As I’ve written here and here, I’m not really into the whole New Year’s resolutions thing. Which isn’t to stay I don’t spend time reflecting on the year ahead. I just like to keep things more open because (for me, for now) that seems a better fit.
At the start of this fast disappearing year, my friend Grace created what she called a “Bratty Wish List for 2014.” Looking back at it recently, she had a revelation (posted on Facebook and shared here with her permission.)
Because miracles happen all the time! And I need reminders for this. How “all of my dreams could be coming true” can feel like “everything falling apart all the time” surprisingly often. Because that was 2013, as we have learned.”
So . . . there were 9 items on the list. All of those items felt so big, slightly-to-extremely scary, improbable. I am reporting in December 2014 that SIX OF THE NINE OF THEM CAME TRUE.
Of the remaining three that I didn’t get, I don’t really care about one of them anymore. Regarding the remaining two, I still don’t have those things but I feel faaaaar less stuckified about them than I did a year ago. In fact, everything I went through this year has been full of incredibly useful learnings that will allow me to be far better prepared to receive them when I do.
Right then, I decided that this is the spirit in which I’d approach this coming year. Yes, I’m making a list, but it’s not a list of resolutions or goals. Rather it’s a list of data points in a playful experiment that I sometimes call “my life.” Maybe some of these will come to be. Maybe they’ll evolve. Maybe they’ll give way to other dreams. Maybe I’ll lose interest. But regardless of what happens, there is no failure. There is only curiosity and learning.
December 1, 2014, a new month opens up, as we head into the confusing, hectic rush of another holiday season. For Christians (and spiritual eclectics such as me), this also marks the beginning of the advent calendar. And, as we move towards the end of one year, we approach the beginning of the next.
Havi Brooks, one of my touchstones in the virtual world, talks a lot about embarking. Indeed, a short program called “The Art of Embarking” is a prerequisite for admission to her real-life offerings. In the aftermath of last night’s advent service–the first time I’ve been to church in years, but last night I had an impulse and decided to act on it–I dug out my copy.
The Art of Embarking is replete with questions and proposed experiments, and it’s framed by words that floated up years back at the end of a yoga practice: Enter as you wish to be in it. Exit as you wish to continue. (Buddhists might call this a koan.)
There is more, much more, but this is by way of explaining why this question is on my mind. What does it mean to embark? Right now, for me.
A refuge is a place where people go when they are distressed or when they need safety and security. There are many types of refuges. When people are unhappy, they take refuge with their friends, when they are worried and frightened, they may take refuge in false hopes and beliefs
Buddhists commit to taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma (the truth about what is), and the Sangha (the spiritual community)–the so-called Triple Jewel–the idea being that this is where true security and freedom lie.
All of this is background for the question that’s stayed with me: What are the qualities of refuge? In other words, what does refuge feel like? And where are those feelings found?
Years ago, I recall a friend dryly remarking: “Some days I don’t want to leave the house until I’ve figured it all out.”
These words have stayed with me not only because they’re funny but also because they’re true. Especially in times of doubt or uncertainty, the desire to resolve things once and for all can feel endlessly compelling.
But instead of seeking the right answers, more and more I find myself looking for the right questions. For me, good questions are footholds in a steep and treacherous climb. They offer stability and sound footing, and as they orient me to what lies ahead, they often lead to surprising places.
Which is why I’m launching this new venture, which I’m calling The Questions Project. I’ll share the questions that speak to me, and I hope you will do the same. It’s an experiment in dispensing with the relentless pursuit of answers.
You probably know that famous exhortation of Rainer Marie Rilke to “[b]e 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.” Strangely it was only recently that I came to connect these words to my own experience. Of course, loving the questions means paying attention to them.
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To start off this conversation, I’d love to hear your reflections on the title of this piece–“What is the question?” What does that question mean to you? What thoughts does it spark?