On January 13, 2016 I was a little lost. I was close to broke, the business I was working for hadn’t paid me in three months, and I was sitting in the first training session of life coach training.
We were asked to write what we wanted to gain from the course over the next 6 months on the back of our name tags. I wrote, “to accept the ‘I don’t know.'”
I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know what will happen in the future, and I don’t know what the past means.
I don’t know if what I’m doing is the right thing to do, and I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I don’t know and I don’t know where I am going.
I don’t know what my passion is.
I don’t know if I care.
What I did know is that uncertainty was spinning me into a stationary vortex of unknowing. I wasn’t getting anywhere. I had to get out. I had to find home.
But, I had to get lost first.
January 11, 2014. On a staircase in a Costa Rican jungle, I sat down and buried my head into my hands. I was lost and I had given up. I was a boy without direction. I was a boy without a home. “I just don’t know.” And I need help. I was never good at asking for help, but here I am away from home, alone, lost. I spiraled deeper into the unknowingness of my mind.
Then a hand tapped my right shoulder. I turned to see a mustachioed Australian yogi, hair in a bun, wearing a look that understood where I was.
He told me that when we are lost we can go to the fire and release the thoughts and emotions that are holding us. I didn’t understand. I just wanted help.
“Come ,come.” He said, acknowledging that this lost boy needed guidance.
We went to the bonfire. Others, dressed in white, lay around gazing at the crystalline clear night sky, and the silver jungle valley below.
He grabbed tobacco from a pouch by the fire, placed it in his hand, and tossed it into the fire.
He instructed me, “place what is in your mind onto the tobacco, and cast it into the fire.”
I placed tobacco in my hand. But, I didn’t know. And that was it.
I beamed the I don’t know into the tobacco piled on my palm. All of it. I don’t know anything, I don’t know what to feel, I don’t know where home is. I just don’t know. I placed all the unknowing into the tobacco and cast it into the flames. The tobacco caught fire and its embers rose into the night sky.
Freedom. I was instantly relieved. I saw my mind’s eye move from the head, to my heart and felt love. The thinking world dissolved and I was connected with love, and gratitude. I smiled deeply. No words were exchanged. A woman next to me must have felt this heart opening, too. She laughed approvingly.
It was the first moment in my life that I understood what it meant to get of your head, and into your heart.
“If you’re in your head, you’re dead.” That night I found home. I found life.
I encountered my enemy that resides in the mind. The enemy that will call me a coward, weak, and unworthy. The enemy that wants me to be lost and homeless. The enemy that wants me to walk blindly through a maze of unknowing.
It’s an enemy that will not go away, but an enemy that had been named.
3 years after the jungle awakening and 2 years after writing “I don’t know” on the back of my nametag, I battle the enemy daily. Steven Pressfield calls this enemy ‘Resistance’, others call it Writer’s Block, and others might call it the dragon within. No matter what, it is an illusion. And it’s wrong if I give it a reason to be wrong.
In this challenge I learned that I must accept that the more I know, the less I will know. Stay curious, because what I don’t know grows in direct proportion to what I do know.
Stay fluid. Knowledge must be fluid and transparent. When it is held into concrete form it leaves a shadow of unknowing where our shadow self can hide and grow more confident.
What we know today is a stepping stone to greater knowledge tomorrow. To continue we must only focus on the next step. Some steps will lead to a trip, other to a fall, and we won’t know the result until the step is taken.
With the wisdom of many steps comes the wisdom of the best step; the wisdom to see which path is new and which one rhymes.
Life is a journey with a certain end – death – and an uncertain beginning: birth.
The journey in between, the process, is our life. Take a step. Learn. Take another step. Grow. Take yet another. Love.
I don’t know what I don’t know. And that’s okay.