Not knowing is a skill. We can not-know in ways that destroy us. We can not-know in ways that just keep the balance. Or we can become spiritual athletes of not knowing. That’s the Path of Endarkenment.
I’d love for you to take the time to notice, compassionately, from whatever your starting point is: How are your unknowing skills? How’s your sitting in the dark? Where are you on the Path of Endarkenment?
If you are someone for whom certainty is very comfortable, and even admitting that the unknown is all around us is difficult, you may benefit from spending a little more time with “Okay, can I take a really deep breath and say ‘I don’t know’ a few times, and see if I can sink to the bottom of the inner ocean?”
Note, judgmentalness solidifies things. So if you’d like to stop your healing, and stop your progress, and just solidify it exactly where it is right now, judge yourself for that—and there you will be. There you will stay. Judgment makes everything solidify.
If, however, you’d prefer to visit it in its liquid state, so that it can keep flowing with the waters, then bring compassion to it. Whatever it is, it’s a starting point. It’s a beginning. And when we bring compassion to it, it begins to flow.
If you are someone who has a tendency to go into the unknown rather easily and begin to drown, then some candle-lighting practice is likely to be helpful. I make the offer of the advice to start with things so trivial that you might not have even thought of starting there in your quest for certainty.
Like for instance, are you wearing clothing right now? Are you sure? Double check. Are you wearing clothing? Would you stake your life on it, that you actually are wearing clothing? Check it out.
Go up to one of the doors in your house and ask yourself, “Is this a door? Is it really a door? Can I believe in my sense that this is actually a door?” and then go open it. Find out, is it a door? And then stand there in your natural healthy certainty that yes, it’s a door. I know that this is a door.
This may sound ridiculous, but it is absolutely not ridiculous. If we haven’t experienced healthy certainty in a long time, we may have difficulty trusting our own certainty about anything. This can happen especially when we have witnessed a lot of people acting certain about opinions as though they are realities. This can make certainty itself seem unappealing, or suspect—but we need certainty the way we need bones. It just has to be healthy certainty, and we can develop that by returning to what is truly certain, beyond opinion or doubt.
Start with what you are really certain about, like, is that a living plant? Or is it a plastic one? Do what you need to do, to get clear about it. Then feel what it feels like in your body to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is not a plastic plant.
Often we need to tune up our certainty detector with the pitch pipes of some very simple certainties. Sometimes our bodies forget what certainty even feels like. That’s the drowning-in-the-unknown feeling. So retrieve your certainty detector, not with great philosophical propositions but with stuff like, “Is the candle lit, or not? Am I sure? How does that feel in my body to be sure that I have not lit this candle, as I’m looking right at it?”
This is a neuro-endocrine feedback loop (otherwise known as a spiritual practice) by which we develop our capacity to know what certainty feels like in our body, in our spirit — and then it’s much easier to recognize the other things that we actually do know, even in the dark.
To learn more about healthy winter darkness, explore Thea’s winter/Water seasonal resources.
To join the discussion, find us on my Perennial Medicine discussion listserv (all are welcome).