December 28, 2013

Compassionate Questioning: Answers from Within.

I wish for that sense of serenity and calmness in my life, but I am known to put my foot in my mouth.

I ask questions much too often, especially the uncomfortable ones that most of us are afraid to even whisper out loud.

Certainly, I am the curious type; and, I am sure that I’m not the only one.

I am not afraid of the answers most of the time.

Although, I recently stumbled upon an answer that changed my relationship to the art of asking questions.

My inquisitive nature is constant, as a girl my favorite word was why, so it’s no surprise that I am fearless when it comes to requesting responses from others.

I suppose it’s been a selfish act.

I often find a reflection from others about myself through the questioning. I see where I can improve my patience or cool my fiery streak.

I also find a connection with others; I learn that another’s path may be just as confusing as my own, so the questions become a bridge between two worlds.

Impulsive inquiries have worked for me in the past, so the other day I asked a question that I probably shouldn’t have asked—one of those fumbling moments in which I wanted resolution—more for my own sake, not for the other who was being asked.

The details of the question matter little to anyone, but me, so I will refrain from sharing the words.

Nonetheless, I put myself in what the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron calls the big squeeze.

“There’s a discrepancy between your inspiration and the situation as it presents itself, the immediacy of the situation. It’s the rub between those two things—the squeeze between vision and reality—that causes you to grow up, to wake up to be 100% decent, alive and compassionate. The big squeeze is one of the most productive places on the spiritual path.”

~ Pema Chodron

I am learning that my old ways of being, especially a need for reflection from others through the call-and-response of questioning, no longer work for me.

Like I said, I often put my foot in my mouth by asking questions because I think that I need an answer, and on a spiritual level—oftentimes the answers are within, but we have to trust ourselves.

Listen to our intuition, which is easy for some things like parenting, but when it comes to other elements—like relating with acquaintances—trusting our perspectives may be tricky.

I will make plenty of mistakes before I know how to refrain from expecting answers from others to be necessary.

Slowly, I will learn that the big squeeze is part of the art of asking questions; and, that I may value the reflection from others—like a North Star on my journey—but the answer will ultimately come from within.

And, the answer is one word: listen.

Yet the answer wasn’t in listening to others, but to myself.

I must learn to listen to my questioning.

But how?

I must pause.

Check in with myself: Where am I at? Who am I with? What do I need to be doing?

I call this compassionate questioning.

Is it truly necessary for me to ask another for their perspective? Why do I need an answer? Most importantly, will my questions cause another uncomfortableness?

I must feel that big squeeze—that rub between vision and reality—before I speak.

I’m sure it will be a while before I perfect the act of compassionate questioning, but I will try.

So, go ahead, ask questions because I believe they are vital for our growth.

In fact, it’s in the asking that we find the solutions, yet the true art of asking questions is to listen—trust ourselves—before we speak.

Or as poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to 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.”

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo Credit: Amruta Lakshmipuri/Pixoto

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