The Wisdom of Confusion
Our thinking is very useful for solving logical problems, figuring out the steps necessary to get from A to B. However, we often ask our thinking to find B, the good, our calling, our love. Should I take this job? Should I stay in or leave this relationship? Should I move to a different city? Yet thinking is completely unqualified to answer such questions. It can help list the logical implications of different decisions, but it can’t weigh their value. It can’t tell us what we should do. And no amount of intellectual ingenuity can get around this fundamental truth.
When we stick to a particular way of thinking about a question we may get a clear answer. “This job pays more – I should take it.” But this answer is being generated by excluding all the alternative perspectives (“I’ll have to sit at a desk all day”) and there is always part of us that knows we’ve just settled on a simplistic fiction to guide us. As we open our thinking beyond a particular characterization we find numerous competing characterizations arise. And the more we think about a question the more complicated, confusing, and impossible it seems.
We have been taught to stay away from such confusion. We often imagine that our confusion must be a sign of our stupidity, flakiness, or weak-mindedness. So when confusion comes up, it is easy to become uncomfortable and try to bring it to an end. Our minds can start desperately searching for a resolution; we might find ourselves turning to others to give us an answer, any answer. We are rarely invited to notice that this confusion is great wisdom revealing itself.
When the mind spins around a question unable to locate a solid perspective, the limits of our thinking are being revealed; the mind is too big and open to close on one viewpoint. We are being invited to fall open to guidance from beyond our thoughts. How this happens is hard to speak about without encouraging thinking to try and run the process. There is no instruction manual on how this unfolds. It is more an undoing than a doing. There is an opening to the richness and subtlety of our experience. We allow the heart, gut, wisdom-mind/god to speak. There is a surrendering, a softening, a deepening. There is an availability to feel the truth, a patient receptivity, rather than a frantic search.
It’s also useful to appreciate that our opening to guidance does not always generate clear answers to the questions that life brings up. Sometimes we just become clear that we do not know what to do. This is not a sign of failure or lack of wisdom. On the contrary, this willingness to be with not-knowing is an absolutely essential aspect of our surrender to the mystery of this life, and our capacity to receive guidance when it appears.