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Monday, 24 November 2014 21:59
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Finding your question

Think of a question that you are never tired of asking; one that you’ll never know the answer to.

Your question must be fascinating to you, says Laurie Patton, dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University. She says it must be so fascinating that “no matter where you land and what you do with your life, you will always focus on your question.”

Laurie’s question has now become the focal point of quite a number of workshops. Finding your question is said to be a way of integrating your life, snapping you out of jaded complacency, and helping you to find fulfillment in being a seeker forevermore.

Obviously, reading about Laurie, I’ve been driving myself crazy to find my question. Finally, I think it is this: When will I understand? Understand what, you might ask. Well, understand why. The why of what? Understand why things happen the way they do.

I mean, turning left one day instead of right, missing a call, taking the ‘wrong’ turnoff – these are the fragile things that might determine the job you get, who you marry, where you live, or even whether you live or die. It all seems so . . . random.

Of course I’d like to think that the universe conspires on my behalf, that everything happens for a reason and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Thing is just that I do not like the idea that it might all be set in cement before you even took your first step.

Sort of like that story about the man in the Russian town of Vysokovsk. He was told that he was going to die that evening and when he went to the morning market, he bumped into a hooded figure. The figure turned around to stare him in the eye and, lo and behold, it was the Grim Reaper himself.

The man got on his horse and rode hell bent for leather in whichever direction the next fork in the road took him. That evening he got to a town unknown to him, found an inn for weary travellers and who would be behind the desk, but the Grim Reaper himself. This time the apparition spoke. He said: I was so surprised to see you in Vysokovsk this morning because I knew we had a meeting here tonight.

So, when will I understand why things happen the way they do? Every now and again I find myself thinking that I might just have glimpsed the image behind the mirror, but when I focus my eyes, it has all changed again. It was Wayne Dyer who said: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” And of course that includes you; the way you see yourself.

We often confuse who we are with the role we’re playing at a certain stage of life. Madisyn Taylor writes that our roles change as we bob and weave with the ebb and flow of life.

She says we often forget that our roles shift and change throughout our lives. You can go from local to newcomer, from child to parent, caregiver to receiver and each role gives you another perspective through which to understand yourself and the nature of the universe.

As long as you don’t confuse who you are with the role you play. And as long as you remember that you are the only one who can take responsibility for the way you tell your life story. Take a good look at the story you tell yourself each day. It is not what has happened to you, but the story you tell yourself about what has happened that makes all the difference.

Naturally it’s easy to fall into victim mode – the wrong turn you took; the call you missed, but “Don’t you dare take the lazy way,” writes John Steinbeck in ‘East of Eden’. “It’s too easy to excuse yourself . . . Don’t let me catch you doing it! Now – look close at me so you will remember. Whatever you do, it will be you who do.”

And whoever that is, it’s your job to figure it out. It is like Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

 

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