Questions

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

postit questionsExcerpt

Villagers: “Yet this we ask ere you leave us, that you speak to us and give us of your truth. And we will give it unto our children, and they unto their children, and it shall not perish. In your aloneness you have watched with our day, and in your wakefulness you have listened to the weeping and the laughter of our sleep. Now therefore disclose us to ourselves, and tell us all that has been shown to you of that which is between birth and death.”

The Prophet: “People of Orphalese, of what can I speak save of that which is even now moving within your souls?”

Can you picture this?  A group of eager inquisitive people have their shining eyes turned toward this man.  They want to know everything about life he has to tell.  Instead, he tells them it’s all already right there inside them.  Of course he goes on to tell them, but he gives that pause, that opportunity for them to trust themselves.

thinking questionWe can do this too  – not be in such a rush.  Give space after the question. Let it roll around for a bit in your practice, in your body, in your life, like a mantra. See what arises.

Sometimes you wind up with more questions, and you begin to realize that questions might be answers.  The pause can make space for questions you hadn’t thought to ask before.

question othersCan you imagine how seductive it is for the Prophet? To be the ONE that knows what everyone else wants. The next time you’re in a position to be the ONE – perhaps at work where you hold a senior position, at home with a young family member, or with someone who recently joined the hobby you’ve been doing for years – consider giving them an opportunity to know. Resist the urge to give the answer right away.  A simple “What do you think could work?” “What would you do?” could instruct more than an answer ever could. Maybe you’ll still need to give the answer, but creating that space in invaluable.  Practice this with others, practice it with yourself.

“Instead of gathering knowledge, you should clear your mind.  If your mind is clear, true knowledge is already yours. When you listen to our teaching with a pure, clear mind, you can accept it as if you were hearing something which you already know.” Shunryu Suzuki

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Pranayama 2: The Questions

Being an ESL teacher taught me to answer every question – even the ones I didn’t quite know the answer to. I, after all, was the default expert on English and living in America, and experts are always expected to have an answer.

Pranayama has taught me to ask, listen, and experience quiet.

Maybe you had a job like mine, or a 3 year old in your life, or heard a koan and ached to give a logical answer, or were raised in a culture that rewards quick correct answers.

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If gets interesting, for people like us, when we don’t answer – when we give space instead.

Because when we know how to listen, the answers are right there – we’re living them all the time.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyph to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life before he apprehends it as truth.”

interview-questionsOr as Rilke said, “I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Work with this the next time you’re deep in question in your practice or life by dropping the pronouns, but keeping the question. Sometimes, as Stephen Batchelor writes, all you’re left with is “?”.

The question becomes both smaller and larger than you – less personal and with less pressure to answer – the tightness you didn’t realize you were holding around the question loosens. That space allows for creativity in answer, and intuition a moment to creep in.

In your next asana practice, contemplate what your questions are. Perhaps one of these, or something altogether different:

What motivates my practice?
What is my path of yoga?
Why do I bother stretching my hamstrings?

Then allow it to become a mantra, a koan for your practice – just the question, without answering it.  Practice it, live it, and then, perhaps, creativity will seep in with an answer in the most unexpected way.

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