A few years ago, we were briefly and mysteriously adopted by a dog on the steep hike down into the Waipio Valley. He appeared out of nowhere and patiently walked 20 feet ahead of us the whole time, glancing back expectantly from time to time. Sometimes he would lie down in a muddy pool, lapping water until we caught up. Why he chose to walk with us, we'll never know - after all, we didn't have any food. It's an experience we'll always remember because of the beauty of not knowing, and the accompanying sense of wonder.
I'm inspired by a recent Just One Thing post to try a new practice this week: to not know. Our brains love to categorize. It's the most fundamental way to impart a sense of order on an otherwise chaotic world - and certainly, it has benefits. Ultra-rapid, subconscious information processing allows for faster reaction times, and historically for humans, those few seconds could have been the difference between life and death. It's no wonder that we often take cognitive shortcuts to quickly understand what's going on around us.
Unfortunately, like many shortcuts, these can come back to bite (well-documented and extensively studied in cognitive psychology). We jump to conclusions so quickly, we often have no clue why we arrived there. We automatically think we know what we're capable of, what we want, and what others want. We're faster, but ironically limited, trapped in an invisible cage of our long-held assumptions and beliefs - about ourselves and about others. Both are equally important and equally limiting.
Challenge yourself this week by questioning one assumption you hold about yourself, and one assumption you hold about someone else - perhaps someone you find difficult. Are you really sure your assumptions are accurate? What does it feel like to not know?
Personally, it feels good not to know - I feel lighter and more connected to others and the world around me. After all, how much do humans really know? The more we know, the more we don't know. Not knowing - and questioning - is the basis of scientific advancement. In the personal realm, consciously not knowing is a great way to avoid the rabbit hole of defensiveness and hostility when faced with an affront. With thorough examination, each and every person is simply human, with essentially the same underlying psychological wants and needs. Exploration breeds compassion, which is healthy for yourself, and for others.
So this week, I'll be reflecting on my assumptions about myself and others, questioning them and following them out to their practical effects. In doing so, I hope to gain more insight into the true nature of life around me, and to enjoy the freedom and lightness that follows.
I hope you have a wonderful week, filled with the openness of not knowing.
Thanks for reading,