On Not Knowing

Small Mercies 12 x 12 inches mixed media on panel

Small Mercies 12 x 12 inches mixed media on panel

“If you could train yourself to love a feeling, the one that would benefit you the most right now would be the feeling of not knowing where you’re going. That’s the feeling that will come right before you find yourself somewhere amazing.”

This was my Pisces horoscope one day last year, and it’s proven itself to be true. I pinned it up in my studio to help quell the urge to control the outcome of my paintings...and my life. It’s been a touchstone for me, and given me the courage I need for exploration.

For me, painting has become a process of not-knowing…not knowing what should be painted, or how to paint it. At best there’s an intuition, not much greater than a glimmer. I feel engaged, but not overly attached. This is a joyful, intuitive, delightful state of being. However, it can be elusive. Once I start to become attached to some beautiful little passage, and I hold on too tightly, my energy shifts, and I get stuck. My mind takes over, and I stop paying attention to how I feel. In short order I am bored, or worse yet paralyzed. I am thinking too much, and wanting to know all the answers. That’s when I find it so valuable to remember that what created that wonderful passage was a willingness to let go, to stay curious, to explore.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki

When we embrace the state of unknowing, wisdom arises from a far deeper place than intelligence. It’s the place where dreams are formed, where a dialogue opens with our subconscious. When this happens for me, I am delighted and enchanted with the results. It’s a liberating feeling too, and frankly, it becomes a bit addictive. I want that feeling! I want to feel alive. I want to be surprised. I want to embrace mystery. Ironically, this unknowingis how we begin to really know ourselves.

“Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

A favorite song of mine, “Pour Un Instant” is by a Canadian progressive rock band called Harmonium. The lyrics in French are (of course) poetic and romantic. The message is about finding oneself by forgetting oneself…seeing more by closing one’s eyes. I think this takes a leap of faith, a bit of trust, like walking blindfolded. But when the blindfold comes off, you just might find yourself somewhere amazing.

Susan MelrathComment