Our lives are formed by the questions we ask. The writer Margaret Atwood said, “The answers you find in literature depend on the questions you ask.” I would suggest we remove “literature” and replace it with “life”. We tend to find what we seek and our questions are guiding that seeking. Some of our questions are toxic dead ends.
When you ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” you are looking for evidence that something is—and you will seem to find it from many people as well as from your own judging mind. How about, instead, asking yourself, “I wonder what I’m being called to that is bigger than what I thought I wanted?”
When you tell yourself life is terrible and you’re going nowhere, use a powerful question instead. Ask, “I wonder what is growing under the earth of my awareness and wanting to sprout, even though I can’t see it yet.”
This kind of question creates a space in the mind, It’s the mental equivalent of taking a breath. New possibilities follow because there is an invitation, a space for them to come in. We have a chance to focus on the rainbow instead of the rain and move in that direction.
There is a story of Nelson Mandela that illustrates this process perfectly. In prison he was caught in a dark night of despair. He was telling himself his hopes for the freedom of his people was over. It would never happen. Then one day he saw a beam of sunlight shining through the window and he asked a powerful, simple question: “What if it can?”
That question created just enough space in his mind to make way for an even more powerful question. He asked himself, “What if this is what it looks like while freedom is happening?” And that made enough space in his mind that he was able to ask a question that turned everything around. He asked, “I wonder what would happen if I wrote a letter to the US media?” He did write that letter and the rest is history.
If your questions are making you feel bad, so will the answers. No matter where you are on your journey, no matter what circumstances and events you are facing, I encourage you to ask some more positive questions. Let your mind breathe!