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how do we live in the not-knowing?
Photography by jason frahm

how do we live in the not-knowing?

by jason frahm jason frahm
Be Spiritual | Philosophy - Wisdom

conscious living
I shuffle out from the “Moon Room” studio of the Venice exhale still riding on the high of teaching my 5:30 yoga class unsuspecting of what was soon to come. I relax into a padded bench with a cup of tea by the front door. I stuff my feet into the brilliant orange Vibram toe shoes that are resting at my feet, while communing with a few students answering questions about meditation.

A few grateful students float by with a “Thank you for class Jason!”

These are the moments that make teaching worth it for me. I feel good because I am seemingly helping those around me, they’re appreciating me and acknowledging the value I bring to them and the class. This feels really good.

An elder student who was not in class sits down with a few us as she removes her shoes and joins in with our conversation. I admit as I am sharing more information, I am feeling a bit puffed up with all that “I know” and how those around me are nodding in agreement with slight awe.

A few students part with more “thank you’s and namastes” and Cindy, the elder student remains as she waits for the next class to open their doors. 

The conversation segues into Cindy sharing, “My mom is in the hospital and I do not know what to do. She and I have never gotten along and I think she is dying this time. I’m in the midst of deciding whether to go see her or not and I’m finding that meditation is not really helping me with this decision. Right now, life seems to be giving me some hard choices to make.”

Immediately, my mind is calculating what would be the best answer to Cindy’s dilemma. Should Cindy go see her mother and try to work this out? What is the spiritual lesson and opportunity for Cindy? How can I help? And, what can I share to give Cindy relief while remaining in the seat of the “Wise One”?

After Cindy shares, I too feel her dilemma. I want to help! I know (it seems that I know) that Cindy would be better off if she goes to the hospital and makes amends with her mother. It may be difficult, but I believe that she has an opportunity to break through some old wounds here. And, in her life timeline she will look back and be grateful that she at minimum saw her mother once more and at least tried to forgive.

Then I share, “This sounds like a very difficult situation. I am sorry you’re going through this.”

(pause… I’m thinking what can I say to help Cindy make the “right decision”?)

Cindy seems to have opened a bit with my expression of empathy and listening.I continue, “I certainly do not know all the water under the bridge of your life with your mother, but it seems like you have an opportunity to heal something here before it is too late. I fear you may regret not at least trying to mend your relationship with your mother before she passes. I imagine if you go see her, you are at least saying to the Universe that you are taking the steps you know to forgive and heal.”

Cindy purses her lips and sits back a bit in defense. For some reason I am loosing her and I am unsure what to do or say next… is there a way to mend this where my suggestions land for Cindy and I remain in a positive light in her eyes?

It’s clear I need to wrap this up quickly, “You probably know what’s best and I am sure you will make the decision that is best for you… Whatever you decide, I know it will work out.”

Cindy was halfway out of her seat and onto another part of the studio by this point. I said goodbye, pretending that I didn’t notice the offense in her posture and departure.

I stumbled away feeling a bit surprised and then disappointed that my suggestions were received so poorly. I churned through this event for the next several days attempting to understand and resolve what had happened with little success.

Fortunately for me, I sit with a yogic master each weekend as Grace unfolded in my favor as I sat in satsang with Shankarcharaya. Shankarcharaya shared one of his tenets of living consciously in the world this particular weekend, “… We act in the guise of not-knowing. We take action with the idea that we intend what is spiritually best for a person, yet at the same time we do not know what is spiritually best for this person. For instance, we go to heal a person who is suffering and yet if they were not healed one more day, they may reach up for God that next day and then their whole life would be consecrated.

Instead, we go to heal them thinking that is what is best. The problem is that WE DON’T KNOW WHAT IS BEST… WE NEVER KNOW WHAT IS BEST… from the ultimate perspective.

This doesn’t mean we don’t help to relieve suffering on the planet. We can still go to help the person who is suffering intending what is best, yet we act from the knowing that we do not know what is best.”

All of a sudden it landed. Ever since I picked up that first spiritual book that supported me in declaring full responsibility of the thoughts I empower, the words i speak and actions I take in my life, all the spiritual teachers guidance i gleaned and all the application of the teachings I understood,  I began to act and share from a place of authority as though “I know what is best”. What a mistake I have been making!

With Cindy, it didn’t matter whether my advice was “right” or not (for what is right anyway?). What mattered most is that my intention was coming from the place that I knew what was going to be best for her. Maybe, if she went to see her mother, her mother would curse her and reinforce the hatred they have between each other. And for the rest of Cindy’s life she remains scarred and unable to unwind from this final exchange.

And, if Cindy didn’t go to the hospital and her mother passed, maybe the loss and the feelings that ensued would lead Cindy to resolution with the past and the rocky relationship with her mother.

The point is, I don’t know and you don’t know either. It may seem like the best choice would be to go and attempt to heal and forgive while the person is still alive… which is what i concluded at the time. Yet, as I have a wider lens in this moment of life, I recognize that I have relationships where certain conversations will unlikely ever yield resolution with the other person. In those situations I have discovered that the work has yielded much more fruit when I do “the inner work” myself or with an adept guide.

I haven’t seen Cindy in many years nor have I had the chance to acknowledge the mistake I made with her that day after class.

What I say to her now and every other person I have done this to is, “I am sorry that I spoke to you that day with an agenda to help you (or even save you) and to prop up my own ego. The truth is I really do want the best for you and I have no idea what that is. I now see what you were asking for that day was a listening ear of love and compassion. You were not asking for advice nor needed it. I apologize for my ignorance in those moments and do wish you Grace in your journey. Too, I thank you for being an angel on my path. For, I have learned greatly from our exchange after my class many moons ago. 

In deepest gratitude, I bow to the Divine in you ~ Namaste!