Dear Why Team member,
I hope you are growing in unexpected ways - not just “going” through this time of quarantine, but as Dr. Kevin Elko often says, “‘growing’ through it.”
The past few years, have brought me a number of teachers, authors, and coaches to inform me in the area of the unknown and, more specifically, the importance of our relationship to it. First off, when we develop a relationship, we become familiar with that something or someone. But familiar is the opposite of unknown, so how can we get familiar with the unknown that can create so much anxiety?
For many people, rather than have an exploring attitude that is open to gain understanding from what is arising from the unknown and is new, they are quick to judge and force what’s new into old familiar stories. Apparently, for many, whether the story is true or not doesn’t really matter, what matters is that they feel they have some control over whatever new thing is happening. It’s why the tongue-in-cheek saying “that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” even though it may not be agreed upon, is so quickly understood by most people. But is this an optimal way to respond to that which arises from the unknown; especially that which can arrive so dramatically and way outside our expectations?
Recently I wrote about the power of aligning expectations with reality; this week is an invitation to consider your relationship with the unknown. Consider noticing how quickly you may be to judge. Do you find yourself quickly jumping to conclusions, say in conversations before someone has finished speaking? Try to notice if you do and, especially if it happens with all conversations or only when you converse with certain people, people you’ve become familiar with- your immediate family or very close friends. How we interact with each other, provides a clue into our relationship with the unknown; our interrupting reflects an inability to wait and a need to be in the know. Not only can we not know another person completely, but we also cannot, of course, fully know what they may be conveying to us if we haven’t the patience to listen. I am fascinated, for example, by those who will jump to the end of a book because they can’t wait to learn how it will end. How about those who try to figure out what’s in a gift-wrapped Christmas present prior to the Holiday Celebration.
On my adventure for greater understanding, Matt Walker, my climbing guide, once said something that really stood out for me:
“It is in the unknown, that we find all of our possibilities.”
So began, for me, a fascination with the unknown and my relationship to it. The ancient philosophy of Yen and Yang has provided more insight, specifically via some teaching from Dr. Jordan B. Peterson; Yin is the dark side, representing the unknown, where new creations and possibilities emerge. Yang is the light side, representing what is in the light and known. Dr. Peterson speaks to the optimal life being one that walks the line between the two: one foot in the known and one foot in the unknown.
While the unknown includes possibilities, it also includes our eventual physical death. Is it any wonder that we fear the unknown, especially when it can loom particularly large at a time such as this?
Consider how you are walking the line between the known and unknown. I think we all have a part of us that wishes to run from the dark and sit in the light, but apparently, this may not be the optimal way to live; anxiety can steal our joy and rob us of initiative. How may we live a more functional, rather than dysfunctional, relationship with the unknown?
Consider how boring life would be without the unknown. The unknown keeps life interesting, fascinating. We grow by exploring. Of course, the known helps us to establish order, but it’s the unknown that calls us to higher ground, it’s the unknown that challenges and will challenge us. It is from the unknown that we create and remake. You are far more capable than you realize, and what will emerge from the unknown will awaken you to this truth.
To improve your relationship with the unknown, consider paying more attention to the wonderful things that emerge from it; adding daily to a gratitude list is a great way to increase your awareness of all the positives arising from the unknown. As very young children, we were not afraid of the unknown, but rather very curious, excited, and filled with wonder. How may you reignite that approach to life today?
These past few months have presented us with a great deal from the unknown; so much of our established order has been rocked, and at times it feels like both feet are in the unknown. Rest assured, we will find firmer footing for at least one foot in the know while the other will continue to create and grow us from all the unknown that is to come.
Consider your current relationship with the unknown and what more you could do to improve it. The unknown will certainly be with you the rest of your life, why not be more inviting toward it. It is ironic that our possibilities reside in the very place that is at the source of our greatest anxieties. It is up to us to direct our focus on that which will most serve us and others rather than limit us. We have plenty of automatic resources that will emerge to address the dangers, why not be more consciously fascinated and curious about the gifts life will bring, and with more attention, we might just be more open to see them.
Alexander Graham Bell once said something you have likely heard:
“When one door closes, another door opens,” I find it fascinating that the second part of his aphorism is rarely shared: “but we look so longingly at the door that closed, we miss the ones that open.”
This week and beyond, consider less focus on the closed doors and more focus on the opportunities emerging out of the exciting and limitless unknown, knowing that this too shall pass and leave us no doubt all the more appreciative for the lives we are so privileged to live.
Make it a great week!