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Staying with the question


I want to ask you, as clearly as I can, to bear with patience all that is unresolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were rooms yet to enter or books written in a foreign language…  Live the questions now, perhaps then, someday, you will gradually, without noticing, live into the answer.   Rilke

One of the things I like to do when I wrestle with a particular challenge is find the question that underlies the issue, and simply stay with it, and feel it, without trying to fetch an answer, just letting it come in its own sweet time.

Great questions are amazing doorways into new possibilities.  Asking a question is being willing to stand in a place of uncertainty, not knowing the answer.   And in that moment, a deeper kind of listening emerges.   It does not matter where the question comes from: a worry, a need, a sense of curiosity, or a longing.  It only matters that this question has come, that it seeks our attention, that it opens up a space of inquiry and invites us to connect with something that has eluded us till then.  The problem, often, is that we do not stay in that space very long.  It’s tempting to rush into the first answer.

I have been trying to build my capacity to stay with a question even as an answer comes in, continuing to ask and feel that question, rather than settle for any one answer.  I have stopped focusing on the conceptual content of the answer to pay more attention to the energy that gets liberated as a result of the openness we start to embody when we are connecting with life, with the willingness to receive something new, beyond what we already knew and thought.  Anyone who pays attention to what is happening in their body while meditating knows what I’m talking about.   Life…in all its many forms… has so much to offer when we are open to receive.

People often quote the biblical saying “ask and you shall receive” but I think the real power of that statement gets missed.  We often ask for something specific based on a prior idea of what we  think we want or need.  We rarely explore the power of asking a question for which we truly do not have an answer, to be willing to stand at our evolutionary edge with a question for which an answer has not yet come into existence, and to be willing to receive that answer vibrationally, pre-verbally, as sensations in the body.  Yes, words and concepts come as well but the deepest level of transformation happens at the vibrational level, in what we feel and experience in the body as we are listening.   When I stay with questions for a while, I often start feeling their limitations; I watch them evolve over time into deeper ones.  The more powerful questions are the ones that facilitate the greatest liberation of energy, the greatest inner shift or change.

Some questions have extraordinary power to open us up places that are constricted within ourselves, places where the mind has built tight containers of certainties to provide an illusionary sense of safety.   Questions can really open things up, when they are genuine questions, and we are willing to feel into them with our whole body.  They may be one of the most powerful evolutionary tools human beings have at their disposal.