How many times have you said, “I know myself?”
I know myself.
I love the color seafoam green.
I love kittens.
I love the smell of the seasons changing.
I am not fond of endless sale racks in department stores.
How do I “know” these things about myself? Because every encounter in the past has led me to believe that every encounter in the future will the same.
In the past, every sale rack in a department store has been super unpleasant and every kitten has made me smile. The last time I saw the color green I loved it, so I assume I will love it tomorrow.
I am reading Krishnamurti this week, again. If you haven’t read him yet, he is amazing.
Here are his thoughts on the subject:
“Also in order to understand ourselves we need a great deal of humility. If you start by saying, `I know myself’, you have already stopped learning about yourself; or if you say, ‘There is nothing much to learn about myself because I am just a bundle of memories, ideas, experiences and traditions’, then you have also stopped learning about yourself. The moment you have achieved anything you cease to have that quality of innocence and humility; the moment you have a conclusion or start examining from knowledge, you are finished, for then you are translating every living thing in terms of the old. Whereas if you have no foothold, if there is no certainty, no achievement, there is freedom to look, to achieve. And when you look with freedom it is always new. A confident man is a dead human being.” – Krishnamurti
I Do “Know” Myself
I love to learn new things. I believe a growth mindset is critical in life. If we are not learning, we are dying.
All that said, I have been really resistant to the idea that I cannot say I know something about myself. The idea that experienced based knowledge is not true frustrates me.
In yoga, the teacher will say, “try to experience your down dog today as if it was the first time again.”
I would think, “but it is not the first time.” How can I experience it for the first time when I have done thousands of them and, honestly, why would I bother to try. I “know” down dog.
I also know I love kittens and seafoam green.
But what if I approach color with an open mind. What if I allowed in the possibility that today is the day that I could love purple? If I am so sure that I love seafoam green, then maybe I will not allow in the opportunity to love purple.
And, more importantly, if I make assumptions about my love of a certain color, then I am doing the same with music, seasons, style, politics, even religion. My life is a long list of assumptions about what I love based on what I experienced in the past.
The assumptions about my day, an interaction, or a work dilemma are based on the past. Yes, I may find that I still love seafoam green today and that the person that has let me down in the past, lets me down again today.
But I may not.
This is not about being naive about the past, it is about living in the present. When we base all of our views on the past, we live in the past.
We are living beings and everything living is growing. So I am growing, always. If I am growing, then I am changing. If I am changing, then I am better served to allow space to change everything, even my favorite color… or my political views.
Letting Go of Knowing Allows for More Joy
If it still seems like a waste of time to let go of knowing anything, if the idea strikes you as a, “why bother” moment, then consider this: letting go creates more joy.
Yes, more joy.
I love seafoam green and since I experienced pleasure in the past, I expect to experience it in the future.
And I love attention from a friend, recognition for my work, shopping, a glass of wine, food, and any other pleasure I have experienced. Because of this past experience of pleasure, I look for it to continue.
The seeking for pleasure leads to pain.
The pain pleasure cycle destroys opportunity for joy.
Yoga felt amazing yesterday. Today, it did not and I was upset.
My work flowed perfectly yesterday. Today, it not and I was upset.
My friend and I had an amazing chat yesterday. Today, we did not and…
My child and I bonded…….Today……
My partner and I ……. today………
You get the point.
We love pleasure. We approach life seeking the pleasure from past experiences and then experience pain because the experience did not deliver the anticipated pleasure.
We chase. We seek. We seek more pleasure; we feel more pain.
Joy is experienced when we let go of our expectation of the past or our goals in the future and allow each moment to unfold as it really is.
My down dog was not as good as it was yesterday. My body was heavy today. I felt tired. My thoughts about how my down dog should be only made me feel pain.
So I let go of the expectation of pleasure…. and there it was… joy.