Sunday, March 1, 2009

Knowing Things Doesn't Tell You How to Live With Them

It occurred to me yesterday that learning all of the facts about something doesn't provide any real preparation for that particular thing. It doesn't replace the experience -- which imparts lessons that no book or website ever could.

When I was pregnant with Laurent, I read a lot of baby books, just as all new parents probably do. Meanwhile my mother would stand back and remark, "You have just no idea," with strong emphasis on the "no." At the time I remember thinking she was just expressing a resentment toward my life-long reliance on books. Turns out she was right, of course. There was just no way that a stack of books could prepare me for the realities of a baby. They helped a little, sometimes, but really I just learned from doing it.

While listening to Carla on the phone the other day relate all that the doctors told her about anaplastic astrocytoma, grade 3, which repeated much of what Martine had already read me from while we discussed the situation earlier that same day, I realized that none of the medical facts help a bit with the hardest part of this whole thing. Knowing the details doesn't help me figure out how to live with my sister's death.

What was more helpful than medical facts actually, was something Martine emailed me this morning, from a teacher of hers, Zhenja La Rosa, regarding the Hindu festival of Maha Shivaratri, marked at this past new moon.
Maha Shivaratri is an invitation into the potency of darkness, the possibilities that open up from uncertainty and doubt, and the power of imagination.

Shiva Sutra 1.2 states "knowledge is bondage" (jnanam bandhah). It's a reminder that if we think we already know, there is very little room for an expansion of consciousness. It's only when we step into doubt that we can open to the moreness of life.
I have been struggling with the not-knowing, with my confusion about what to do, how to act, how to be with this. In that vacuum, it was natural probably to focus on the facts, forgetting that that particular knowledge is bondage because it gives primacy to the head in a situation when only my heart is really called for. That's the only place I need to be in order to operate in the best way.

If I take a hint from Zhenja, then I can let that uncertainty and doubt sit there and not be quite so driven to be done with them. I know I'll figure it out, we'll all figure it out, as we go through and experience it.

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