The Basic Practice

To be spiritual is to have an abiding respect for the great mysteries of life — the profound distinctiveness of other souls, the strange beauty of nature and the animal world, the ineffable complexity of our inner selves, the unfathomable depths of the Inexplicable One. The wisdom traditions challenge us to live within a cloud of unknowing.

The first step in the practice of mystery is to cherish the baffling, curious, hidden, and inscrutable dimensions of your existence and the world around you. Live with paradoxes. Give up the idea that you can always "get it." Be suspicious of all the "ologies" that try to explain everything — from astrology to psychology to theology. Whenever you are honestly stumped by the existence of evil, injustice, or suffering, resist the temptation to ask "Why?" And never be afraid to admit "I don't know."

Why This Practice May Be For You

The practice of mystery enhances our understanding of the complexity of reality. It is an affront to the modern need have answers to every question and our tendency to create tidy systems with a cubbyhole for every problem and aspiration. Of course, some people simply ignore the mysterious because it lies outside the hallowed precincts of reason and logic.

The antidote to these reductionist approaches is to rest in the riddle of not knowing. If you sometimes think that answers are wisdom, it is time to try practicing mystery.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

  • Sorting clothes and wondering what happened to my other sock is my cue to practice mystery.
  • Passing a funeral parlor or a cemetery, I am reminded to contemplate mysteries.
  • Whenever I hear someone applying a system of explanations for good fortune or illness, I vow to respect the complexity and mystery of life.
  • Blessed is the Creator of the Universe who lurks in mystery.