April 6, 2009

Want More Life? Ask Bigger Questions

“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”  — James Thurber

If you want more life, ask more questions. Big, useful questions. Ones that energize and inspire you and the people around you.

I have a happier, more carefree attitude when I ask expansive questions. The mind, as Jerry Stocking suggests in his excellent book, Thinking Clearly, shrinks when we stop asking questions. It expands and becomes energized by the process of seeking.

I like to take a question and create answers to it that lead to bigger questions. for instance:

What am I doing now? Writing in my journal.

Why am I doing that? Because I find it useful.

What’s useful about it? I notice that my mind becomes more flexible when I ask and answer questions. I like the clarity and insight I find through the process.

What’s the point of having more clarity? My life seems to flow more smoothly when my mind is clear. I get more from life. I am happy.

What could I do to enhance the experience? Practice drawing in my journal, writing more poetry, using colored pens, switching to my left hand, listening to different types of music while writing.

Invariably I end a question and answer session smiling.

In a sense, my work is simply the asking of expansive questions that challenge people to break through problems and out of stagnation.

I’m energized by the question-asking process. And it’s even more energizing when I’m asking and answering questions with others.

But don’t take my word for it. Test that for yourself. The next time you find yourself in a group and want to spice things up, ask a juicy question, one that gets people exploring possibility. Follow it with other, bigger questions. As a game it’s a lot of fun, and as an opportunity for mind expansion it’s far more effective (and safe) than any chemical.

Using the Process on Anxiety and Depression

When I notice the physical symptoms that most people label as anxiety or depression, I like to ask questions about the symptoms themselves. Rather than seek an explanation for them — when invariably gets me nowhere — I use the process of questioning to become more present:

  • What physical sensations am I feeling now?
  • What do I see before me now?
  • What do I smell?
  • What do I hear?

It’s a short and effective process. When I learned to use the process of asking bigger questions about my the symptoms I used to label as anxiety and depression, I noticed that the symptoms shortened in duration, and I experienced them less often.

Beats taking a pill.

Get into the habit of asking bigger questions in your life. Learn to ask open-ended questions that expand the possible range of answers. Avoid leading or self-assumptive questions. Experiment alone and with others. Notice what happens.

After a month or so of honing your question-asking skills, ask yourself this: What do I notice about my attitude and mental state as the result of bigger questions? What big questions will serve me the most effectively today?

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