“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 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 find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer.” Rainier Maria Rilke
Some years ago this quote found its way into my notebook. It was part of a weekly reflection assignment, assigned to me in my Spiritual Leadership class while I was attending Portland State University. I came across it again, a couple of days ago as I was frantically looking through old journals for a certification I once received. I never found what I was looking for, and I don’t think I paid all too much attention to the quote as I browsed over it. A flicker of some curiosity and an appreciation once formed over the quote may have been there, but only momentarily before I kept on with my search.
The quote made its way into my view again today, this time as I was scrolling through On Being’s website. If you read my post from yesterday, I’ve been on a kick for as much On Being as I can get. My inner self has been deprived of regular nourishment, and everything I hear and read from that site is like the most quenching liquid I’ve ever drank from. With each syllable, my soul licks its lips satisfactory and begs for more. It makes me realize how desperately I need spiritual folk in my life, how longingly there is a cry inside myself for the sacred, how much farther I have to go to design a life and a practice for myself that will keep me grounded, aware, and present.
Ah, presence. What is that saying? …The present moment is a gift, that is why they call it the “present?” I often fail to take advantage of the gift of the present moment. Honestly, I don’t even know how often I can find full contentment in the moment I’m currently experiencing. There is always something there, the being who reacts according to my developed thought patterns, who doesn’t want to stay still. This is the underlying energy of anxiety: moving, churning, trying to flee and yet, there is no where to go. She is thinking, processing, analyzing. It doesn’t stop.
I noticed this explicitly as three very different subjects came at me simultaneously this morning. In one, I was anxious and excited, looking forward to a phone call about a job opportunity I knew I was perfect for, but still hesitant as it was yet to be set in stone. Another set of thoughts came at me with concern and sadness about a family member not feeling well, the weight of imagining life without this person. In the third, I was angry and bitter about an ongoing situation that had yet to be dealt with, but that has been slowly seeping ill feelings into the relationship of someone dear to me. This whirl wind of emotions surrounded me, switching from one to another so rapidly I might have well been spinning in circles.
I thought to myself, this is absolute insanity; I don’t think it needs to be like this. In fact, I know it doesn’t. I’ve spent enough time in the last ten years working with intentional practices to recognize when I’ve fallen out of alignment. How long I’ve been out of alignment? Hell, it might be years. But I do know it needs to change. In every moment we have the opportunity to be present and to make the most out of that particular place in time and space, to be conscious and to act rather than react. We have the ability to reprogram the days, months, year or decades of unconscious behavior and replace it with something substantial, something that is meaningful.
Now, to bring this full circle: In becoming conscious, I’ve been asking myself a whole lotta questions (again, the analyzing). What type of people are we supposed to surround ourselves with? If a situation isn’t bringing out our best selves, and we aren’t growing to our full potential there, do we move on and seek out better conditions? Do the other conditions actually even exist, or is it up to us to create meaning and growth in the circumstances we find ourselves in? What is the meaning of unconditional love, commitment, and dedication when it comes to people? When do we draw the line? When is it okay to be selfish or is it always best to be selfless? In standing up for truth, is it more important to go with the flow and focus on loving despite difference, or should we speak the hard words even if it makes those around us unhappy and not want to be around us? What if in our apparent differences, I realize I don’t want to be around them? That I want to keep searching for those who do resonate more with my inner being? So yeah, these are some of the questions I’ve been asking.
In the article I read, another Parker J. Palmer on Posing an Open and Generous Question, he states how the objective could be to pose better questions. I don’t know how I’m going to rephrase my questions just yet, but with more attention to the present moment I anticipate the clarity to begin developing these. As I continue to sift through these questions, I’ll also keep in mind this idea of loving these questions, and living them, with little regard to any actual answers as of yet. I don’t know when or if I’ll find all my answers, but that’s okay. It’s the mystery, it’s the dance of both my light and darkness. And where one begins and the other ends, I’m not sure.