You can’t know what you don’t know

I was talking to a close friend the other day and she told me how she ran into a mutual friend of ours who neither one of us has seen in quite some time.


“Remember how you felt like something was up with her? How you felt like something was off?”


“Yea,” I said.


“Well, you were right,” she said, “How did you know?”


It was a reasonable question: what is the actual sign that indicates that you “know” something? At the time I didn’t have an answer. I feel like there is so much more I don’t know than I do know these days. After thinking about it for a bit, all I could come back to was how I felt about the whole situation. My knowing was a feeling. It was the, ‘You know, and then you “know” you know.’ And, I realized it’s not in the “knowing” that we get stuck. We always know. We just don’t always know we know. In other words, we get stuck because we don’t trust and ultimately it’s a matter of how well we trust what we know, and whether we’re willing to trust enough to act upon it.


After talking with my friend I was struck by how easy it is for us to not trust what we know. A few weeks ago I attended a special blindfolded yoga event at LifeTime Fitness. This event was right before I was to begin my 21 day Yoga Teacher Training and I was in full-on yogi mode. Blindfolds? Essential oils? Bring it on. Ohmmmm. That enthusiasm quickly waned. As we flowed through twists, binds and pushed our way up to tree pose, I found myself unsteady, unsure and fearfully feeling for the corners of my mat.


As it turns out, the majority of information we receive is visual and without this sense we feel a bit lost. Which was exactly how I felt. When it comes to fitness, especially in terms of form and proper alignment, I am someone who relies heavily on her sight. Not having this at my disposal upped the level of discomfort significantly. Granted, this was also the whole purpose of this particular practice: to turn inward, trust and rely on your other senses. After class people talked about how they were able to zone in on the essential oil they chose for their practice, or how not having their vision allowed them to really work on feeling and grounding down before moving. I couldn’t tell you what scent I chose or how the mat felt – just how loud my thoughts were. Taking away my vision seemed to amplify the noise in my head, all the self-doubt and fears. Every time my muscles quivered without the benefit of “knowing” their alignment – each time I tried to rise from a low lunge into tree pose and my foot would catch the mat unsure – the voices in my head would remind me that because I couldn’t see, because I couldn’t know for sure, I wasn’t sure. And sure enough, I’d wobble and fall down, just as they predicted I would.


How often do you doubt yourself? How often, even when you have something you know – be it a feeling, logical conclusion, or past experience – do you question it’s validity asking: What if I’m wrong? What if something better doesn’t come along? What if it’s not the right time? What if I’m really not enough? What if I fall?


What is it that stops us from really trusting ourselves? What was it that allowed me to know without a shadow of a doubt that something was up with my friend (something that wasn’t verified until over a year later!), but didn’t allow me to trust my yoga practice that night?


In looking back at my yoga experience, what really struck me was how I was so concerned about the details. I was so concerned about what I didn’t know, what I couldn’t see. What was everyone else doing? Were they struggling too? Am I facing the right direction? Which way is even the right direction? Oh my god, did anyone see me fall? On and on and on. The whole point of yoga is to be in the moment, and I couldn’t be in it. I couldn’t be with what I knew – with my breath or what pose I was in – because I was so fixated on what I didn’t know. And it was this preoccupation with wanting to know what I couldn’t know that shook my foundation of faith that night.


We can never know what we don’t know. Sounds simple enough, right? But how often do we still try to know what we don’t know? How often do we still try force things or hold onto the proverbial What If’s instead of shifting gears to what it is we do know? Have you even stopped and said, “Hey, what do I know about myself or this situation?” Me either, even though we both always have that information at our fingertips, blindfolded or not.


It starts with what you know. By observing what we know, what it is we’re sure of – whether by feeling assessment, logical conclusion or what past experience has proven – we begin to build trust. Trust starts with what we know for sure, but in order to “know” what we know, we’ve got to take the bet on ourselves that we “know.” This means trying out something to see what it’s like. It’s changing our mind if we want to. It standing by the feeling just because. Trust is about knowing that a singular decision, one sole action, can propel movement and move mountains. And it’s a practice. One that requires our full buy in. When the voices of self-doubt and fear are on full throttle and they’re demanding to know what they don’t know, trust is going back to what we know for sure. Trust is reminding ourselves that there’s always a few things we know. Always. And that we can stand by them.


Are you willing to take the bet on yourself that you “know”? Are you willing to take the risk and just go for it?


That’s what it takes.


Identify what you know. Trust what you know. And a little bit of surrender.