Living the Questions
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Rainer Maria Rilke
In my early 30s I went through an intense phase of deep transformation and was faced with some big questions.
A friend advised me to “live the questions” rather than struggle with all the different possibilities to try and work out the answers.
It led me to Rilke’s classic book, Letters to a Young Poet, and his much-loved quote as the source of this timeless advice.
Lean in to Not Knowing
It was just the nudge I needed to let go of the search and surrender to the reality I was facing at the time.
My process of inquiry led me to lean in to not knowing rather than wrestle to force a resolution that would have come from my head instead of my heart.
I set the intention to remain open to clarity arising from deep within me and focused on creating the right conditions for that to occur by simply being with the questions without attachment to specific outcomes.
Delightfully Surprising Pointers
This led me to play with a mix of meditation, journaling, conscious movement (yoga, walking and dance), paying attention to my dreams and remaining alert to reading the signs of the world.
Sure enough, in what undoubtedly was perfect timing, solutions eventually surfaced and answers that were in alignment with my soul became crystal clear.
I realized just how valuable it is to “live the questions” as a way to discover delightfully surprising pointers that might never have become apparent otherwise.
Honour Your Highest Values
Since then I’ve regularly drawn on this vital component of a conscious approach to writing, living and leadership as it continues to serve me – and those I coach and mentor – extremely well.
Today I’m at ease when facing the usual array of unknowns that are an inevitable part of stretching beyond the boundaries of all that is familiar to explore the full potential of all that lies beyond.
With the magnitude of change that’s occuring both individually and collectively at the moment, “living the questions” is a deceptively powerful way to remain in integrity with true nature and honour your highest values going forwards.
Where are you needing to “live the questions” in your life right now?
A friend gave me this quote many years ago. since then, I’ve more consciously chosen to “be with the questions” which, for me, has meant: sitting with the questions, feeling them–listening–letting go of my resistance–trusting my intuition–allowing stuff to surface that could not if i was using my mind only to seek the answers.
Thank you, Julia, for reminding me to reflect on this truly “timeless” advice from Rilke.
Good for you Helen; your description of how you’ve consciously chosen to be with your questions sounds ideal. I’m glad this has reminded you of Rilke’s advice and very much appreciate your comment. Thank you!
I love this, Julia … such a different way of being in the world. Brought to mind other lines from Rilke and shed new light on the reference to “expectations”:
lifted towards you out of the past, or, as you walked
past an open window, a violin
gave of itself. All this was mission.
But could you handle it? Were you not always,
still, distracted by expectation, as if all you experienced,
like a Beloved, came near to you?
THxos for all you are and do … Susan
Thank you Susan. I love the other lines from Rilke you’ve quoted here! Thank you so much for sharing them. Perfect timing perhaps? Then again, the perfect moment for new light being shed is always Now! x
Thank you for this beautiful quote, Julia. It resonates with me deeply at this time. I also love the Quote above. It reminded me of a moment passing by a house and hearing a piano being played,and how it delighted me. I must have been in the NOW!
Hello Daphne, it’s good to hear that this this quote is resonating deeply with you right now, and what a lovely memory. You must indeed have been in the NOW! Thanks for sharing x
THANK you,julia,for reminding us of Rilke’s classic book. a great comfort.Its hard to stay with the ‘openness’ he teaches but i think experiencing the way the pressure goes off when i do so keeps nudging me back to his place of easeFULNESS of discovery.thanks for delivering to us rilke at the start of the year.
Hi Peter, yes I know what you mean about this being a “great comfort” because you’re so right, the pressure does fall away when you’re in this open state of being. I love your description of the place being one of “easefulness and discovery”. Thank you for your comment.
Thank you so much Julia for this beautiful quote from Rilke, it always resonates with me. Again at this present moment it seems particularly relevant. It seems that the questions never go away. A reminder to us to be always and always in the NOW.
It’s good to hear that Rilke’s words are particularly relevant for you at this time Daphne.
The questions may still be present; yet it’s possible to change our relationship to them when we embrace the process of living our way into the answers rather than pushing ourselves to reach conclusions.
And as you so rightly say, always in the NOW! x