As my newsletters often do, this one starts off with a childhood reflection. This time, it's one of the first memories I have of getting my school report card. It was there that amid the check-marks and letters scribbled from my teacher, a few words were written that still ring true today: “Loves to ask questions.”
My parents were least surprised by this feedback, a feature of my personality that frequently tested their patience. I was dubious, but if we'd had a crystal-ball to reveal that one day part of my adult job would be asking
millions of people questions on "the Internet"…well, I’d probably have had a few follow-ups.
These days, I work with kindred spirits who prefer to live in the big questions, rather than be satisfied by old answers. Those questions lead them to piles of data, into the wilderness of the Okavango
, to other planets, beyond, etc. On the yoga mat, I find myself coming back to the same sort of wonder. One of my go-to cues when teaching is to encourage students to be curious about what their own practice might reveal that particular day. It frees you to frame a thought or a feeling as a question; it spaces you from both self-criticism as well as complacency. It turns, “I can’t do this pose like the guy next to me,” into: “How would it feel to ground my palms onto this block?”
As humans, we process a crazy amount of data at all times. Being able to quickly come to an answer is all about survival. But if you’re reading this, chances are you have the luxury of not living in constant pure survival mode. You can lounge about in the questions. That might be during your meditation, at yoga, while walking to and from work, wherever.
As it turns out, hearing a question can actually be quite powerful, and even pleasurable
to our brains. An open-ended question that has no precise right or wrong alters our body chemistry, lighting up neural activity in the rewards centers of our brains. It also focuses our minds, because while we contemplate a question we can’t think about anything else.
Sometimes, I find myself caught in a broken record mental loop. I’m embarrassed about a thing I said and keep running the words over and over in my mind, or I feel disrespected by someone and keep telling myself how mad I am at them. After a time, this is really only hurting me. Asking a question can help break that cycle through imagination. It gives my mind another option to ask, “How might it look if next time this happens, I spoke up?” Or even, “What are my hands doing when I think about this story? How does my jaw feel? Why is my heart rate speeding up?” In these cases, arriving at an answer isn’t the point.
There is so much more you can do with a question, sensation-wise, possibility-wise. So be like a five-year-old, take yourself down a rabbit-hole of why’s and how’s without worrying about the answers. Your brain loves a good question. And no one has to know about it but you.