How to stop searching and striving for answers
I want answers.
With only a dim light to guide my way, I navigate the pre-dawn darkness in a quiet kitchen, searching for a shot of caffeine to start my day. My mind is still cloudy and I’m wondering “Why?!”
That single word is a pain-filled question.
My life has taken so many unexpected twists and turns these past few years and my head is filled with a lot of “Why’s? and How’s.” Like, “Why did that happen?” “Why isn’t that working?” “How do I fix it?”
Chances are, whatever you are experiencing, you want answers too.
Searching, seeking, pursuing answers is an understandable reaction to the pain and discomfort of life, yet it is a distinctly western way of navigating the world. Find the cause, cure the identified problem (pain & discomfort) – root cause analysis (RCA). There is a place for RCA, yet for the human experience, it often falls short when addressing pain and discomfort. For that, there’s another way of navigating the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual discomfort of our lives. That way is to turn towards the pain and discomfort and to “live the questions” rather than “seek the answers.”
“Living the Questions” is a process of holding life’s questions lightly, with mercy and compassion.
The type of question we hold is equally important. When life becomes challenging, rather than ask, “why or how,” which often elicits an egoic response, I’ve returned to asking questions that open me to curiosity and wonder.
These questions include:
1. What am I experiencing?
(Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, energetically)?
2. What am I afraid of?
(Notice what you are afraid of)
3. What is the quality of my relationship to what is unfolding?
(Is my heart still open to myself and others? Am I running away, fighting against, being present to what is unfolding? Is the quality of my relationship based on fear or love?)
4. What is life teaching me at this moment?*
(About myself, others, and/or life)
These four questions elicit a deeper awareness and invite me to step out of fear-based living and into a state of flow. In this, there’s nothing to do – no searching, no striving, no final answers, only a state of flow until what I need reveals itself.
This is not a passive state of being.
When I say there is “nothing to do” I am simply aware that if I chose to stay with this deeper state of awareness, then the “next accurate action” will reveal itself. Sometimes the pace between the steps of awareness, compassion, and action unfolds more slowly than we like. When I get impatient, I’ve found it helpful to remember that it’s not about my preferences for how and when something “should” unfold, but rather my readiness for what is revealed.
Recently, while talking to my friends and meditation colleagues, we were talking about the political situation in the US. My friend, yoga and meditation teacher Rufus Tieder, was transparently honest when she asked, “How do I hold these people?” In this case, she was referring to people whose ideologies and ways of being were far outside her comfort zone.
Another friend, meditation teacher Catherine Commander, shared the wisdom that sometimes we have not yet developed the capacity to hold others from a standpoint of compassion or mercy. In this case, we simply continue our practice of awareness, noticing and naming what is rising and what we are experiencing – without judgment.
The practice of “living the questions”
The practice of living the questions is one where presence, awareness, curiosity and wonderment opens a spaciousness that pervades our experience. In that spaciousness, I’m no longer drawn into the emotions or stories of what is happening, nor am I ignoring them. I’m simply a witness to what is unfolding while standing for what is accurate for me – without judgment of myself or others. When I stay present and ask questions without seeking the answers, life reveals the answers.
As the light of dawn breaks through the kitchen window, the answer I was seeking is effortlessly revealed. I hold myself gently, with compassion and mercy, even as I trust life to guide me, to show me what my heart is longing for, and to convey the next step in my evolution.
May you, too, be held in the arms of compassion as you live into life’s questions.
P.S. In January, I am opening a small wayfinding group for people who would like extra support in learning how to navigate life from a heart-based perspective. The group is limited to six people and will be held on Wednesday evenings at 6 pm, EST. The cost for the group is $40/month (billed monthly), with a minimum signup of 6 months. If this interests you, please contact me at email@example.com.
*This awesome question is attributed to friend and author John Earl.