A long while ago I attended a yoga workshop where the teacher used David Whyte's "10 questions that have no right to go away". She wrote them on small pieces of paper, put them face down, and we all got to pick one up. On mine was written "What can I be whole-hearted about?"
It hit me like a slap on the face. Smack! It made me smile and it made me sink in despair at the same time. My brain went into overdrive "What the hell can I NOT be whole-hearted about, more like??". But there was also a desire to put this big question in my mouth and chew on it for hours, days even. Just savour it, let it seep out its juices... mindfully digest it.
When I was young and a very keen thinker, I used to ask myself questions like these day in and day out. After all, I had very little else that was as important as figuring out the meaning of my life (except maybe figuring out how to attract boys and keep them interested). I would allow time, energy and a certain dose of day-dreaming to ponder them. Then I grew older and apparently I ran out of time for such meanderings of the mind and heart. Except the questions were always there.
And so it has taken me a long, long time to come up with my own set of questions that shouldn't go away. The questions that keep coming up for me, like a patient dog, only to be shushed and hushed.. until the next time. Many of them will resonate with others' questions. In fact, I do not think there are that many questions out there to be fished (by design or serendipity) in the "philosophical question reservoir". Humans tend to ask themselves the same questions over and over. It's realising this and especially being clear on what the answers may be at any given point in time that yields the most insights.
So here they are:
1. What can I be whole-hearted about? Yes, of course, this one has to be in. My very own "slap-in-the-face-as-in-wake-up-and-live" question. For me this is about getting more in touch with my heart as I listen a bit less to my mind. To operate from a place of multidimensional insights as opposed to exclusive mental product. Intuition perhaps? Yes. Body wisdom perchance? Sure. A bit more of spiritual (read transpersonal) je-ne-sais-quoi even? I'm trying. Whole-hearted means fulfilled in all dimensions of life. And of course, it doesn't mean perfection in all areas - there's nothing hearty about perfection. It means living in awareness and through the totality of our being.
2. How do I nurture myself? In the lovely life-long dance of taking and giving, we often forget about our innermost self. How often do we give ourselves permission to do very little, or to contemplate, or to do activities that fill us with energy (not tied down with ulterior reasons, like losing weight)? Do I allow myself to meet my needs when faced with demands of others' needs? Becoming aware that my own nurturing sometimes means saying no to others sits uncomfortably with me (I am a people pleaser). But if I do not nurture myself, then I am not able to nurture others.
3. Can I accept and acknowledge things as they are? Until fairly recently, the short answer would have been "no". Who are we to not change, not to strive, to not try?? But with age comes wisdom (they say) and in my case, I've made myself (and others around me) too unhappy with trying. So now, I try to exercise curiosity and ask myself: What is this showing me? Can I be with things as they are? Of course I can. To resist is to miss the lessons that can be gleaned from all kinds of realities - the favoured and the not so favoured.
4. How do I connect to others? I love human connection. It really makes me tick. In recent years, however, I've realised I need to infuse my interaction with others with authenticity and vulnerability. Otherwise connection can remain at a superficial level. And I've had enough of that (nothing wrong with it, I just want more).
5. Am I keeping up with my own transformation? This is all about integration. Often I want to run ahead of myself. Either I think "I've made it" and then immediately continue to operate as before. Or else I think "I need to work more" and proceed, ostrich-style, to bury my head in the sand and... still operate as before. Integration comes hand in hand with action. I may live a little different because I act a little differently, not because I think I am different.
6. Can I live a life my future self can be thankful for? We all want to know whether we got it right. This is likely to evolve for people throughout their lives. According to my teenage self, my present self can already be thankful a million times over for my life so far. Back then, it was all about acquiring fun and interesting experiences, living an exciting life, travelling and meeting lots of people. I've done that already. My present self longs for more depth, more connection, more growth, more contribution. Definitely more presence.
7. Can I find peace in stillness? There is a longing for a simpler, quieter, less busy life in me. This has become more and more evident as the editing of our lives on social media has exploded in recent years. The cacophony fills me with dread and all kinds of nasties. But I take part in it willingly. Beside our digital lives, stillness has an intrinsic value in and of itself - in stillness we can pay attention, we can allow, we can be less reactive, we can have more choice in our internal responses to life.
What are some of your questions that shouldn't go away? Give yourself permission to muse about this. I do not think it a pointless or fanciful exercise of self-introspection, but a very useful set of organising reminders as you head forth in life. Like a compass or a map legend... Feel free to share them below!