The Art of Reaching: Journeying Into The Unknown

The most beautiful and unpredictable breakthroughs often manifest in unknown territory; times of reaching, risking, and letting the mind venture someplace new. 

There's a true art to reaching, to taking that first step, but keeping ourselves in our newly found uncertainty is the only way to reap it's rewards. Yet staying sustainably in a space of uncertainty is demanding. Scratch that– it's absolutely petrifying, and especially when the stakes of failure are high. And so we take the leap, but soon after landing in the unknown, we just want to go back to even ground.

We reachreact, and retreat

This cycle tries to beat us to the finish line every time we step into unknown territory. But retreating simply is not an option if we ever want to see that very finish line we set out to achieve. 

We cannot dip our toes into the river of possibility and then run away when the water gets quiet. To drive true change in our lives we have to enter the unknown, commit to it, and then learn to manifest within it.

So how do we break this cycle? How do we stay in the unknown, peacefully? How do we stand in front of our fears and simultaneously pass through them, instead of allowing them to push us back? Let’s take a look at the process.

1.) The Reach: What happens?

“This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted, and shaky - that’s called liberation.”
— Pema Chödrön

The act of reaching is expansive by nature. We evolve our very being every time we push ourselves a step beyond our current environment. We also open up the door for new unexpected possibilities to enter. During this initial exploration we often push past what we previously thought was possible, and as a result, we evolve in our own complexity through that process.

After the leap, we are never again the same. 



2.) Speeding up & slowing down: The reaction to fear.

Fear likes to show up when we are on the brink of entering a space of not knowing. Not only does fear show up, it brings its allies–doubt, resistance, panic, you name it. Better yet, you can't name it because it brings all the crap you never anticipated showing up. That challenge you thought you resolved 5 years ago? Don't be too surprised if it resurfaces. 

It is in these moments when fear is taking grip that we need to gain space from it and slow down the timeline of feeling and reaction. We have to catch ourselves before entering into a reaction.

Pause and ask yourself, “What of my fear is true now, in this very moment?”

This question is powerful over fear because the present moment holds very little space for actual fear rather than future hypotheticals. Learning to identify the onset of fear, rather than simply experiencing it, helps us then harness total mental focus to look objectively at the fears and investigate their root. Doing this is extremely challenging, and is something I work on constantly. The beauty of this challenge is that trial and error is the only way to improve the ability to recognize and objectively dissect fear. 


3.) Me, myself, and I: When the mental journey really begins.

Just as looking at the root of our fears gives us space from them, having an awareness of our thoughts gives us distance from their certainty– liberation to quiet the inner critic and continue in our pursuits. And this is important because our mental energy likes to go HAYWIRE in unknown territory. 

Fortunately, when this happens it becomes immediately clear that this mindset is anything but beneficial. When the mind is in a state of inner disorder, or psychic entropy, our mind literally begins to threaten our ability to effectively push forward our goals. 

Indulging an untamed mind is like opening the flood gates of our thinking. Sometimes this can be wonderful in the creative process, but not when the focus is to navigate uncertainty.


4.) Recommitting to the process: We Triumph and fail. We get back up. Then we fail. fail, and fail. Then we triumph, and fail again. We give up. We get over it. We get back in the game. (Repeat!) 

Many popular understandings of the entrepreneurial journey to success includes the following three successive phases: success/ failure/ triumph.

Unfortunately, this simply is not a true representation of the journey. There are often many, many more stages to the journey that go untold. Why? Because they are not always pretty and most certainly do not produce clean media friendly stories. 

The journey within uncertainty is not one of clear phases and cycles. Even if it were to follow this "set course," our ability to see the larger perspective within each phase of the cycle is extremely difficult when we are in the thick of the process. What this means is that having an unwavering commitment to your undertaking is massively critical to making it through this loop.

5.) Befriending the enemy: Developing the mental capacity to manifest within the unknown.  

Whether we grow during this process of reaching is largely determined by our mindset. Every time we reach, the outcome of our new efforts is unknown. The possible hurdles we may encounter are unknown. The new possibilities that may arise are unknown. “If you want something you've never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”

Through creating this mental capacity to handle the unknown, we gain space and freedom to grow our complexity and can learn to manifest new unimaginable opportunities in unknown territory, and before we retreat. 

Possibilities that were previously incomprehensible because we just cannot see what rests beyond our vision until we go there. 

By shifting our relationship with uncertainty, the cycle does not get to feed itself. Instead, we liberate ourselves to act freely in the world of the unknown. The world that's right outside the comfort of where we are...right now.

Reach. Experience. Transform. 


Book: Comfortable With Uncertainty by Pema Chödrön

Course: UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center free-guided meditations

Posted on July 18, 2015 .