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The Attitude of Not Knowing
by Ann Weiser
This article originally appeared in the January 1994 issue of
The Focusing Connection (Subscribe).
Be willing to approach your inner experience without thinking
that you know all about it already. This is the attitude of not-knowing.
Why would you listen to someone if you think you already know
what they have to say? When you treat your felt sense this way
-- e.g. "I already know why I'm afraid." -- you block your opportunity
of finding out what it's really about.
You might be asking, "But what if I do already know?" Let me say
this: as long as there is still a felt sense there, wanting your
attention, there is something about it that you don't know yet.
As long as you are still experiencing tightness, or fear, or constriction,
or stuckness, there is something that your body knows that it
is trying to let you know.
So be curious, open, and interested in your own felt senses. Be
more interested in what you don't know yet than in what you already
know. Try setting aside what you already know about an issue you're
Focusing on. Not because it's wrong -- it might not be -- but
because it might be getting in the way of sensing what is new
and not-yet-known about you and your life.
Our modern culture puts a great premium on clarity. We are taught
that if we can't think or say something clearly, then it's not
important. The winner in school is the one who gets "the answer"
clearly and quickly. It's rarely acknowledged that there might
be a valuable kind of knowing that would take time to access,
and that would at first be vague and unclear.
This bias toward clarity can lead to feeling uncomfortable in
the face of something unclear and unknown. "How would I explain
this to anyone? How would I defend it? What good is it?" Before
you learned to honor and listen to felt senses, you might have
dismissed them in just this way.
Instead, enjoy them! When a felt sense first comes, you may not
know what to call it, and you may not know what it is. Let that
be OK! You will learn to delight in that not-knowing, to look
eagerly for the parts of your experience that are not yet known,
just as a treasure hunter is most excited by the treasure chests
that have not yet been opened.
It may not seem likely that there would be wisdom hiding in this
fuzzy, vague, hard-to-describe something that you feel in your
body, but there is. That's exactly where the wisdom is: not in
what is already clear and known -- that's old information -- but
in what is emerging in you, the knowing that is coming into awareness
right now. Learning Focusing is learning to value and even cherish
the slow, subtle, and vague.