“I Don’t Know,” A Spiritual Manifesto

“The secret of living well is not having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.”

-Rachael Naomi Remen

I remember a time, not so long ago, that I was cleaning the house and listening to a “spiritual self improvement” type audio book about cultivating peace within, because lets face it who has time to leisurely sit around and read about cultivating peace within when you’ve got kids and a job and a house to clean? I was interrupted a bazillion times by my procrastinating kids who were supposed to be cleaning as well.

They kept calling out to me – you know how they do…they don’t come and find you…they just stand right where they are and scream “MOOOOM!!!!!” and they expect you to come running, which you do because -maybe fire or bean stuck in the nose or uncontrollable bleeding – and then they just ask ridiculous questions like, “Where should I hang up my jacket?” and “Do I have to make my bed?,” and could they, if they got all their work done, “Have ice cream after lunch?”

Eventually after all the interruptions I shut off the audiobook and was simply pissed that I even tried to become “peaceful within.”

I remember another time that I was driving back from a carpool and listening to yet another spiritual self improvement audiobook – this one about bringing spirit into the work place. I was late for a meeting, dealing with a nagging cough (lovingly shared with me by a hacking person at the grocery store who should have stayed home) and I had just spilled coffee down my blouse.

The woman who wrote/read the book was ruminating on about how her most effective, productive and lucrative business meeting ever had been preceded by a two hour long meditative period where she released all her expectations and left herself open to “receive.”

I remember maniacally laughing, and shutting off the book, thinking, if I ever had a two hour period to myself I’d probably sleep. That or watch trash tv and eat chocolate.

I feel like there is a huge gap between “spiritual living” and the reality of living spiritually day to day. It seems to me like we’re either striving for super guru master monk status or we’re just failing miserably at being “spiritual,” and there is no in between.

I’ve been amazed when I’ve written about my own major stumblings and bumblings around spirit that people will reach out to me and say, “You have days of doubt too?” Like they were alone in their quest for some sort of baseline spirituality that hadn’t yet taken hold. Believe me I have doubt. I have days where I don’t sit with “spirit” even once.

Not that I’m proud of it. I’m not. But it’s real. It’s true. I’m not where I want to be spiritually and I judge myself constantly for it. Which is an awful cycle to be in. Not connected to spirit, feel bad, feel bad for feeling bad, then can’t connect to spirit because of bad feelings and so on.

In an effort to make peace with my life and my quest, I want to redefine what it means to be “spiritual.” And not as a lazy sort of “Let’s look at this differently so we all feel better about ourselves participation medal,” kind of way.

I think we have difficulty finding the time or patience for spirituality and we beat ourselves up thinking that unless we’re in a yoga class a few times a week or scheduling a mediation retreat or praying diligently with a prayer partner and a structured 5 part prayer that we’re not inside the realm of spirit. That we’re somehow not connected to spirit or not “spiritual” because we’re not living examples of spiritual knowledge or wisdom.

How about we redefine “spiritual” as not knowing yet striving to know and having faith that at some point the answers to our questions will be discovered by us? How about we invoke the sacred 3 word manifesto “I Don’t Know?”

How do I connect with God or the Universe? – I don’t know exactly but I’m willing to try pretty much anything to figure it out.

How do I find time for my spiritual practice? – I don’t know but I’m working on it.

What do I even do as a spiritual practice that fits into my life now? – I don’t know but I have faith that I will find a way if I keep seeking.

And maybe, just maybe, the above questions and responses ARE THE WAY. Period.

A friend of mine, who I would consider a truly “spiritually arrived” person, in the sense that she is deeply committed to her practices and counsels many others in the realm, said that the more “spiritual” she becomes, the less “spiritual” she feels. She now just feels a sense of peace and happiness on a regular basis.

Count me in.

Instead of this idea that in this lifetime we should/could/would master ANY spiritual concept of what “being spiritual” means, how about we just say, “I’m doing the best I can today.” And we celebrate the days that feel good and connected and let go of the ones that don’t, knowing that tomorrow is a new day and a new shot at better. That the opportunity for epiphany is always available for us…and isn’t that it’s own kind of “spiritual?”

And you should redefine it for yourself. Don’t take my word for it. What does it look like to you? Happiness? Peace? Freedom? Be your own guru…and know that gurus take naps, watch trash tv, get frustrated, yell at their kids or their husband or their dog and eat loads of chocolate sometimes.

I lay down my sword and shield. I probably won’t ever “arrive.” I surrender to my I DON’T KNOW, AND I’m doing my very best and I have faith that I’ll be a better person tomorrow. The End.

If that was on my tombstone – I think I’d be OK with it. Maybe even, dare I say…satisfied?

“She didn’t know, she did her best, she tried to do better.”

How freeing is that? And in the end – isn’t that the point of a “spiritual” life? To be humble, vulnerable, powerful, peaceful, faithful and happy?

It is an honor beyond words to have you read my musings. It is an even bigger honor to feel that we are all in this together and that we have each other and even though we are mostly in the dark, we are united and connected by our desire to be better people. So we don’t know. So let’s not know together. And let’s try and figure it out together and let’s be better together.


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