I believe life is a quest—not an answer.
It’s the journey—not the destination—that keeps our interest and causes us to adventure (or stumble) into new territory.
The journey is filled with that which we know not—the unknown.
How comfortable are we in the unknown?
Or, to put it another way, how much do we need to have the answers, to be right in our opinions?
Being “right” by having an answer assures us that we are competent.
Not knowing the answer is usually considered incompetent—wishy-washy. And who wants to be incompetent?
Therefore we often pressure ourselves to get an answer to whatever challenge we are facing as quickly as possible. We may do our best to hide the fact that we really don’t know. We are just hopeful.
The poet Rilke advises us of another way:
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 now. Perhaps you will then gradually,
without noticing it, live along some distant
day into the answers.
Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letter to a Young Poet”
How do we restrain from rushing for answers—almost any answer just to bring relief—and thus live the questions?
How often do we settle for an assumption, rather than seek more information? Assumptions closes the gap of not knowing.
Or we may believe what someone in authority tells us, just to close off any questions.
Living the question is similar to being between two trapezes. It is frightening to wait for the other trapeze to swing toward us. Waiting can be very uncomfortable.
Fear is made up of specific patterns within our mind that cause unease. These patterns come from the past. Our task is to bring the light of awareness into these old beliefs. Light dissolves darkness.
Our quest is to untangle the dilemmas that rise in our life over and over, showing up in various forms, but bringing similar uncomfortable emotions—without closing down prematurely on any answer.
Patience is required to address challenges. We must deeply listen, asking “And what else?” rather than jumping to conclusions.
We need to see our assumptions for what they are—things we have assumed to be true without thorough investigation.
In my quest I have recently discovered how impatient my mind can be. As I pay attention to what my mind is actually saying and doing (and this takes much focused quiet) I find how this mind wants things to be other than they are.
I am uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. I want things pinned down so that I know what action to take.
Waiting is a skill. How much waiting? How little?
We can wait so long we miss opportunities. Procrastination is a habit.
Closing down prematurely on answers can also become a habit.
Habits can’t function when they are closely examined. Habits get nervous when light is poured upon them as they only work in dark, unquestioned places.
By taking time each day to sit quietly, breathe, and watch our mind we gradually see what we are thinking. If we don’t get lost in the content of the thoughts, we can begin to sort out what is unskillful—what doesn’t nourish.
We learn to stop grabbing. This is another habit.
Sitting in the unknown, paying close attention to what arises in the mind, we can simply wait and watch what happens.
Answers come to us. They arise unbidden.
In this way we grow into the solutions, rather than trying to shape them ourselves. If there is a lot of “hot energy” around any answer, we can be pretty sure it has come from the ego, as the ego always gets very excited when it thinks it has a good idea. This is usually premature, and not helpful.
So we wait. Good ideas will return. Time and patience help us to sort them out.
As we follow the clues in front of us step by step, we will be led into our future. We will gradually grow into the answer that brings true satisfaction and contentment.
It takes time to grow into the fullness of life.