Let’s talk about … true knowing.
So there’s the crystal shop I go in regularly (of course there is. Of course.)
Just over a year ago I went in to ask for some help on my spiritual journey. I had decided I didn’t know where to start and I really wanted some guidance: what books to read, what videos to watch, what retreats to go on, etc.
I asked one of the owners for this help, and she looked at me a bit funny. Then she said:
“First, I want you to think about this.
If you took away all the knowledge you’d ever been given –
everything you’d ever been taught, everything you’d ever read or watched or listened to, every fact or idea that you gained from someone else –
What would you know?”
I looked at her and in that moment I felt something fall out of the bottom of my universe. It was like someone had done the tablecloth trick and there I was, a wineglass wobbling on a naked table.
Because the answer was nothing. I would know nothing.
For an educated woman, who prided herself on her intelligence and knowledge, who took great pleasure in learning, this was an absolute brain-melter.
There was nothing I knew that hadn’t been taught to me, in some way.
You can argue that everything is ‘taught’ to us, somehow; either from the instinctive kick of our first breath, or mimicking our parents’ behaviours, or basic physiological reactions (fire + hand = hot!), or a series of implicit, even accidental messages we pick up from our social group. You can argue that allknowledge is ‘taught’, somehow.
Ok. So argue that. Now take that all away. What do you know?
Exactly. The answer is still nothing, whether you think there is anything more to know or not.
This was an important point in my life.
That’s because over the next 12 months I went through some profound changes, and those changes could only have happened because I knew nothing.
There was no well of knowledge to drink from instead of experiencing, there was no buffer of cynicism to protect my mind from what I would go through, there was absolutely fuck all to support me (aka be used as a crutch).
As the months went by, I got to the point where I recognised I knew one thing, definitely. Just one thing, upgraded from nothing-at-all.
That thing was: I am here.
That was it, for quite a while.
Then, another thing, frankly terrifying and even a bit spooky:
I am here.
And so is something else.
Eventually, I knew where ‘here’ was, and who ‘I’ was. (Still developing that second part). I was even able to give a bit of a name to the ‘something else’.
Those two pieces of knowledge are now a stronger support, a deeper well, a bouncier buffer than anything I had absorbed from anyone else.
They have allowed me to start to know other things: I have faith. I am loved and capable of love. I am okay.
What we think
What we feel
What we have learnt from others
And what we truly know
Are all very different things.
You might ‘know’ you’re self-destructive. You might ‘know’ you’re no good at maths. You might ‘know’ you’re the best at X or the worst at Y or not the sort of person who does Q or definitely the sort of person who always does P.
But do you? Do you truly know that?
Therapeutic practices, spiritual work, meditation – all of these things and many others help us to peel back the layers of knowledge to get to the truth of a thing.
Because I guess that’s what I’m really talking about, and what I was asked in the crystal shop more than a year ago:
What do you know to be true?
You will have been told so much during your lifetime about who you are, about who others are, about the world around you. Some of it will be accurate. Some of it will be utter bullshit. The challenge is how you work out which bit is which.
You can think anything you want. Bacon is bad for you? You shouldn’t wear black if you’re a redhead?The world’s flat and rests on the back of four elephants on a turtle? Trump actually has some good ideas? Fine.
But I would recommend you do some knowledge-scouring before you know it. That means looking out – to other people and sources and ideas – and looking inwards, to yourself, your soul, your experience.
Knowledge is power, and you’ve got to make sure it’s the right kind of power for you.
I’m not saying chuck out fact-checking, rational thought, logic and all of that really lovely stuff; frankly, we could do with a bit more of that explained a bit more clearly to a few more people.
But there’s a difference between that type of knowledge, and the type of knowledge which will act as your well, your support, your buffer in hard times. That type of knowledge doesn’t have to be the mystical woo-woo shit I’m into. It can be anything you want – it doesn’t matter.
All that matters is
when everything you have learnt from others has been stripped away
that knowledge is the thing which remains
which refreshes you
lifts you up
without needing anything else.
It is what you know and it is your power.
So tell me:
What do you know?