:

    Hi Michelle.
    I loved what you had to say and agree with you totally about our need to ‘control’ and the fear associated with being in the ‘not knowing’. And thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    I thought I would respond to your blog today because all of what you have said resonates deeply with me and it may be helpful to hear other peoples stories.
    As you know, I have attended a number of your workshops over the past number of years and attended 2 in the mentorship series and have absolutely loved your work. Thank you!

    I started yoga in October 2008 and did my yoga teacher training in July 2013 in order to deepen my practice only. In December 2010, I travelled to Cambodia and Vietnam which was the first trip overseas for decades. I came back feeling utterly exhilarated and determined to change everything about my life and knowing exactly where I was going…

    But nothing really changed until 2013 when I was offered a redundancy and grabbed it as an opportunity to change the landscape and take a leap of faith into the unknown and “jump off the cliff” which is what I said in my farewell speech.

    I believe that yoga definitely allowed me to take this risk as yoga teaches us to ‘let go’ and ‘be open to life’s possibilities. Irrespective of the redundancy, I probably would have remained in the job prior to 2008 as it was inculcated into me by my parents that you never give up a secure job!
    As a secondary English teacher of 38 years, you could say that being in control has been central to my life, not just at work, but beyond as well.

    Subsequently, I moved into the world of yoga to teach and have faced significant challenges and experienced many disappointments. Additionally, I am frequently in a precarious financial position as the redundancy was not substantial but happily, I am less stressed than I can remember in a long time and life has opened up with so many opportunities since leaving my full time work.
    All of this has allowed me to fully accept that I can’t control anything much at all and that I have had to accept that I will not always get any explanations or answers.

    The best thing of all and the reason for writing to you is to say that I really have learned to be comfortable with the not knowing and feel privileged to be in this state. I don’t feel afraid, regretful about my decision to leave fulltime, well paid, secure work or anxious about the future. I live much more in the present, have really let go of the past and love where I am at.

    As human beings we do want all the answers- my students used to say this to me all the time because they couldn’t be bothered thinking. We want certainty, answers and explanations to all that arises and a sense that we are in control so that we can feel safe.

    We are not content to just ‘be’ but constantly strive, grasp, cling etc – so exhausting! And of course every body is exhausted – in big cities we can feel like hamsters on the treadmill. We know all this as yogis of course and it is wonderful these days to see so many more people giving into the ‘just being’ concept and practising yoga.

    So everyday, I monitor my thoughts consciously to see when I begin to slip into judgement or narrow thinking mode, and in addition, accepting of the not knowing state and relinquishing the need to control. This has been the biggest teacher ever for me and the lesson I finally needed to get as ‘it’ has dominated my relationships with family, friends, colleagues etc. for as long as I can remember. Having said that, it is easy to slip back into the control mode unconsciously but mindfulness make it less likely.

    All of this is remarkably freeing – the veil of ignorance is lifted and there is no going back! Yay!

    Many of us don’t know how free we can be and that giving ourselves over to the mystery of life can be liberating in so many unforeseen ways.
    So even though I can say this, each day, today I still need to ask myself the question that you pose above and that is ‘what is it that I am not seeing that is limiting me’? Unconscious negative thinking can be so damaging if we don’t check in with ourselves regularly.

    Best wishes and I hope all goes well with the wonderful effort and work that you continue to share with your students and the wider yoga community in Melbourne Michelle.



    • Thanks so much for sharing your journey Suzie x
      Gives us all a great example of how we can leap into the unknown and develop greater trust and faith in how all things are unfolding
      Big namaste
      Michelle xx

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