I have begun to wonder
if the secret of living well
is not in having all the answers
but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company
-Rachel Naomi Remen
So much of life is a mystery, no matter how much we try to understand life in general and our lives in particular. Yet it seems to be part of being human to want to understand, to look for answers, to not be content or satisfied with not understanding or knowing.
Although many things can eventually be understood (often in hindsight) there will always be more questions that are unanswerable. They may be questions about the nature of the Universe, the purpose and significance of life, questions about the Soul or spirituality, or questions about our psychology or personalities. Many of us may wonder why so many horrible things happen throughout the world each and every day.
And although scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists, neuropsychologists, cosmologists, astronomers, sociologists and many others are constantly making new discoveries and making sense of things that before were not clear, there will always be Mystery.
Rather than fret that some things don't have answers, or don't have answers for now, or worrying about that which we don't understand, maybe we can take a new approach as the quote above so eloquently states.
Rather than make our goal answering all the questions that occur to us, the things that we question or wonder about, maybe we can instead enjoy the process of sharing these questions, wondering together about the great mysteries of Life. Maybe the process of thinking together, of sharing laughter, wonder, joy, pain and sadness as we contemplate the unanswerable questions, is truly a key to living well.
I’m late, I’m late!
For a very important date!
No time to say hello! Good-bye!
I’m late! I’m late, I'm late!
-The Mad Hatter from Alice and Wonderland
Like the Mad Hatter, we often rush through our days and our lives, not pausing to "say hello or good-bye." There is always something urgent to do, always another errand to run, always the interminable to-do list. And if we have children, there is the picking up and dropping off, meals, lessons, playdates, homework, bath time, and story time.
Yet the most important time, with our family, friends and with ourselves, the quality time where we slow down and just be, often comes last. We tell ourselves we will take the time to meditate or go for a walk or just hang out or talk or cuddle AFTER we do.... ( fill in the blank.).
Yet if we really think about it, what could be more important than really connecting with ourselves and others? What is more urgent than time to simply be- whether it's time to meditate, take a walk, sit in the garden, drink a cup of tea alone or with a friend or beloved? What is more important with your child than to play a game or talk or be silly together?
What "really important date" can't wait? What truly matters? What thing that needs to be done could possibly be more important than quiet time, or shared time or fun time or contemplative time, where time and the to-do list ceases to matter, at least for a while.....
Great dancers are not great
because of their technique;
they are great because of their passion.
~ Martha Graham
Just as EQ (emotional intelligence) is more important than IQ for a successful and happy life, passion is more important than technical ability in life's endeavors. Passion is that ineffable feeling of intense drive, motivation, or connection with/to something ( or someone). It may feel like a sense of oneness, of rightness, of absolute symmetry or perfect alignment with who you are. When you are doing whatever you are passionate about, you may temporarily lose track of time; the time/space continuum dims as you are truly present and open to a flow of inspiration and one-pointed attention.
What are you passionate about? What takes over and transports you away from your daily concerns, from your wandering mind or swirling emotions? What truly connects you to yourself? What feels like it is truly aligned with your essential self?
The answers to these questions may come readily to some, while to others, passion remains elusive, buried under layers of shoulds, shouldn'ts, fears, self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy. Can you allow yourself to dream, to imagine, to explore where passion resides within you? Can you allow yourself to journal, to draw, to dance, to work with clay, to look at the sun or stars or moon and explore where passion may burn, like a small flame? Can you begin to fan the glowing ember with your attention and actions into a larger flame?
Can you allow yourself to fully enjoy whatever you are passionate about even when you don't think you are "good" or "good enough" at it?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley