I Don’t Need to Understand It: My One-Week Challenge

Living in the Moment
Trillium Lake, Photo by Asha Hawkesworth

The other day, I was listening to some things that another spiritualist, Almine, had to say. One thing she said in particular struck me:  we need to relinquish our need to understand the world around us. This is another way of saying that we must live in the now, accept what happens, and go with the flow. When we begin to try to understand everything, to make sense of it, we begin to analyze and judge what is happening. This colors our reactions to everything. It allows us to become emotionally attached to what is (or what we think should be) happening. It takes us out of the now. It takes us out of the heart space of the Divine Mind, because now the Ego wants to understand it and ultimately control it. When we release the need to understand and control our world, we can then respond as children do, with acceptance and, perhaps, wonder.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3

The kingdom of heaven exists in all of us. It’s right there inside of you, Dorothy. We’ve had the power all along…

Sometimes it helps when another person restates what you think you already know. The different wording—the notion of not needing to understand the world—got me to thinking. I decided to challenge myself. I wanted to go an entire week and do my very best to live without trying to understand everything that was happening around me. Those who know me know what a challenge this is. I am curious and inquisitive to an extreme. I like to understand things. I am highly analytical, and I put the “J” in “INFJ” (in the Jungian personality test system, “J” is for Judging). But what is life without a little challenge?

I began my week with an affirmation to help me through:

I don’t need to understand it; I just need to experience NOW.

Day 1 – The Boredom Connection

I took a sick day and managed to get a same-day appointment with my doctor, so my health issues were in hand. I found myself going through my morning routine, which included some Facebook and reading articles online. The first thing I realized was that the sorts of articles I liked to read were all about understanding the world in some way:  understanding how nature works, understanding what politicians are doing and why, understanding the understandings of others. It was all an attempt to understand and interpret the world in some way.

I was hosed.

I could not read these articles, because I did not want to understand anything this week. Why was this a disappointment to me? Because my mind hates to be “bored.” It loves the stimulation of thinking, thinking, thinking, and ultimately, understanding. The illusion of understanding.

I realized that my horror of “boredom” was really a distraction. If my brain wasn’t working a mile a minute, then what was my Ego supposed to do? Hush and listen to the Higher Mind, of course. Hush and be present. Hush and be here NOW.

So I read my book (fiction!), watched the birds, and played Sudoku.

This evening, I sat on the couch with a friend, who was watching his football game. I have watched many a football game over the years, and I have attempted to enjoy it. It isn’t my favorite game, but it gives my friend a lot of joy. So I started to look at the game and understand why he enjoyed it… Doh! There I go again.

I didn’t need to understand it. He loved it; I wasn’t that interested in it. It just was. So I let go of my desire to understand “what he saw in it,” and just felt his enjoyment of it. I expanded beyond myself and felt what he was feeling. He was happy and content. Yes, his mind was on the game. But I felt his affection for me, very much a presence in the room even though his attention was engaged with his hobby. And I relaxed and enjoyed it. And after awhile, I also fell asleep. Ha ha.

Day 2 – Meaning is Exhausting

A great deal of my Facebook feed is filled with understandings and interpretations. I unliked many pages that put news stories or commentary in my feed. A lot of my friends post things of this nature, too (I’ve certainly done my share), so I’m learning to scroll by and not give those any thought or energy. I really like all the pretty pictures, jokes, and personal updates, which is what makes Facebook fun to me, anyway.

By continually brushing away thoughts or ideas that deal with understanding anything, I am finding my mental space is considerably uncluttered. I find it easier to focus on any given task, such as my writing, doing the dishes, or trimming the garden. I also feel calmer and more relaxed than usual. I am normally prone to feeling the stress of juggling work, household chores, and being a mommy, and so far today, stress hasn’t been an issue.

I am coming to the conclusion that we literally wear ourselves out by continuously looking for meaning all around us. The drive to understand (and therefore control) everything is exhausting and stressful. My daily tasks are greatly simplified without this layer. I just do them.

I was listening to the gas station attendants having a conversation outside of my car, and normally, I would respond by instinctively evaluating what they were saying, forming conclusions, and making judgments based on their words. It’s automatic. But today I consciously heard them without wanting to understand any of it. “For the first time, Shelly didn’t get angry with me…” “…she has a cute walk…” These are just audio fragments in my environment, completely without meaning.

Day 3 – Living in the Present Moment

I find that not trying to understand everything and being present in the NOW are intricately connected. My brain’s constant working to create sense where (let’s face it) there isn’t any is a huge distraction from what’s actually going on. When my brain starts to analyze and understand, it takes me out of the NOW and into a fictional Ego world that is an interpretation of what’s really happening, made up by my own mind. This world is a projection of my mind that filters what I see based on my own predefined beliefs, judgments, and perceived understanding. It’s all static.

Not trying to understand everything is like tuning into the most perfectly clear channel in the Universe. I appreciate and feel the warmth and beauty of this incredible sunny, autumn day. I appreciate the texture and feel of my coffee. I watch the birds fighting over the birdseed. There is no distraction from my environment because I am consciously choosing not to be distracted by my own mind.

When I spend much of my day in this place, I find myself naturally functioning in a higher vibration. Of course, life doesn’t stop, and today was one of my more stressful days because of family activities. The schedule intervenes. Dinner must be on the table by a certain time, I have to pick up the youngest from daycare, there’s a Girl Scout meeting, and laundry to be put away. My normal response to the time-compressed “to-do” list is to stress out. As I drove to pick up my son, I considered:  there was (it seemed) nothing to understand here. But I felt like I must do V, then W, then X, Y, and Z. But I remembered the space in which I’ve spent most of my day, that higher vibration. I decided to return there anyway. I looked at my to-do list again, and I decided that my family could handle X, that Y and Z could wait until tomorrow if necessary, and that simply handling V and W was enough. And I relaxed.

As it happened, I had time to handle V, W, and X, and the family handled the rest. Mission accomplished; stress greatly reduced.

Day 4 – Opinion is an Attempt to Understand

I remain aware of current events (such as the U. S. government shutdown), but since I do not want to understand them, I have been avoiding reading other people’s understandings (that’s all opinion is) of these events. I have come to realize that as technology has made our community smaller—events across the country or the world would not have impacted or necessarily even been known to people within a small geographical area—we now concern ourselves with global events in an intimate, personal way.

Let’s take the residents of fictitious Little Town, 200 years ago. The things that would concern them include local events, the weather, social happenings within their small community, the welfare of their crops and trade sources, and any laws or changes in government that would directly impact them. Now, of course, we become caught up in the intimate details of the lives of movie stars, the machinations of our government and the governments of other nations, the global economy, and events on a global scale, which is a lot of information! There is a good side to this, but it is a double-edged sword. As we attempt to understand these large-scale happenings, we involve ourselves emotionally and personally. Our need to understand all of these things, as I’ve said, is the same as needing to control all of these things. And we’ve just upped the ante from the small scale of Little Town to the entirety of humanity. No wonder we’re stressed and on edge.

I am aware that there is great suffering in the world. I am aware that many people in power are self-serving and act without integrity. I am aware that we have created a system of living that is injurious to ourselves and to the planet. Lightworkers want to create a new Golden Age. And of course, those of us who have this intention will do so. This is not a problem. I have already created the perfect life for me, and each day my only intention is to make it better for me and my family, which is the only realm that I have any control or say over.

The problem occurs when we think we must understand the people who do not want this, or who want to perpetuate the current harmful systems. There is nothing to understand. We cannot control them. We may never change their minds. But we can change ourselves and our own reality and create new choices (new systems, new methods, new ways of being, etc.) for others to make. If our choices are better, many will follow. This is what it means to be the change you want to see in the world. If others follow you, fine. If others do not, there is nothing to worry about.

In summary, I feel much better—and happier—when I’m not carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. And that is very nice.

Day 5 – Acceptance

Today was my “busy day,” my big chore day, so I spent most of it in the mindset of task completion. I didn’t feel stressed… in fact, I had fun.

I’m finding that it’s easier to accept help. I have often said that I’m a recovering control freak, and so part of my stress is feeling like I have to do everything. I’m letting go and letting the rest of the family help me more. This is good for me, and it’s good for them. Just as I don’t need to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, I don’t need to carry the weight of the family on my shoulders, either.

There is a relationship between not understanding/controlling everything and not taking what does not belong to me. Specifically, other people’s thoughts and opinions. When my beloved or anyone else vents their frustrations, I can listen sympathetically and help sort through the issue without taking any of it too personally. Other people’s issues do not belong to me, even if they are the people I love the most. When I have an issue, though, I have to own it, too. My problems aren’t caused by other people. So far, I haven’t felt upset this week. (My beloved noticed, “You’ve been in a really good mood this week.”) I may yet have a bad moment, though, and it will be interesting to see how that goes if I do.

Day 6 – Understanding is Judging

I noticed a headline about some Boy Scout troop leaders who dislodged a rock formation in a national park and filmed themselves doing it. My first thought was that it was a dumb thing to do, and I understood why everyone was upset by it. My second thought was that Nature is not something that stands still, and natural forces would probably have dislodged that rock one day, anyway. A man-made push or a natural push, change has occurred. I decided not to judge any of it. It is what it is…

Understanding the world and judging the world are the same thing.

If you have ever had the opportunity to go for an extended period without constant media—whether music, TV, or just whatever—you find that when you are exposed to it again, it’s quite intense and overwhelming. Turning off my attention to the constant news/political stream has shown me just how disruptive it is. I don’t watch TV (we only view streaming content, with no commercials) or read the newspaper anymore. But a quick look at my Facebook feed, even with many of the news sources “unliked,” shows me a steady barrage of understandings (opinions) that is quite overwhelming after even a week’s diet of avoidance.

It’s not that I “no longer care” about what’s happening in the world. It’s that I’m no longer feeling invested in a particular outcome. I am learning to control what I do have control over, namely my thoughts, beliefs, and reactions to things. And I know that if I sweep my own front porch, other people probably will, too, and then the whole world will be clean, if you get my drift.

I feel so much calmer and happier at this point, that my week-long experiment is likely to become a full-time thing. I feel like my little mantra is helping me to remain focused on NOW. It’s helping me to slow down. It’s helping me to live in my higher Spirit on a more regular basis. And that’s something I definitely want to continue.

Day 7 – The Anger Trap

The best fighter is never angry.
~Lao Tzu

I saw this quote today, and I think it exemplifies my sense of (mostly) calm this past week. If you are angry, you are invested in a particular outcome. The anger comes from your frustration or inability to control what is happening. At least, this is what I understand in myself.

When I’m not invested, and I don’t need to understand/control, then I’m less likely to be angry. If I’m not angry, I’m more able to focus on what is required in the present moment. As I’ve noted, I’ve been more productive this past week, because I’ve been able to focus so clearly.

Speaking of anger, a family member hurt my feelings today. I was waiting for something to break my calm, actually. Sooner or later, misunderstandings and upsets occur…

Emotions are messengers, so I do need to identify them so that I can resolve or process them. It isn’t always easy to identify just what my feelings are, however. Feelings of frustration, anger, and upset don’t always seem to have a clear “cause,” and we don’t always know why we feel the way we do, or why we react the way we do. So it can take a little self-exploration to figure it out.

Sometimes, it can take me a day or two to figure out why I’m feeling a particular way. Sometimes, it can take weeks. So, here I am, in my week of not understanding anything, trying to understand my feelings. I do this for my own sake, and for the sake of my relationships. Once I can understand and express my feelings to my loved ones, we can resolve our issues. This is what Love does. It is, in part, a communication.

So I realized something. Just as the one thing that I can control is my own thoughts, beliefs, and reactions, the one thing I can really ever understand is… me. And since the world is, ultimately, my own projection, this is how I understand the world. And there’s my paradox. I’ve always said that where you find paradox, you find truth.

Maybe for this next week, I’ll change the game slightly. I’ll continue with not understanding the world, but I’ll look at any feelings I have about the world as an opportunity to understand myself. No doubt, that will take me down another rabbit hole.

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