When you come up against something in life which brings up the energy of “I don’t know”, what happens? how do you respond?
We all have various strategies for handling these situations, even if it is to deny that they happen to us. If someone asks you where to get a good pizza, you might get out the phone book, or look up pizza on-line. If you are a pizza lover you might have the answer already in mind. You already know that you know. This is worldly or external certainty. Some people might go inside and intuitively find an answer there. They know that they know even when they don’t know. This is inner certainty.
Perhaps you are looking for a good auto mechanic, ie, both capable and reasonably priced. The stakes are higher and the process of looking is probably more complex and feels less certain or riskier. You are likely to ask friends or seek personal recommendations of some sort. You may or may not use your intuition to screen these recommendations, but the noise from the ego, worried about the consequences of a wrong answer will make it more challenging to hear yourself clearly.
When we are in the place of “I don’t know” we often invalidate ourselves. There is a voice that says, but you should know, what’s wrong with you, etc. There is fear about a wrong answer, anxiety about what happens if you make the wrong choice, and the mind is off to the races. The mind’s job is to know the answer, and the more important the answer is the more invalidated and fearful it will be if it doesn’t.
When you are in the place of “I don’t know”, if it brings up doubt, fear, or invalidation, you are vulnerable. Lots of people will offer answers, and they are almost always carrying more invalidation. This may be obvious and harsh, or kindly and subtle, but in any case they reinforce the belief that we are not enough in some sense, that others are better, know more, or are more capable.
You can go to the place of “I don’t know” and be OK there! be fearless, neutral, certain in a deeper way. We are taught that certainty is external, in knowing the answers, ego certainty. There is a deeper certainty of the soul that knows we are alright even when, for the moment, we are without answers and “don’t know”.
Consider larger life issues, relationships, career moves, or spiritual questions. With them it is probably even harder to be neutral. If you ask the world for answers you’ll get lots of them: other people’s answers, which may or may not be yours, and mostly come with at least implicit invalidation. Try my answer; do it this way; I know better. You are even more lost, off balance and out of your center. If the ego takes on this information as its own truth when it isn’t, then there is yet another level of invalidation. Part if you knows that you are off course, you feel this and its not comfortable, but the ego’s fear saying you need some answer makes it hard to let this one go.
With practice you can cultivate the response, that you do know, then ask what it is that you know. Cultivate the inner resources of your being. Cultivate the trust and certainty to hear and receive these answers. Validate your own Self, and know that as a being you are OK, and only temporarily in the space of “I don’t know”. Find the deeper soul certainty even when you have lost egoic/mental certainty.
Dropping into your heart and calming the mind, finding your certainty and trust in Self, ask what do I know? In the end it may still be to find the pizza place in the phone book, if that is the issue. It may be to ask a friend, but you can receive the answer without invalidation, and feel into its usefulness, or let it pass if it is their answer but not yours.
When you are in the place of “I don’t know”, find yourself first; drop into your heart, know that you are OK, calm the paniced ego, know that you do know your answers, and ask what they are and where they are. Be open then to how they show up, but without fear and you will find them cleanly and with clear discrimination. When you can validate yourself in the midst of external uncertainty you are cultivating your internal certainty. These days we all need as much of that as we can remember. It is a much better place to find answers from.