Those Three Little Words…

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Everybody loves a quiz.

So, what do you think “those three little words” are?
a. I love you.
b. Give me more.
c. I don’t know

If you guessed c. I don’t know, you are absolutely correct. AND. You are a statistical anomaly. Apparently, only about 3% of the population is willing to admit to not knowing something. Even in situations where there is no logical or reasonable way to know, research shows we just make stuff up.

What does this have to do with yoga? As yoga teachers, we are called upon to play multiple roles. Our
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students come to us with their physical symptoms, emotional upheavals, spiritual crises of identity and their search for meaning in life. We are called upon to be doctor, therapist, shaman, healer. There is no training that equips us to have all of the answers, all of the time. And not only in teaching yoga. The same is true for lawyers and schoolteachers, business managers and architects. In what has been called the Information Age, there’s no conceivable way to know everything. Meanwhile life and school conspire against us: we are trained to bluff our way through everything.

Tutoring a 7th grader has been an exercise in saying “I don’t know.” Ella asks me curious questions about how stuff works pretty much every day. Why is a foot shaped like a foot? and How long do sharks stay with their young? and How old do kinkajous live to be? 

Learning to say “I don’t know” gives the power back to the person asking the question. Then you get to share one of the simple joys in life: discovering something together. By admitting to uncertainty, we open to the optimal present-moment solution. Yoga teaches us to become comfortable in our own skin, and to bear the discomfort that arises within the dynamic tension of uncertainty. That uncertainty is actually a deeply creative place to find yourself in. That’s where all the magic happens.

So next time you don’t know, instead of plunging ahead on a whim and a prayer, practice the yoga of I don’t know. In the meantime, in homage to childhood, I offer three practice questions:

  1. Is a lion’s roar louder at night?
  2. Does the sun set first on Mars?
  3. Which is heavier, a shadow or a prayer?

Thanks for stopping by The Salty Dog. Hope to see you at Pavones Yoga Center sometime in the near future.





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