One day, whilst staying with my friends in Wales, about two months after Nigel’s death, I rang Brad, as I was in a real state about what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
To say the rug had been pulled from under my feet was an understatement. Before his suicide, we had been planning to buy a house in the country and start a family. In fact, the day he died, we’d received the exchange contracts on our property and the new property; everything was going ahead as planned. Until Nigel decided he wanted out. Literally.
With his death, not only did I lose my best friend and partner in life, but I also lost my chance then to have children. I was one week away from my 35th birthday, and when your husband commits suicide, you don’t exactly get over it quick enough to form a new, healthy relationship and go on to have kids. Well I didn’t!
Not only that, I had lost being in a partnership that to some extent defined me, and helped me form my identity.
So when I called Brad that cold January night, and expressed my fears about my life and my future, I just kept saying to him, “Brad, I just don’t know what to do; I just don’t know, I don’t know”.
His response helped me to calm down. He simply said, “Sahera, being in the don’t know is a sacred space to be”.
Since that night fourteen years ago, I have been learning that the space of ‘don’t know’ is in fact more comfortable than you’d think. In fact, ‘don’t know’ mind is the name for a method of meditation taught by the Korean Zen master Sahn Soen-Nim. He says not-knowing mind is a clear mind.
When I experience ‘don’t know’, I experience a freedom and calmness within myself – to let go of the need to know is actually quite liberating and less stressful than to hang on to needing to know. I have spent loads of money on psychics because I just had to know – was the guy I was dating ‘the one’; was the job I was applying for really right for me; was that trip I was planning to take a good or bad idea and on it goes. That space, of needing to know is symptomatic of needing to be in control. Why? Why do you think you have to be in control all the time? What are you afraid of if you let go of the need to know and just let things be? Life will do what it will do, whether you get in there and meddle or not!
You and I both know that in truth, we are not really in control of life – yes, we know what is right and wrong in terms of our behaviour towards ourselves and others. So of course we can control our own behaviours and actions. But the rest is a don’t know.
This brings to mind the parable of the farmer, who, one day, discovered his horse had wandered off into the forest. The neighbours said to him, “How unlucky to have your horse wander off.” His response was “Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t.” Two days later, the horse returned , bringing with him another horse he befriended in the wild. The neighbours said, “How lucky to have two horses.” The farmer’s response was, “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” A few days later, the farmer’s son broke his leg trying to tame the new horse. Again the neighbours chimed in, “How unlucky it is that your son broke his leg.” And again the farmer responded, “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” The following day, soldiers came to the farm to recruit the farmer’s son. Because of his broken leg, he couldn’t be recruited. Of course, the neighbours were amazed and said, “How lucky it is that your son wasn’t taken into the army.” And you already know the farmer’s response.
The wisdom of the ‘don’t know’ mind keeps us from feeling disappointed, when we tell ourselves we know how things, people and ourselves should be. It gives us a freedom to discover what, in fact, life wants for us, rather than us being in control the whole time, fighting what I suggest is a losing battle.
Let go and trust that just because you don’t know, doesn’t mean that Life doesn’t know. When you are unsure, breathe, and trust it’s all being handled, whether you know it or not.