Over the past few weeks I’ve introduced myself, discussed the importance of asking questions, and described the format of my posts. I hope you’ve been inspired to set aside some time each week to get in touch with your intuition. We all have an Authentic Self that’s available to provide inner guidance, if we’re willing to listen.
From here on, I’d like to start musing on a variety of topics…from practical to spiritual, from conventional to unfamiliar, yet always striving to go deep into what truly matters. First, though, I’m spending one last week to make sure you’re comfortable with the process, as well as the outcome—which is far from certain. You see, asking questions isn’t always easy.
Simple ones rarely give us pause:
Others can leave us a quivering mess of nerves, wanting to pull a blanket over our heads:
So let’s take a moment to talk about those fears, as well as the expectation that we’ll find the answers to all of our questions.
My own experience has taught me that sometimes what’s scarier than questions swirling through our lives is the idea of finding the answers—because then you’re faced with the need to take action or make a change. I spent years ignoring my questions so I could stay with the status quo, where it felt safer.
Looking back 5-10-20+ years ago, at who I was and what insecurities filled me, burying my head in the sand didn’t make arriving at the present moment any easier. Asking those questions would have opened myself up to facing life’s challenges with grace and ease.
I understand it can feel frightening to practice self-inquiry, especially when the answers aren’t guaranteed. Just remember you can move forward at a pace that feels right—feels safe—to you. Small steps are all that’s needed to take us from one day to the next, so there’s no cause to panic.
No matter where you’re headed in life, if you don’t consider where to plant your foot for the very first step, you’ll remain frozen in place watching life pass you by. In the long run, there’s nothing more terrifying than that. Don’t believe me? Listen to the words of a palliative care worker who collected the final thoughts and wisdom from those who were dying. Their biggest regret?
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself,
not the life others expected of me.”
~ Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying
Ponder that for a moment. Then think about this:
How will you know what’s true for you,
in any area of your life, unless you ask?
As I mentioned in my post last week, answers don’t always arrive on a regular or predictable time table. Sometimes they comes quickly, as if it were just waiting for your attention and acknowledgement. Other times the issues are complex, and if we haven’t taken any previous opportunities to sit with our feelings, it can be weeks or months before a direction makes itself clear.
No one can predict when their answers will arrive. However, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to cultivate the following strategies:
Trying to hurry the process along tends to create more stress. It throws you back into analytical thinking, wanting to check off the pros and cons. But if all questions were answered so easily, we’d be able to solve all of life’s challenges with a simple two-columned list. It helps to remember that what we’re seeking lies within, and the answers will be available to us at the right time, whenever that may be.
One of my hardest lessons, which I’m still working on, is to accept the things I cannot change. There’s been a lot—family health issues, gaps in my career, lost relationships. I’ve realized, though, that the worst part is the suffering I created—wishing things could be (or should have been) different than they were. Sometimes life is going to deal you a rough hand, and the only way forward is to play it through with acceptance.
It’s less of a struggle when you remember the other part of the Serenity Prayer. There are things that we can change. And the questions are where we learn which actions will transform our lives. The challenge is learning to tell the difference, and then sharing the wisdom of our experience with others.
Sometimes I notice myself fighting against how things are…resisting what is in front of me, right here, right now. I need a reminder to surrender to the notion that I’m not in control. So I invite you to practice this with me.
Consider being willing to wait for the answers to your questions with patience and acceptance. It’s not easy, and it has taken me months to relinquish my expectations even some of the time. But it helps—so very much—to release my tight-fisted need to see things as different from how they are.
If you find yourself struggling, start by saying this:
I am willing to be willing to wait for my answers to arrive.
The most practical advice I have is to avoid fixating on a particular inquiry if the answer isn’t coming to you. Over the course of the week (or longer if you’re so inclined), set aside a small bit of time to repeat the question. Aim for a moment when you can take a break from the day’s busyness and enjoy the gift of silence. It could be during your morning shower, in a meditation practice, on a walk outdoors, or as you’re drifting off to sleep. Just let go of the impulse to force an answer. Instead, leave an open invitation for your wisdom to approach.
Then go about the rest of your day.
Stop thinking about it, obsessing over it, worrying whether you’re doing it wrong or feeling out of touch with yourself. Questions echo through your subconscious long after you’ve moved on to other tasks.
Focus on what you do know, the people around you, the activities that bring you joy or simply need to get done. Trust that the questions are working their magic, and you don’t have to DO anything more for now.
That’s a pretty blunt answer, but it’s also virtually guaranteed. As more personal truths fall into our awareness, new questions will emerge. Change is constant. We’ll always be striving to make sense of new circumstances as we continue to grow and evolve.
While at first it can seem overwhelming to consider that we’ll never know it all (not even about ourselves), in some ways I find this a comfort. I can’t possibly weigh all the potential consequences for each choice point in my life, therefore I only need to do the best I can, with what I’m aware of in any given moment. This frees me to move forward without worry over when the answers will arrive.
Cool how that loops around, isn’t it?
Since I introduced the idea last week, I’d like you to practice a SMALL STEP with me now—inviting a tiny amount of action or change into your life. Start by finding a quiet time when you can consider what questions might be lingering in your life.
Maybe big ones about career changes, living situations, or relationships. Or smaller ones, like whether to continue with a hobby or clear up some clutter from your life. Think about how much time you’ve spent preoccupied with this issue, believing you could ease your mind and make decisions if only you knew.
Join me this week for a bit of silence, during whatever activity or pause in the day seems right. Take a few moments to cultivate patience and acceptance with feeling uncertain about your best course of action. And end your time by saying:
I am willing to be willing to not have all the answers.
I’m be working on accepting my questions about this blog. Will my posts resonate with anyone else? Will my writing here provide the sense of satisfaction and connection I long for? I’m willing to keep going, week after week, not knowing. I’m choosing to take this small step in a direction that feels right to me.
Learning to embrace uncertainty while remaining open to answers requires a receptive heart and mind. Thankfully, it grants us the serenity to move through our days without buckling under the fear of what we don’t yet know.
So if you’re feeling courageous, I invite you to share one of your lingering life questions, as well as how you surrender to living with the questions in your day to day life.