There are so many stories now about how our psychological and spiritual health is created by undertaking and completing the ‘hero’s journey’, People speak lightly about entering the ‘dark night of the soul’ as if this really represents a few nights of misery after which you emerge refreshed, on purpose, transformed and newly wise having faced your fears.
But one the hardest aspects of a true call to change and adventure is a much simpler challenge than facing terrors. It is simply being in the mire of not knowing. When entering the unknown we recognize that is will be uncomfortable. Sometimes we do this willingly when we are exploring the new. More often events and circumstances beyond our control tip us into uncertainty and confusion without any choice in the matter. We may start out being willing explorers and suddenly find the ground cut out from under us as we lose all our previously reliable coordinates and comfortable certainties.
Not only have all the familiar features of our life’s landscape disappeared, but friend, family, colleagues, advisors and counselors cannot name what we ourselves do not know.
In these circumstances, our life long friend the mind earnestly endeavours to fill the void based on what we have known as real and true to date. These spinning thoughts replace any stillness what we have found in this unfamiliar place in our lives. And if the efforts of our mind cannot explain where we are, the mind can cling instead to some special purpose or heroic outcome that must come out of our present misery, The archetype of the hero and the myths that surround this journey is full of tribulations and tests along the way with the expectation of significant rewards and status in future life,
I know when I am in the unknown it always comes as the greatest surprise when I finally recognise, yet again, that I cannot know what is happening or what next! I long for reassurance that I am going in the ‘right’ direction for a ‘better’ outcome. It’s at these times that the intolerable stress of not knowing has me desperately looking around for allies or teachers who can show me the way or shine a light on my predicament.
What I have learnt after many deep dives in different worldviews and practices is that the ally, the true friend is the one who can sit with me in the ‘unknowing’ and not impose their view of reality as the answer I am seeking. In this way they help me to tolerate this apparently unbearable life tension that may continue for weeks, months and even years.
It is my job is simply to return to my centre, over and over again as the only place where I will find my ground. I have to find my faith in accepting a future that will almost certainly not meet my expectations because it is unknowable. This focus is similar to the Buddhist notion of ‘calm abiding’ even whilst the waters of our soul identity seem to be dashing against immovable rocks. I am abiding with the tumultuous feelings and sensations, not suppressing them to gloss over the reality of change.
What I have discovered in these paths is that the meeting with the one who provides support always reflects back to a capacity within me to trust and have faith. Trust in myself, in Nature, in existence, in those I have rapport with, and faith in the unfolding of life beyond my faintest comprehension.
This trust, centred in self is the greatest gift to balance the fear of the unknown. Questioning our old identity is not the same as abandoning our essential self. It is uncovering the self that has become hidden and which shaky circumstances are trying to release. This is such a tricky balancing act, knowing who to trust. Many times in our lives the ones with the answers from sincerely personal practice can show us new ways to live our lives. But the one I can most trust is always the one who turns me back to my self. And sometimes you alone are the one who can do that one for yourself.