Go Into Nothingness
What we know, and what CAN be known by us, are universes apart. What we know, can be encapsulated inside a sphere of knowledge: the total of all we have learned academically, plus all we have learned through experiencing. At some point along our growing lives, we did create a ‘capsule’. We learned enough to satisfy us that we know certain things, even know a lot about certain things. There is no sudden moment for this to happen, our knowledge and experiences gradually harden over time, into a gelled ‘I know this much’ feeling. Yes, we still learn new things each day, but there is a difference between how we learned when we were children, and how we learn now.
When we were children, we were wide open. New experiences were the unknown. We were not taking new things and pulling them back into us, trying to fit them into the understandings we already have inside us; when we were children we DISSOLVED inside, we gave ourselves up and went wide-eyed and openly into the new and unknown. We allowed what we already knew to become formless, so we could explore into each unknown. We dissolved as we went into it, rather than trying to pull it into us. We kept dissolving our borders, growing outward to experience another newness, and then another, and yet another. The reason children learn things so quickly compared to adults is because they give themselves into each new situation. GIVE themselves up. They let what they know fall apart, put it in limbo, while all their senses open wide to explore into this new thing.
The reason adults learn so slowly compared to children, is because they have so much knowledge and experience already that the moment they find something new, instead of giving themselves to it as they used to do, they try to pluck that experience from the world outside their sphere of knowledge, and pull it back into their sphere, make it ‘fit in’ somewhere, make sense of it using knowledge they already have.
We do this hundreds of times each day. We ask someone we just met what their job is, and when they tell us… we immediately try to fit it into the category and details we already think we know about that job. That fact. That news. That topic. That item. That person. We immediately try to pull up any information we have on it, stored in the memory banks of what we’ve read, heard, any direct or indirect experience we have with it. From the moment we see or hear anything new, any new experience we have is sucked into the vortex towards what we already think of it. A few details might be added if we really listen, we might ask a few questions, but we’re still grabbing each new bit of information and trying to add them, fit them, somewhere within our already-known.
This is where our growth and clarity slow down, where we become so limited, where any new knowledge must now pass through a thickly-formed filter of our already-known knowledge. Someone new we meet is an artist… so we immediately try to see how they fit in to all the stereotypes we’ve learned about artists. Are they flaky, broke, wearing beads, acting artsy? And when something doesn’t mesh with that, we have to point it out; back when I was an artist and told someone, the most common response ever was ‘You don’t LOOK like an artist’. This is because I was also a bodybuilder, martial artist, and a dozen other things that didn’t fit into someone’s category of what an artist looks, acts, and talks like.
Once, I told someone that I had finally begun my first ‘blog’; I was feeling so happy to finally begin this project, getting these articles and interviews out there to help people, rather than just having this project kicking around in my noggin, that I wanted to tell them all about it. I only mentioned that it was my first blog, so I could then tell them what this project was about. This person cut my sentence short with the interruption: “I just don’t understand all that computer stuff, is that a website or what?” By the time they finished insisting how much they didn’t know about ‘websites or any technical stuff’, my feeling of wanting to tell them about my blog – what it is ABOUT – had left me. It left gently, I let go of things easily, I just felt that this was not the time, they were not really open to hearing what I was wanting to say, they were in already-known mode and were trying to package anything I said into a compartment in their heads, compartments labelled ‘I know this’, ‘I don’t know that’, but they had not opened any compartment into the new, into nothingness, into going someplace without categorizing it, into simply listening openly to what I was saying.
In my early years of transition into what I am now (see my bio – whenever I write it), this was especially common, since I was acting very differently than what people had known of me for decades. I was doing things as I felt like it, exploring newness. If I didn’t feel like talking for a day or two, I wouldn’t. Later I would tell someone about that, and they’d say, “Oh, you were taking a vow of silence, eh?” No, I just didn’t feel like talking for a couple days. But they would be immediately trying to fit my sentence into something they already know, what I’d just said would trigger them to search their memory banks for the next nearest stereotypical statement that ‘matches’ it. And they close themselves completely off to hearing about WHY I chose to not talk for awhile, and to hearing about the wonderful lessons I learned from doing so. They turned it into an already-known, a religious thing, a weird thing, whatever they already thought about it. They did not go into the not-known.
I would tell about the first time I sat with my eyes closed, breathed deeply and counted to one hundred slowly, and they would say, “So you were meditating”, and would tell me about meditation or suggest a book. I tell people about this project and immediately they start talking about meditation or suggest a few of the books they know about by some author who changed the way they think. Or they say, ‘But you don’t LOOK spiritual’. Ha.
A friend of mine worked for a logging company, on Vancouver Island and around B.C. He would fly or drive to prospective areas that hadn’t been logged yet, determine if and how they could be logged, what impact logging would have on that environment, all the factors to that area’s wildlife, plant life, beauty, he was responsible for the complete report. He was very environmentally conscious and responsible, both because he legally had to be on behalf of his logging company, and because he truly CARED. He’d been a naturalist all his life, hiking, fishing, he cared about keeping the forest and animals as safe as possible. One day he walked into an environmental agency in Vancouver. He told about his education, what he knew about the balance of the forest and how to protect it, and wanted to volunteer his time to help them however he could. They were receptive and friendly, interested in him, thought a gift from heaven had come through the door because he was so knowledgeable, and excited to have him on board.
Near the end of the conversation – actually, what ended the conversation – they asked him what his job was. He told them what he did for the logging company. Immediately, they were enraged. He was the ‘enemy’. They were environmentalists, he worked for a logging company, and there was no way a logger could care about the environment. Period. Here was a person openly offering to help as an industry insider, someone who could keep them informed of what new things were in the works, and ask them for their input into it… and they could not get past their already-known, their stereotyped ideas about ‘the enemy’. He was dissolving the barriers between them, and they were solidifying the barriers and making them into opponents. My friend was smart, wonderful, caring, learned, had a ton of energy and really wanted to do things responsibly on behalf of the environment… imagine what that organization has missed, in losing him. Imagine what information and experiences the rest of us have missed, when we’ve ‘closed down a conversation’ upon hearing someone is a truck driver. Wealthy. Broke. Diseased. Male. Female. Homeless. Muslim. Mormon. Japanese. American. A doctor. Elderly. A child.
You have done this to people, and people have done this to you. I have done it too, but since I became aware of this tool, it almost never happens anymore. The habit is being erased, in me, and when something new happens, someone new arrives in my life, I’m allowing myself to go into what is NOT already known. I shut up, give up my knowledge, open up, allow, explore.
Not doing so, is what makes us so limited in experience and knowledge. We form opinions, even if those opinions are ‘I don’t know much’, and then when something new arrives, we spend ninety-five percent of our energy applying what we know and what we don’t know to that new thing. Almost none of our energy goes into giving in, dissolving ourselves into the new. So our sphere, somewhere along the way, stops expanding. Our heads create a container of knowledge, with a thick filter that all newness must try squeeze through, a barrier to pure, open, new experiencing.
Many factors conspire to create this gelling. Enough life goes by that we form strong egos, and our egos fuel themselves by telling us we’re pretty smart, we’ve had schooling, seen a lot of the world and life, have a lot of maturity and experience. We start to buy into that, believe it, bolster it and protect it. To open up wide again… that would be like saying we don’t know much, aren’t certain about things, right? We want to project how smart, skilled, strong, experienced we are, we want others to know we’re the goods, that we’re sure about ourselves and our knowledge. We can’t do that if we shut our mouths and stop telling people whatever we know about what they just said. Can we?
Another contributing factor is fear; when we used to let ourselves go into the unknown as children, we made a lot of mistakes, often got hurt, rebuked, we miscalculated, looked silly or stupid, became confused, were ridiculed. A lifetime of painful lessons closes us down eventually and contributes to our carefully-built defenses, our filters to receiving anything new into us, our hesitancy to experience the new openly. Boredom is yet another factor; when we’re young a thing can seem new and fascinating, but by the time we’re adults we’ve seen it hundreds or thousands of times, so we are no longer open to any newness from it. We look at it, immediately apply it to the already-known compartment, and dismiss it, beyond simply taking note of it being there.
GO OPENLY INTO WHAT IS NOT KNOWN.
You can dissolve your filter, your closed perceptions of the already-known. You are now an ADULT. You have enough life experiences and knowledge to discern that which will truly damage you. You can begin again to think about dissolving that barrier surrounding your sphere of knowledge. You can do it safely and wisely now, not unsure of yourself and pie-eyed like you experienced things as a child.
Every new experience, person, event in life that comes along, you do not need to pull into your stored knowledge about it. You do not need to tap into your information warehouse. You can let go into the experience, as a wizened adult but still with the openness of a fresh child. Go into each thing as if it is not yet a defined, known thing. Even things you have seen a thousand times. Look at them the next time, and the next, and forever, as if it is the first time, as if you know nothing about it. Each time I visit my parents, my sister, I see new details, even in the same old general features and words. Each time I see a movie or walk a street, I’m looking beyond the obvious focal points and seeing into the not-noticed a little more. I grow better and better at dissolving into each thing I experience, even – or especially – that which I am already familiar with. I try let things be a ‘not’, a not-known.
Why? If you learn once again to experience with a child’s open senses, tinted only by your adult wisdom for tact, safety, appropriateness, you will always be expanding, always learning more, seeing more sides and angles to the things you thought you knew all about. Seeing both old and new things openly, with so many more details and angles constantly being added, leads to a vastly increased clarity about everything and everyone around you. It leads to the dissolving of suppositions, delusions, mistakes, boredom, repetition, depression. You re-learn how to learn, how to experience.
You will be new all the time, and what happens around you will be new all the time. Your senses will open once again, and their floodgates will re-learn how to FEEL the things you experience. How to feel them into the deep infinite, throughout all of you, rather than making them into footnotes of word knowledge, stored on unfeeling, dusty bookshelves in your mind. It is possible for you to experience with the grandness, the wonder and magic, the intimacy, with which you experienced things as a child.
Trust yourself, trust that you’ve come far enough, so you can once again let go and safely experience openly, rather than greeting everything as something that ‘is already known’, a defined and limited something you already know about. You will notice something different, every time, about that tree you have passed by a hundred times, that person you see every day, that sidewalk you walk on; your relationship, to everything, will open and become clearer, and clearer, and clearer.
GO OPENLY INTO WHAT IS NOT KNOWN