Practices From the Inside Out: Not Knowing How the Story Ends

Practices From the Inside Out: Not Knowing How the Story Ends April 13, 2019

Not Knowing How the Story Ends

The drama of our lives is not knowing how the story ends.

It is easy for us to become caught up in all the twists and turns of our own stories. There we are, mindful in a present moment, when we are faced with a decision which could change everything. We could do much better if we knew where the story was going, or where it went next.

Some of us want to read the end of the story first so we know what to expect. Is it a love story masquerading as a mystery? Are we living an adventure story which appears to be a textbook?

If we knew how the story will end we could have a better idea how to behave. We could pay attention at the important moments and help the story along.

Maybe our story would not seem so convoluted or confusing if we knew in advance how it will end.

Not knowing how our story ends makes us feel a little helpless as we try to tell it.

Many of us might prefer our stories never end. We make a point not to think about what will happen after our story ends. How our story ends is not something we want to know.

How does either knowing or not knowing how the story ends change the ways we understand it?

Some of us like to take comfort in the idea we know how the story will end. We like to project the end of our story as far into the future as we can. Many of us see ourselves as the main character of our own stories, the heroes or heroines who will save the say.

Others of us need to sit down and cover our eyes because we are afraid of the end.

Spiritual Life is About Not Knowing

Some of us like to think spiritual life grows deeper as we learn and gain experience. We might believe spiritual life becomes stronger as we study ideas or memorize quotations. Many of us experience spiritual life as a product of what we know. When we know more, we will recognize more of the sacred truth all around us and within us.

I value and enjoy learning and thinking. There have been times when I struggled to understand concepts, even to memorize long passages. I no longer believe, though, spiritual life is stronger in me because of what I know.

More often, what I think I know about spiritual life gets in my way.

It can be easy for us, based on our analytical minds, to rush into thinking we know things. We feel more comfort with knowing than not knowing so we push ourselves to know. Once we think we already know, we do not allow anything new to call our knowledge into question. We see what we know as set in stone and are reluctant go beyond it.

It is intriguing how people can draw lifelong conclusions based on their unconscious decisions.

Spiritual life is beyond what we already know.

We recognize there is more spiritual life in saying I don’t know than in repeating pious platitudes. Spiritual life is beyond our understanding and grows beyond our certainties.

For me, letting go of what I think I know is often a fresh start in spiritual life. Not knowing draws us to reach further, beyond the limits of what we think we know. It fills us with new possibilities.

Spiritual life is at work in us, persuading us we do not know everything we think we know. It invites us into not knowing.

A Spiritual Practice of Not Knowing How the Story Ends

When we read a story in a book or watch a story in a movie what we do not know captures our attention. A story which is too predictable does not get our attention. When a story engages us we continue reading or keep watching until the end is revealed.

As we live our own stories we are often faced with dramatic challenges. We look for ways to resolve our difficulty which are consistent with our own values.

Many of us experience challenges as significant turning points at our decisions matter.

Some of take comfort from knowing as much as possible about how we want our stories to end. When we believe we know how we want the story to end we feel we can control what happens.

In fact, the point of the stories we are living is not knowing how they will end. Our lives are not planned or predetermined in minute detail.

How our stories end depends on our decisions and our actions. We are not merely following a formula or a set pattern of steps. The stories we are living are written in the way we live them.

When We Practice Not Knowing How the Story Ends

We do not need to be afraid of not knowing where the story ends. Not knowing does not mean we are foolish or stupid or have not thought things through. It does not mean we are making a mistake.

When we practice not knowing how our story ends it helps us recognize possibilities.

Not knowing how the story ends tells us we have not yet written the ending.

We open ourselves to all the ways our story could end. Our minds and our hearts, our senses and our intuition show us where our story can go next. We take time to listen and spiritual life draws us into taking our next steps.

The stories we are living are beyond our imaginations. We cannot predict what will happen next or where they will end. Our stories are greater than our own lives.

These stories were told by people who were here before us and will continue after we are finished telling them. We do not know how the story ends.

When can we practice not knowing how our story ends today?

Where will not knowing how the story ends lead us to explore this week?

[Image by bandita]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is, and his email address is

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