The unknown scares that crap out of most of us. We have all become professionals at managing our fear of this looming little void. We become incessant planners, scenario prep artists, masters of schedules, and more. Yet all these skills can’t keep us safe. We end up giving the unknown our power by being afraid of it, by losing sleep and sweating the things we can’t control. You see, the unknown is unavoidable, and it’s with us all the time. It lives in every moment of every breath. In fact, we do ourselves a great disservice by trying to keep it at bay. If we were more related to this element of life, we would probably cherish our moments with loved ones more, choose connection over being right, chew more slowly and allow ourselves to taste our food with more passion, say I love you with all our presence behind it… it would humble us, reminding us that we are not ever really in control, and open us to the magic of life and our gratitude for it.
You see, the unknown lives on the other side of control. And all of us, without exception, have faced the unknown this year. How have you done? Did you grip more tightly, or learn to let go? Did you try to keep things on course, or did you allow yourself to listen for ingenuity, creativity, and new insight while in the empty space? That beautiful potentiality that allows us to expand beyond our familiar known landscape and stretch ourselves toward new and unexplored horizons… that is also the unknown.
Being afraid of the unknown is normal. Let me just say that. In primal eras, the “known” was safe and the “unknown” was dangerous. Our brains are wired to fear the unknown and it’s that neurological wiring that has kept our species alive. However, as food, shelter, and belonging become aspects of life most of us take for granted (not all, but most), the idea of the unknown becomes an emotional, mental, and spiritual invitation. It becomes an invitation for personal growth.
After years of exploring this space called the unknown, I have come to learn one thing for sure: when I am face to face with it, I know I am on the precipice of transformation. But it wasn’t always like this. I have resisted it with all of my might, flailing in free fall, crying myself to sleep, grabbing for inspiration, pretending to be fine, spinning stories to keep me safe… Resisting the unknown, when it’s calling you, is maddening.
I recall when I was fighting Lyme Disease so many years ago, how the unknown was trying to consume me. Devour me! There was a point while I was fighting it that I finally let go. I just didn’t have the strength anymore to fight. I let it swallow me. I surrendered in exhaustion. And it was in that moment that my health began to improve. It was the first moment that my mind became quiet, the first moment that my heart beat began to find an even rhythm, the first time that I was able to see light at the end of the tunnel… I remember it like yesterday. The moment I gave myself to the unknown was the first time I began to feel peace…and possibility.
BREATHING THROUGH THE UNKNOWN
Thus, I invite us all to learn to trust this loving space. Sometimes it alerts us with a veil of fear that must be pierced. But on the other side awaits the infinitely quiet, self-generating, star lit, potential. And getting to know this potential allows us to gain something we could only have hoped for in our dreams.
In this week’s practice, I share a meditation that invites us to identify and touch the unknown through the breath. This is a meditation I offered with co-founder of Gthx: gratitude, Omar Brownson, during a Thursday night class we facilitated together.