Living with the Unknown

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Nothing is definitively known, ever. That’s why Native Americans, in their timeless wisdom, have called life the “Great Mystery.” No matter what scientists do to try to break the code—send vehicles to Mars, create life in a test tube, photograph black holes in space—the puzzle of human existence and life and death is never really solved. Any “knowledge” we come to as a species is a shifting illusion that changes with the years and with those who are “knowing.” That’s the realm of science and the mind—and belief systems.

Then there’s religion and spirituality. Many traditional religions have explained life’s mysteries with teachings about God, each of them claiming truth and revelation. Yet those too are based in belief. Spirituality extends the parameters a bit to a wide array of perspectives and possibilities about the nature of life and Spirit. If we remain open, we enter the realm of the heart. Therein, it becomes clearer that we can never fully understand life or God; we can only experience them. Which means letting go of interpretations and searches and just living in the mystery as it unfolds.

I’ve found this to be a guiding truth over the past month on my journey with breast cancer. Each day, new information comes up to be processed, or there is a new test result to be waited for. If I try to figure it all out ahead of time or mentally project myself into all the possibilities, I get lost in the “what ifs.” And fear. Instead, I focus on the experience of each moment. That returns me to my heart. My decisions and direction arise organically from there.

My years of meditation practice have prepared me for this time. It becomes an intensive immersion in present-moment awareness. Breath by breath. And I find I don’t have to remind myself to do it. At this point in my life—and perhaps because of the nature of what I am going through—I seem to automatically remain centered in today’s experience. Tomorrow is a question mark, but today the sky is clear, the birds are singing, and I am alive. That’s all I “know.” Perhaps that’s the gift of facing a disease that is full of unknowns and can be so frightening. In order to remain centered in the calm at my center, the peace of my soul, my entire being brings me back to the present moment.

So how do you and I retain this wisdom, this calming approach, in our day-to-day lives, beyond crisis situations? Here, I think it once again becomes a practice of consciously calling yourself back to the present moment, with each breath you take. The more you do it, the more ingrained it becomes in your consciousness. Gradually, you release your hold on the “need to know” outcomes and relax into living with the unknown, accepting each experience as it arises and letting go into the next one. This is the natural flow of spirit in life. If you allow it, it will carry you effortlessly through the endless vacillations of life. You feel every emotion as it arises but never lose your connection to the inner peace that lives at your core. In this way, the unknown becomes your faithful companion, instead of your adversary, on life’s journey.

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