Pretending Not to Know

Dec 06, 2023


The most intriguing prompt from last week’s writing lesson with author Anne Lamott was: “What I am pretending not to know.” 

What a novel idea! Yogis usually focus on opening to the reality of the present moment. Here I was being asked to admit what I’m deliberately overlooking.  

It felt edgy and a bit scary. Would I unearth some significant issue I’ve been denying?

Initially, nothing came to mind. But it gradually dawned on me that, indeed, I’ve been pretending not to know about the clothes strewn across my teen’s bedroom floor (her “floordrobe,” as one mom on TikTok dubbed it.) I’m also ignoring the odd sound my car makes sometimes and the irreparable hole in my favorite (discontinued) outdoor winter pants.

Is this bad? I wondered. Am I failing as a yogi?

I don’t think so. Pretending not to know can be a constructive way to foster acceptance and letting go. It can also be a compassionate approach to managing overwhelm.

I’m not advocating burying your head in the sand and denying what’s going on in the world, or neglecting anything serious or dangerous that needs your attention. For instance, there have been times when I’ve pretended not to notice signs of strain in my asana practice – like the nagging neck pain that worsened with each Headstand. Admittedly, that wasn’t a good idea.

I’m proposing that temporarily distancing yourself from what’s imperfect and unresolved can be helpful when life feels like a lot.

Isn’t this what we do in yoga and meditation? We get better at allowing whatever arises in our minds to be there, without getting entangled in the narrative. We practice welcoming the present moment, while freeing ourselves from attaching to a particular story. We make space for equanimity by letting go of expectations and accepting things as they are.

Acknowledging what you’re pretending not to know is, in fact, knowledge – not only of the thing itself but also of your resistance to addressing it. That’s self-awareness.

Maybe pretending not to know is less about ignorance and more about deliberately choosing where we direct our attention. To me, that’s a valuable - and yogic - strategy for fostering greater consciousness and peace of mind.

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