Finding Difficult Answers by Living in the Question

I just had one of those super-charged days where answers to a large, thorny question I’ve been wrestling with suddenly came to me effortlessly, through relaxing, delightful conversations with friends. It was a question I’d sat with in mounting frustration, feeling I should be able to answer, but having my mind crowded with thoughts about what the answer might be, should be, couldn’t be—none leading to a satisfying resolution. The contrast with how effortlessly answers appeared while I relaxed and enjoyed my Saturday couldn’t have been more extreme. I wanted to bottle it. Make it available to myself, to others, anytime.

I rewound back to the point where I gave up actively trying to answer the question and noticed what I’d done instead of tackling the question head on. I realized this series of steps has worked for me before. Sometimes I forget what I already know…

Try this for yourself and let me know your experience.

  • Let the question float in your mind. Hold it lightly, in the back of your thoughts.
  • Set the intention that you want the answer to come to you. I experience this as an inner burning desire to know. I use the strength of the feeling like a magnet. You might create a similar magnet for yourself by hearing yourself or seeing a picture of yourself finding the answer in the future.
  • Let it be ok that you don’t know the answer now. Let go of your frustration, any beliefs you have about how impossible it is to answer the question. Relax.
  • Go engage fully in the present moment. I find taking a walk, driving the car, doing housekeeping, or enjoying time with friends are all useful strategies to get out of my head and into the present moment. Do what works best for you.
  • Don’t require the answer to arrive immediately. In fact, some answers may take time to reveal themselves. Remember patience. This is “living in the question.”

I like what Rainer Maria Rilke said in his Letters to a Young Poet:…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.