Not Knowing

We often hold identities, beliefs, and opinions too tightly. This gripping closes our minds and hearts, and we’re unable to connect.

I recall an exercise from a meditation teacher. She asked yes-or-no questions about identities. Are you a daughter? Are you a teacher? Are you a Democrat/Republican? Internally, if I scream “yes” or “no,” then I’m holding too tightly (or resisting just as tightly). Her invitation was to move toward “I don’t know.” It’s not that I don’t know if I’m a daughter, but the not “knowing” provides some lightness—some ease within my heart.

I have a strong sense of “yes” when asked if I’m a teacher. It’s an identity I’ve occupied my entire adult life. Still, if it’s my sole identity or if I grip it in a controlling way, I’m ineffective. When I release my grip, I connect more naturally and teaching flows.

This exercise came back to me as I sit with the question: Who am I if I’m not helping someone? It’s my calling to help and serve with presence and compassion. Yet it’s also a place of depletion, especially if it’s conflated with my worthiness. Some days, the person who most needs my care and attention is me. My clinched identity wonders: Is this okay? My teacher would encourage me to “not know.” Who am I if I’m not helping someone? I don’t know. I’m worthy and I’m not a big deal. I help people and they help me. I’m everyone and no one at the same time. And it’s all okay.