Living the Questions

waterfall wideDo 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 now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to the Young Poet

Years ago I attended a writer’s conference with William Kittridge who had taught creative writing at the University of Montana for thirty years. He spoke of how at the start of his teaching career he focused on working with the elements of craft but as the years progressed he found what was most helpful was to ask his students the question, “why do you want to write?”. I started using this question in my writing class and discovered that it leads people to the essence of their desire to write which provides a lot of energy for engaging the process.

Later I started seeing the power of asking questions in every area of my life. Asking questions invites the subconscious mind, which represents an estimated 93% of your mind, into the game. Once you give your subconscious mind a question to work on or a problem to solve it will work on it 24/7 to come up with a solution.

I’m sure you have all had the experience of sitting at your desk trying to figure something out with your conscious, rational mind. Then you give up, get in your car, drive home and as you are pulling into your driveway the answer pops into your head. With your conscious mind busy driving your subconscious was able to draw on it’s vast tracts of information and insight and reach the surface of your mind with a solution. That’s why we often do our best “thinking” when our conscious mind is occupied with a mundane task: like walking, driving, doing the dishes, or taking a shower.

The beauty of questions is that they open up a world of possibilities. Thinking that there is only one answer or leaping to a conclusion is limiting. In creativity as in life it works best to play in the field of “all is possible” with questions like “What if there was another way to do this?” or “What’s the best way for solve this problem?”.’

When I teach classes or work with coaching clients I’ll ask “What are your questions?, What are the questions you need to ask to understand what wants to born in your writing, in your creativity, in your life?” I often use freewriting, where you write without thinking, as a tool for answering the questions I have for myself. Writing is the best tool I know of getting clear on the questions and then accessing an expanded inner wisdom and knowing. Sometimes when I’m struggling with something, I sit down and write the question, “What do I need to know right now?”. Inviting more questions. Opening to the possibilities.

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