Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why We Need to Keep Asking Why

One of the most powerful practices you can enact is to simply ask “Why?” instead of giving into your most automatic impulses, thoughts and actions.

  • When someone says something hurtful to you, ask yourself why they feel the need to hurt.

  • When someone cuts you off in traffic, ask why they aren’t paying attention or why they are full of urgency or anger.

  • When someone dresses in a way you find goofy or scandalous or slovenly, ask why.

  • Then, ask why you are reacting as you are, or why you feel the need to examine others so closely. Know thyself first, right?

The thing is, we know so little, but we assume so, so much. We fill in the spaces of all we don’t know with our opinions, our emotions, our thoughts and our beliefs. We fill in the spaces with our family histories, our socioeconomic background, our race, our education, our religion. We fill in the spaces with our culture, our parents, our stories and our philosophies. We fill in the spaces with our egos.
Your curiosity is perhaps your greatest teacher, your best guide.

Your curiosity opens you up, accesses your observant awareness, closes down your impulsive, judging thoughts. Your curiosity is a path to your heart and your highest self.

My son hasn’t started asking “Why?” about the whole world yet (though he’s begun with “What’s that?” about many, many things!), but we all know the story about the child who drives his parents bonkers with asking “Why?”

When does that end? When do we stop asking why? Why do we stop asking why?

I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because we get frustrated once we realize that there are so many things we don’t know the answers to. Maybe we like living in a world of certainty more than we like having our minds and hearts challenged. To be sure, it’s exhausting to spend a lot of time in uncertainty. We don’t have answers, and we like answers, so we invent them, even if we must do so unconsciously.

I like answers. They are so satisfying. But they are not what the world and the people in it are here for. The world and people do not exist to give you answers.

We have so many answers in this world. Science and our faculties of reason and intellect have given us the path to almost as many answers as we want. Somehow, we have to reacquaint ourselves with mystery, and subsequent to that reacquaintance, we must find comfort in, or at least acceptance of, mystery.

This is one reason I love reading mythology or reading about it. Mythology is not, as is commonly explained, a way to explain a world before there was science. Mythology points directly at Mystery. Does its level best to deliver you into its midst, inasmuch as words and stories and art can deliver the ineffable.

Hmmm. How’d we get from judging less to talking about the Mystery? Are they related?

I think so. Because if we keep asking “Why?”, beginning with the most basic things – our bodies, our relationships, our world, our universe – we stay open enough to eventually arrive at the doorstep of Mystery. And there, knocking on Mystery’s door, but not really expecting an answer, content to gaze at the intricate carving of the door, the way the moon bathes the door in a bright and silver light, content to experience the profound peace that comes with accepting that the door has no key, no lock, no handle, we achieve a union with ourselves, with others, with Source, and that is the very definition of bliss as we can know it in this human lifetime.

One of the things I know now as a parent that I didn’t know before is that a newborn baby is an expression of the Mystery. Totally otherworldly, completely spellbinding. Open and beautiful and as close a window to the Mystery as we’ll ever get here on earth. Little by little, humanity overtakes them, and that is not to be mourned. But for a few brief weeks, these little sleeping, gurgling creatures are more like sprites or fairies or some other mysterious, magical being. Their peace (when not crying, of course!) is enough to move anyone curious enough to watch them to tears.

Many wiser than me have said that our spiritual journey here on earth is a process of reclaiming what we already know and have experienced – that we are one with Source, that our natural state is to be completely open and at peace and infinitely loving.

I agree, and advise that one tool we need on this journey is our curiosity. Of course, asking why can be a dangerous proposition: It can lead us to answers, and if we stop seeking, we get stuck, thinking we’ve found all we need to know. We stagnate there. We may be alive, but vitality stops. That’s why we must never stop asking why, why we must always make room for curiosity.


In what areas of your life have you stopped asking why? How could you engage your curiosity to revitalize those areas? Please share any thoughts in the comments.

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