Ever since I began my juicy love affair with Rainer Maria Rilke, I have loved his advice about seeking answers.
He wrote, "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love
the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now
written in a very foreign tongue. 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 now. Perhaps you will
then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into
I had an affinity for these words long before I understood exactly how one could love the questions and let go of the answers. That process has been a very rich and continuous journey for me. As with many valuable lessons, I seem to have learned them most vividly during the times that seemed most difficult. To be able to hold a question in its own space without constricting around the answers is a beautiful thing.
Can you taste the question? Feel its texture? Find where it resides in your body? Can you breathe the question? Can you open up to it. Can you do all these things without searching for the answer? Without expecting the answer?
I'd like to add to Rilke's words, actually. Maybe you will not live along into the answer. Maybe the answer will never come. I think this is very important to consider. It takes away from our experience when we are waiting for a particular result. It's like a yoga class during which the teacher is constantly saying, for every posture, "If you keep doing this, eventually, one day, your nose will be touching your toes, your spine will be perfect, you'll be able to wrap your elbows around your shoulders while standing on your head...." So is that really going to help you be in the posture, where you are, now? Now when your nose is more like at your belly button and the prospect of it touching the floor is pretty daunting. Answers can be daunting too. And distracting.
To try and experience the question as a question is amazing. To hold it there and relax around it is liberating. Suddenly, it's okay to not know. It is. It is totally okay to not know. Who says we have to know? And how much knowing is just to fill up the space? How much knowing lacks a genuine quality?
So this weekend, I attended a program entitled "Who Are You?". Isn't this sort of the ultimate question? Our teacher gave the analogy of how we walk around as exclamation points all the time. I am a writer! I am a woman! I am an American! I am a Buddhist! I am... whatever. Why don't we walk around as question marks? So the teachings revolved around opening up to that question mark.
Over the past six months, I have felt a greater opening of my own sense of self in many ways. Mostly sparked by losses on many levels, I found my own idea of who I was becoming even more shaky. And I found myself actually being grateful for that. How liberating not to have to maintain some particular identity. How liberating to invite a curiosity into my own sense of who I am.
I stumbled upon this quote the other night, from Chogyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism:
"You do not constantly have to manage yourself. You must disown rather than attempt to maintain control, trust yourself rather than check yourself. The more you try to check yourself, the greater the possibility of interrupting the natural play and growth of the situation."
Don't our labels and identities for ourselves turn into a way of managing and monitoring? Am I acting like the yogi that I claim to be? If I am a professional, I can't do this. As a woman, I should be conducting myself in this way. Rather than trusting in our experience and our transience, we fixate on some mode of being or doing. And so, can we let go? I dance, but I don't have to identify as a dancer in every moment. I am a woman, but that doesn't matter on some levels.
So who are you? Can you open up into the question?