The Gift of Not Knowing

Here’s ‘The Gift of Not Knowing’, the 42nd episode of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

In this episode we start with a source from Christopher Goodchild’s beautiful book ‘Unclouded by Longing‘. We consider the limits of trying to live a life in which we know everything about what is happening, and the possibility, as Wendell Berry says, that ‘It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey’. Along the way we explore what happens when we make ourselves vulnerable and open to the unexpected, and the gifts of contactfulness with ourselves and others that can come from this.

We are live on facebook each Sunday morning at 9am UK time, and we’d love to have you with us. You can join our members-only facebook group here to watch live and join in the conversation.

Here’s our source for this week:

The Gift of Not Knowing
by Christopher Goodchild, from ‘Unclouded by Longing

Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.
Emily Dickinson

Letting go of trying to work everything out in your head can lead you directly into the most sublime mystery of all. Your heart. Your true Self. To open yourself to this mystery, you will often have to pass through the discomfort of the rational mind simply ‘not knowing’.

What at first might seem like an impending breakdown can easily become a profound breakthrough. This is beautifully conveyed in ‘The Real Work’ by Wendell Berry:

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

The emotional distress that often accompanies losing your direction in life cannot be glamorised nor underestimated, when you are unable to come up with a rational solution to your predicament. However, it is true to say that one of the greatest gifts you have received in this life is the gift of desperation directly linked to the rational mind not coming up trumps.

In many ways ‘being’ in uncertainty and mystery is a necessary rite of passage you must go through in order to enter into the heart of what it means to be most alive. As a writer you see it as a vocational calling for you to invite the unfamiliar. In living your life in this way you surrender into something greater, your perceptions are stretched, as is your imagination — pushing the boundaries of what is unknown and unforeseen.

The breakthrough experience, whereby you move from lost to found, is exhilarating. The attachment to the small self is loosened, and an infinitely larger, more expansive Self is glimpsed. It is here, in these glimpses that a startling new landscape, or perhaps a radically new way of seeing, is opened up within you. Here the words of Jesus come to mind, ‘For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’

To embrace the gift of not knowing is to embark on one of the greatest adventures, and one that if fully entered into will change your life forever.


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On Relationship to Experience

You’re never just in life, this situation, this moment. You’re also in a particular relationship with it.

So often this is transparent, like the air you’re breathing as you read this. But it’s illuminating to understand that the world you’re experiencing isn’t ever simply ‘the’ world.

Perhaps your relationship is to welcome whatever is happening. Perhaps you’re pushing it away, or denying it. Perhaps you’re treating what’s happening as a huge opportunity. Or perhaps as a curse or problem. Maybe you’re relating to what’s happening with a longing that it be over. Or maybe you’re trying to cling on to it, already mourning the end of it, even before it’s gone.

Another way of talking about this phenomenon is mood. Every mood – anger, joy, love, resentment, frustration, cynicism – opens up a particular kind of relationship to what’s taking place.

Can you see how your relationship to it all shapes so much of your experience and what’s possible for you at any moment?

That each brings forth a distinctive kind of world?

That what’s possible from resentment is different from what’s possible from anger or love? That what’s possible from relating to it all as a curse is different to what’s possible from an orientation of welcome?

Once you see all of this, you can first become an observer of your relationship to everything. Reflective practices can help here – a regular journalling practice and sitting meditation are two that are enormously helpful.

Much more importantly, once you can observe you open up a second possibility of taking responsibility for your relationship to it all.

Because while what’s happening might be just what’s happening, your relationship to it is something in which you’re always a participant.

Or in other words, the world you experience is never just happening but also, inescapably, something you are doing.

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Never Not Broken

In our work as integral development coaches, we draw on stories, metaphors, characters and myths to open up worlds of possibility with our clients. This week we explore a narrative that is deeply aligned with both Turning Towards Life and thirdspace coaching and which expresses the the invitation present in our work.

In this episode of ‘Turning Towards Life’ we explore the possibilities of knowing ourselves at once as perfect and always unfinished, broken, incomplete. We consider the life-giving possibilities of owning up to our messiness, and the opportunities for deepened contact with ourselves and with others when we do so. And we explore the way our attempts to look as if we have it all together (does anyone, really, have it all together?) add unnecessary suffering and difficulty to our lives.

We are live every Sunday morning at 9am UK time, diving deep into topics like this. You can join our members-only facebook group here to be with us.

Never Not Broken

Akhilandeshvari, The Goddess of Never Not Broken, represents the kind of things that people shy away from. You may have bumped into her occasionally hidden in the dark alleyways of life, but turned your gaze away. You’ve likely fallen into her embrace once or twice: in hospitals, at work, watching the news, or in your car, but broke away as quickly as possible.

She’s the kind of goddess you don’t want to take home to meet your mother — she’d give your mother nightmares. But her power is unparalleled.

Pronounced ah-kee-LAN-desh-va-ree, “Akhilandeshvari” translates as “Never Not Broken.” She shows us the power and opportunity of being broken into pieces by heartache, disaster, great fortune, and other life changes and traumas.

However she takes this to the furthest extreme, purposefully keeping herself broken wide open, allowing herself to flow with every current, creating and fragmenting and recreating herself endlessly. She steadfastly refuses to paste herself together into a stable form, shunning the limitations that she’d have to abide and the false identities that would hide reality.

She rides on a crocodile: the very survival-fear that keep most of us chained to the known and routine is her flying carpet!

She is not controlled by the need to keep her identity consistent, or even alive.

She dances and spins and breaks herself into shards of light, tossing out new possibilities for herself like flower petals from a cherry tree.

The goddess Never-Not-Broken promises that the greatest magic is in the transformative moments: the heartbreak, the uncertainties, the pause before we hit the ground… and what we do with ourselves after we land.

She is the goddess of Surrendering to Change, and we are getting to know her well these days.

It’s normal to fear and resist change, but Akhilandeshvari whispers to us also of freedom — liberation from the past, from habits and wounds, from stifling routines, from everything that once was good but has become a burden or a prison.

Liberation, indeed, from all the illusions of the ego.

She is, in the same instant, the personification of destruction and rebirth. But not like Kali the Destroyer who levels us all with her sword. Akhilandeshvari yields to the destruction of herself, her ego and self-identity, so that she can remain in contact with truth — the Divine Source that is manifesting Itself as one individual”.**

**Edited for the purpose of our Turning Towards Life Sunday morning broadcast from this website where you can read more.

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

Through the Wall of Flame

Sometimes stepping into our lives means stepping through a wall of flame into something bigger that we cannot yet see.

In this episode of ‘Turning Towards Life’ we begin with a piece written by Mark Nepo, ‘Through the Wall of Flame’, which you can find below. We talk about how easy it is to imprison ourselves in a smaller life than we wish for, as a way of trying to keep ourselves away from danger and out of painful experiences.

And we ask ourselves a big question – “What is it that we’re so dedicated to not feeling, that we’re willing to ruin our lives to avoid it?”. Along the way we consider the liberating possibilities that come when we’re willing to encounter what we’ve been avoiding, and to do so with the loving help of others.

You can join us for a live conversation on facebook every Sunday morning at 9am UK time, for a deep dive into topics like this. Join our members-only facebook group here to be with us.

And you can find our more about our work as thirdspace coaching here.

Through the Wall of Flame
by Mark Nepo, from ‘The Book of Awakening

As a frightened man in a burning boat
has only one way to the rest of his life,
we must move with courage
through the wall of flame
into the greater sea.

Living long enough, we each find ourselves surrounded by an old way of being, thinking, or loving that is going up in flames. In that unexpected moment, we usually find ourselves full of fear, feeling trapped by an old way of life coming in on us. But this is the passage of rebirth that we must move through if our lives are to unfold. It is the momentary and painful crossing from what is old into what is new.

It is understandable to stall at the wall of flame, not wanting to face all that is burning around us. Yet old ways can burn forever, and waiting for the flames to go out seldom works. We can waste years in the waiting.

Like the frightened man in the burning boat, we must trust that the greater sea we are jumping into will douse whatever catches fire as we move through. This is what faith is all about.

Without trying to be brave and with great fear, I have stumbled and jumped through many walls of flame. The first time, I think, was in leaving home—needing to go, burning at the edge, afraid I wouldn’t survive beyond the flame of anger in which I was raised. Not much later, I had to move through the flames of first-love rejection. Here the broken part of me was almost willing to be burned alive. I felt certain there was nowhere to go and nothing that could soothe me. I more fell through this wall than jumped and, of course, once in the sea of life beyond myself, the world continued and I healed.

Perhaps the greatest wall of flame I had to jump through was the pain of cancer and the prospect of dying. It seemed the entire sea was on fire. Even once overboard, drifting farther and farther from the flames, I thought I might drown. How could I know that greater sea was the womb of a deeper life? I’m sure this is the same for anyone struggling to break out of any form of addiction, illness, or abusive relationship.



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You were always in safe hands

Here’s ‘In Safe Hands’, the 39th episode of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Lizzie Winn and I dive deep into big questions of human living.

This week we begin with a poem by Jeff Foster which makes the radical suggestion that what we’re trying to get to, and what we’re trying to run from, obscure a simple and vital truth: that we’ve misunderstood what we are. And that what we need is right here, just where we are, waiting for us.

Along the way we talk about what it is to find language for that part of human experience that is, essentially, unsayable. And we remind ourselves that while we’re often far away from ourselves it’s always in returning home that healing happens.

You can join our members-only facebook group for live conversation and community here.

Here’s the source for this week’s conversation, written by Jeff Foster.

In Safe Hands

You get tired of half-truths, don’t you? 
You get tired of pretending 
You get tired of the world’s promises 
You get tired of… waiting. 
You even get tired of getting tired.

You get tired of ‘you’ – 
The one who ‘gets tired of’.

A divine disillusionment 
And a great paradox – 
For who gets tired of whom?

In the midst of despair 
You find yourself staring life in the face 
Naked and unprotected 
in front of its sacredness. 
And for the first time 
(For whatever reason) 
You do not turn away.

It breaks you open 
It shatters your dreams 
It burns up your certainty. 
Even your dreams of enlightenment 
do not stand a chance.

You shit yourself with fear 
You cry out for help 
(Why has it forsaken you?)

And then 
For the the first time 
You feel deeply alive 
Undivided from life itself 
Resting in the arms of the One 
you always sought 
Unprotected yet utterly safe 
Free at last 
Free at last.

It destroys the one you thought you were 
But it never touches the One you are.

This is the road less travelled, they say 
A road leading not to the future 
Not to the promised land 
But to the one reading these words now

To the one who knew all along 
That all along this road’s ancient edges 
lies the shed skin of lost identities and unkept promises.

Clean yourself up, my friend 
You were always in safe hands.

– Jeff Foster

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