“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. 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.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Unanswered questions, intractable situations often appear to stand in the way of living from our deepest intentions. At times we might feel blocked even from knowing what our true priorities are. But if we take time to turn inward with a spirit of patience and inquiry, instead of requiring the dilemmas to go away, or insisting on immediate resolutions, we can discover the resources we need. Internal dilemmas contain a rich source of insight; learning to live with them brings about a radical shift that opens the door to clarity and equanimity.
Working with unresolved questions in your meditation practice is an intentional focus, like metta, which is different from basic breath and body awareness. We are directing our attention to something more specific, in this case, deep questions in our lives. We are creating an intention to bring the question into our hearts with a quality of openness and interest, but not with an intent to analyze or resolve.
Your question may be about some aspect of your life that doesn’t make sense: loneliness, career or finances, a difficult relationship, perhaps old conditioning that keeps reappearing unexpectedly no matter what you do. It may be about health or chronic pain, the loss of a loved one or maybe deep spiritual question about life and death. Most of us are intimately familiar with our themes, the questions that we just can’t resolve.
In exploring your questions this way, they can transform into a life force. Living your deepest questions is living your life fully; loving your questions is loving even those parts of your life and those parts of yourself that you may have shut out.
This is where the radical shift can occur. Often unresolved questions represent parts of our lives that we resist. Trying to figure them out and resolve them takes us away from this moment, where the question can come alive. This is the portal to wisdom and insight. It only opens when we can move out of the realm of the intellect and our normal attempts to solve the question. Living our questions brings us fully into this moment.
Give yourself about 20 – 30 minutes to do this practice fully.
Find a comfortable place to sit. Take a few deep breaths and settle into this moment. Now take a few minutes to find your question and bring it into your heart
As you find it, just open up to it as a living thing
Keep sitting with whatever arises and let go of any thinking or stories until you become aware of your body
Notice what you feel
As the question settles into your body you may feel sadness or grief, despair, anger, fear, love or compassion. Don’t attach to the name or the explanation. Just feel it. You may even feel neutral. If it’s neutral or blank, just be with the experience of that. Chances are it will change of its own accord as you stay present. It may also appear as energy. This can happen when we move the question out of the realm of thought and into our hearts.
If you feel overwhelmed and quickly engage in busy or intensive thought, the question may be too charged. Pull back and focus on the breath or another object of attention until you feel more settled. Then return to your question as you feel ready.
There is a lot of life and energy in our deep questions once we open our hearts and minds to them.
Once your question settles into your being, just let it rest there and don’t try to direct or see the outcome. This is where your mindfulness practice will serve you, in this spaciousness of mind and heart that we can’t always so easily access in our day to day activities.
If you feel something arising allow it to flow and move. Sadness grief, energy, even joy, whatever it might be, just be open to it welcome it and let it be in your heart. If you need to cry that is ok too.
What we’re learning to do is hold the question in the realm of not knowing, the realm of mystery. With patience, we let go of trying to resolve anything. Slowly, we learn to respond from an unbiased heart, our inherent wisdom.
You can listen to my dharma talk on working with questions here.
For my Buddhist Geeks podcast on working with questions, click here.