“I don’t know” is such a fascinating phrase. It has so many uses: some good, some bad. We use it in so many different scenarios to express different things, and at times, it can offer such a profound statement of truth that it makes your brain swirl. But I think it’s important to begin to pay attention to how you use it. There are all kinds of sayings about learning to know what you don’t know. And of course, it’s a very powerful thing to know what you truly know–what you truly understand. And furthermore, it’s a great big issue when you don’t know that you don’t know. You know? 🙂

So, here’s a blog post off into the world of knowing and not knowing and some ways to view it and understand yourself.

Several Underlying Uses of “I Don’t Know”

Below are a couple of the core reasons we say these three particular words.

  1. Lack of information. There’s a topic that we aren’t sufficiently informed about, so we don’t know the answer. Example: How much rocket fuel does a spaceship need to get to the moon? I don’t know.
  2. Avoidance of doing something that feels difficult. Very quickly, “I don’t know” becomes about avoiding something. Example: Should I stay with my abusive spouse? I don’t know.
  3. Statement of truth. On a very deep level, there’s a lot that we never really know. The mind tries to put everything into a comfortable category and structure, but even driving to work each day brings with it new-ness and unexpected happenings. Example: How long will it take you to get to work? I don’t know because what if there’s a car wreck?
  4. Avoidance of your obligation to yourself. This is a particularly interesting one. Similar to the second one on the list, “I don’t know” gets used a lot as a way to avoid what we actually do know. Usually, it’s because we don’t like the answer. Example: How long will this awakening last? or What do I love to do? I don’t know (In truth, you often do know these answers when you listen quietly to your inner knowing, but I don’t know is often a way of saying you don’t like the answer).

Step One: Releasing and Relaxing Your Mind

For many of you who are still trying to act like you know everything, “I don’t know” is a powerful initial mantra. No, you don’t know what is a good stock investment. No, you don’t know how this relationship will work out. No, you don’t even know that the sun will rise in the morning–this could be the day when it decides to go supernova, and kablammy. We live in a world where every day and every moment is a chance for rebirth, and just about the time we forget that, something happens. Kerplewy! You’ve got appendicitis. You thought you knew that today was a regular work day and you’d go to Monday Night Football with your buddies, but instead, you’re sucking down apple sauce in a hospital bed and living on cloud nine from whatever painkiller they just gave you.

Inherit to step one is saying that you don’t know what is going to happen in the external world, and surprisingly enough, your body is part of that external world. Anyone with nerve damage knows that the body is pretty separate from us. Your mind can tell you to lift an arm, but without the nerves working appropriately, it can’t move. That’s part of the difficulties many people have with aging. They thought that they “knew” their bodies, and in many ways, they thought they had control of them. Then, things stop working. Many people get very angry, but it’s best to let go and say, “I don’t know how long my body will work.”

Step 2: Humility and Living Within the Unknown

I’ve found that the more I give myself to the unknown of the external world, the more empowered I am. It may seem like a contradiction, but really, I’m wasting so much less energy trying to force the world into a place of predictability and safety. I’m wasting so much less energy trying to convince myself that I have any clue about what’s going on. It’s a very humbling space to be in, but it is not a stupid one. You are not giving up any of the powers of your intellect. In many ways, you’re breaking down a lot of projections that you’re putting on the world, which heightens your perceptive abilities.

For instance, you always knew that the couple down the street would be married forever, and then one day they get a divorce. You’re really confused. For some reason, it blows up your whole ideas about what couples will have long-term marriages. But really, you’ve just had a projection get blown up, and you’re being forced to admit how much you don’t know. Especially in terms of the future, there’s so little that we can even really know, and when we no longer try to fit things into an intellectual framework, we actually see situations more clearly since each one is unique and individual to itself no matter how similar it appears to other ones.

Step 3: Claiming Your Knowing

But at the heart of this, we’re claiming a different kind of knowing. We’re claiming our inner knowing. Our inner knowing can be very clear, and this is where “I don’t know” is a cop-out or avoidance of our truth and what we’re here to do. In this way, those 3 little words are the ways that we are scared and hiding from ourselves. Many people say that they don’t know what work they love to do, what relationships they like, and so forth. But you do. You really do. You are just afraid of the consequences. Perhaps you actually think that you know what the consequences are, which shows just how confused people are in the world. So on the one hand, you say you don’t know what’s in your heart, and on the other hand, you’re afraid to follow your heart because you think something bad will happen. But you have no idea what will happen, and only you can ever know what’s in your heart and soul. We are such a mixed up people. We absolutely have to claim our knowing of ourselves. And in this space we have to let go of the phrase, “I don’t know.”

Step 4: Allowing Your Knowing to Emerge

I’m not going to tell you that your deepest knowing will emerge over night just because you said, “I’ve decided to know myself.” I mean maybe it will. Anything is possible, and spirituality doesn’t require time. Awakening to your true knowing doesn’t require time. It comes in the moment when you fully let go of all the crap that you’ve got standing in the way. So, it can come at any time, but while you’re here, maybe it’s time to starting digging out the garbage. Maybe it’s time to look at all the ways you’ve given up on yourself and sold out what you know is right to do for what is convenient, socially expected, or seemingly safe. This is part of all the spiritual work that I’m constantly talking about, and certainly as you tune into that knowing that’s always been there, you’re going to find more work to do to live in integrity with God and yourself.

Step 5: The Balance of the Known and Unknown

Eventually, we work towards a balance of the known and unknown. It becomes clearer and clearer what we can know and what we can’t know. This is a powerful place of being, and it helps us go a long way towards living in integrity with ourselves and in the fullness of the present moment. If you fully know that anything can happen, doesn’t it make following your heart that much easier? I hear lots of people say, “Well, I’d love to do this, but that can’t make me any money.” And truly money isn’t even at issue. At stake is the sense of safety and survival that money offers, but what if that’s all a lie?

And it is.

You have no idea if doing this thing you love will or won’t make money until you do it. Certainly, there are no guarantees, but most of us are living in an illusion of safety anyway. Like I mentioned with appendicitis, there are so many ways the lives that we think are safe aren’t safe at all, and if we are really miserable in this “safe” life, what kind of life is that to lead anyway?

So I encourage all of you to trust your own inner knowing. I encourage you to go inside and delve into that space to find your own truth, and meanwhile, I encourage you to let go of trying to know or predict the outside world. It is always changing, which is exactly why there’s always an opportunity to manifest that which you know is truest to you and your life purpose. With so much change and energy in the air, anything truly is possible, but you already know that, don’t you?


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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