Freedom in the Unknown

For a while I have been residing with two, well-worn nemeses, the past and the future.  I am deliberate in my use of the terms future and past rather than a specific moment, incident, or person for what keeps the past and future ever present is what Deepak Chopra calls “the conditioned response” or the known.

Each one of us has a myriad of conditioned responses for every situation that arises. Regardless of whether or not there is a replica of a particular situation, the mind enthusiastically emits a thought barrage of past experience and future possibility. Both future and past are attached to what happened or what might happen but not to the moment that is. Living in the moment is the unknown, free from past or future.

Essentially, every moment is free. We choose between the known and the unknown, between what we have always been and what we have never been. It is that basic. What is not free is the situation surrounding each and every moment.

Situations reside in the past or in the future–they have strings–and where there is attachment, there is ego, a constant chatter of what you already know. Only when we practice what Chopra calls “choice less awareness” (Moksha), are we in the unknown of the moment and truly free. It takes a lifetime of practice and ceaseless awareness.

For without awareness, we get comfortable and our practice becomes what we know and not what is. Increasingly, my enthusiasm was on the wane, whether for the revision of my novel or for my nonfiction manuscript on consciousness. While I love what I am doing, I could not deny a familiar tug of weariness. Briefly, even the malaise of lupus loomed as I turned more and more to the known of the past.

Mindless television is a tried-and-true response of mine to whenever “the world is too much with us” (William Wordsworth). Some would argue that I could not have picked a better time than the broadcasting of the two major political conventions in the United States. There may be something to that. For completely opposite reasons, both conventions made me weep but as I reached my saturation point for both weeping and politics, I discovered my enthusiasm for republic and democracy.  Both are messy, completely life-like, wherein lies the sliver that is hope.

No matter the moment of life, hope is always the light of the unknown and may be the heart of risk as well. In hope lies enthusiasm, the total immersion into life, “the ripple that follows the stone…[as] we are each faced with the endless and repeatable task of discovering or uncovering our enthusiasm, which means in essence being at one with the energy of God or the divine” (Mark Nepo). Not surprisingly, God and the divine are within the political whirlwind of the United States while the world watches.

Regardless of how we perceive our relationship to one another–Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” the Tao, the Universe, the Source or quantum physics–we are all connected to consciousness, which is so much more than a mere pinprick of light. Consciousness connects us to existence, transcending all we have ever known; it moves our heads under our hearts so we may hear one another. When we listen, we observe. We make a response within the moment.

In observing the political conventions I listened, dropping my decades-long conditioned response of ranting and raving. Rather, I was grateful for living in a republic brave enough to reveal the messiness of its democracy to the world, at considerable risk perhaps.  I immersed myself into the enthusiasm that is the noise of life, the unpredictable but eternal moment.

It is such a small step from the known to the unknown. In the unknown resides the “choice less” awareness that is the freedom inherent in risk, the heartbeat of hope. It is neither the past nor the future but only the moment, which is all we ever have yet is always more than enough as long as we are aware. “Despite our endless limitations, it seems that the qualities of attention, risk, and compassion allow us to be at one with the energy of the whole and the result is enthusiasm, that deep sensation of oneness” (Nepo).

(All Mark Nepo citations appear in The Book of Awakening)

16 thoughts on “Freedom in the Unknown

  1. I love this thought: “Essentially, every moment is free. We choose between the known and the unknown, between what we have always been and what we have never been.”
    That moment by moment choice is so simple and yet so difficult to do. Thanks for such a beautiful and thought-provoking post!


    1. Thanks, KJ! So glad you enjoyed the post. As you say, what we have to do is basic. I’m beginning to believe that it is a great deal less about thought and a great deal more about being, which sounds rather nebulous, but focusing on the moment takes us out of our heads and into our hearts. It really does require a lot of adjusting, at least for me. My next post explores this a bit. Thanks for stopping by!



  2. This was such a deep, eloquent post! I am also a fan of Chopra, although I doubt I’ll ever see life with the depth and clarity that he seems to see with. I have added this post to my list of favorites, and will most likely read it quite a few times in the coming weeks as I grow more frustrated with the political machine grinding toward the election.

    Thank you so much!


    1. Your words humble me, Mike, truly. I so agree with you about the clarity of Deepak Chopra, and like you, I can only aspire. I am finishing one of his novels, The Return of Merlin, and as with all of his books, I don’t want it to end but I will re-read it and gain new insight with each reading. I believe he’s the only author I can do that with consistently. I have decided to read Chopra to get myself through the political season. So far, so good.

      I really appreciate your thoughtful comments, Mike. Thank you.



  3. Another great read, Karen. Funny, I was just thinking about the whole political machine today and wondering why I don’t really get too wrapped up in the whole process. I can really appreciate your experience with the recent conventions along with the reminders to stay in the moment and our true interconnectedness. So wonderfully written, a sense of inner peace is gracefully woven through each sentence. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Hi, Stephanie!

      As an old hippie, I’ve always paid attention to politics and have volunteered on more than one campaign. Like many, I am dismayed at the current political rancor but I did find my heart in remembering that I live in a republic, which is the one thing that serves all sides. Your lovely compliment and common sense provide yet another ray of hope for me. Thank you.



  4. This post is one of your finest, Karen, and the sentence: “No matter the moment of life, hope is always the light of the unknown and may be the heart of risk as well,” may be the most beautiful you’ve written. Gently and deftly you guide us to live in the moment without the fear or pettiness of our our past experience. Bravo.


    1. I hold close your kind words and support, Leigh. As you say, we really can choose the moment over our past pettiness–thank you for that image–I hold it close as well.



  5. “…the sliver that is hope” was my favorite phrase–as you can see from our comments, Karen, the beauty of your writing is appreciated and savored.

    As for the now, I find myself most in it when I am least present as a self, most when I am looking at something in the natural world as if it were the world. My husband, Ray has been doing some incredible photos of the fall butterflies. With digital technology they can be blown up to the point that the tiny hairs on the edge of a wing, back lit by the morning light draw me completely into a place that is completely devoid of me. The feeling is exhilarating, and at the same time peaceful and comfortable.


    1. Oh, Adrian, those photos must be such a powerful meditation source, as is most of Ray’s work, I suspect. I agree that the connection is strongest when the self is least. Time and time again the stillness of that moment is, as you say, exhilarating and comfortable. I’m astonished every time.

      Your praise of my writing is humbling. Thank you.



  6. Hello, Karen. You wrote: “In hope lies enthusiasm, the total immersion into life, “the ripple that follows the stone…[as] we are each faced with the endless and repeatable task of discovering or uncovering our enthusiasm, . . . ” and so the writing continues, in discipline, inward-looking, and inspirational. Thank you.


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