20s-30s Dharma Gathering: I Believe in Ambiguity

Written by: Sarah Harris ~~

I used to listen to the radio show This I Believe on National Public Radio, and I was sad to see it end some years ago. What struck me about this show is that each five-minute episode featured one person speaking his or her truth about something meaningful. I found it touching to listen to these short, personal monologues.

One Friday at the 20s-30s dharma gathering, we tested out a Shambhalian twist on thais theme. After practicing sitting meditation together for 30 minutes, we took some time to silently open our minds and hearts and allow something to rise out of the space without over-thinking: “I believe in . . .” The first person bowed to signal that she would begin speaking, and the rest of us listened silently with our full selves. People spoke about stepping beyond fear to courage, taking the risk to be genuine with others, and trusting that meditation practice leads to believing in oneself.

As I was sitting in the space between speakers, different thoughts came into my mind, and I wanted to follow them, develop and refine them, wrapping them in layers of thinking: “I believe in a fresh start . . . I believe that everyone can dance.” When I bowed and began to speak, I heard my voice say: “I believe in ambiguity.” A small part of me wondered, “what will I say after that?”

“I believe in experiencing ambiguity. Sometimes in life, we feel connected and confident, and we know what to do or say next. I find that one side-effect of meditation is that I’m better able to trust these moments of confidence and certainty when they arise. Other times, we may be completely connected and present with our own experience, but we simply don’t have a clear yes or no answer to the situation we face.

I believe that there is value in leaning into the discomfort of my own uncertainty to fully experience ambiguity with its unevenness and dissonance. Physically, I can feel myself squirm and sense the uneasiness in the pit of my stomach. In these moments, leaning in builds a creative tension that is wakeful and stimulating, and if I can be patient and stay with that feeling, it creates space for my own wisdom to pop out.”

After a pause, we reflected on the exchange. We noted that it is rare in our daily lives to have silent space between speakers, and the silence really let each speaker’s words sink in. Although some of us had not met before, we were able to speak honestly and openly and receive one another’s truth. It was a gift to be able to connect at this deeper level.

We ended the evening on a friendly note and joined a group of community members of all ages who were enjoying food and conversation in the Community Room. Food, conversation, and meditation bring us together, and when we allow these three elements to open our hearts, we experience genuine, human connection.