I do not know, I do not have, I do not understand

A note from Carl:

Not Knowing Is The Most Intimate” -Zen saying from Fayan


Yesterday I remembered a funny, humbling teaching moment in my life:

It was 12 years ago in when we were in our Feldenkrais Training in Santa Fe. After cooking our nervous systems with 5 full days of Feldenkrais lessons, we would often go to an amazing afternoon Indian buffet to begin our weekend. One time, when we left the restaurant, I ran back in to get my sunglasses, which I had left on the table. The table had already been cleared, and when they asked the server who bussed the table if he saw any sunglasses, he said no, just as he abruptly darted his eyes to the side and brought his head down. Now, I’m not Paul Eckman, but I can recognize double signals, and there was something incoherent in his gesture and besides, the glasses were just on the table–what else could have happened?

Even though they were $12 gas-station sunglasses, it really irked me. Each time we would go back to the restaurant, this server would be awkwardly friendly and uncomfortable when when he saw me. I wanted to tell him, “I just want you to know that I know you took my sunglasses.” As I was a good Buddhist, I came very close to writing him a note saying, “Just so you know, I offer you those sunglasses as a gift, so there is no negative karma between us.” Take the high road, right?

A week later, I found the sunglasses that had fallen into the space next to the driver’s seat. I never had them in the restaurant! I made the entire situation up in my mind, and everything I experienced got warped to fit the shape of my inner-story.  It was a hysterical and embarrassing revelation. I realize how often I (we) do this. How often what we “know” about a person, a situation, or our body, clouds our receptivity and access to insight and clarity.

Padmasambhava, the great yogi who brought Buddhism to Tibet had a beautiful final teaching. Often the masters will offer a final, essential, pith nugget before they pass, and Padmasambhava’s was this:

“Let these three phrases be repeated as often as possible:
I do not know, I do not have, I do not understand.”

Could you imagine if our education systems modeled not knowing, not having, not understanding? Letting things remain as open questions that continue to reveal themselves rather than hardening into certainty? What would it be like to bring that quality to our relationship challenges, our injuries, our political discussions?

As she often does, Mary Oliver nails it perfectly:

Mysteries, Yes!

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds

will never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

May we all say “Look!” and laugh with astonishment, and bow our heads.

Yours in not knowing,
Carl

P.S.
Join us for one of our upcoming retreats! Boulder, Utah, in August and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico in September. Some spaces are still available and many more details can be found via our schedule page.

We’re one week late – we’ll open registration for our Fall Embodied Life class within a week – just ironing out some links and details and we can’t wait to open the door for our latest in-person course. And more on Erin’s upcoming Gratitude online class soon too!

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Erin

By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.