We are already awash in information. There have already been studies done, papers published, and books written about pretty much anything you can imagine. We don't need more information. What we need now is wisdom. Asking questions connects with creativity. Asking questions engages your imagination. Asking great questions is a way of expanding what's possible for you.
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”
Asking a great question is like squeezing juice from a piece of fruit. If the question is the fruit itself, how you ask is your method of squeezing. Both are important. Before you begin squeezing, you'll need to prepare a space for the process...
When I was a new and inexperienced pilot, I showed up for a flying lesson late one day, and my car was a mess. In fact, I was a mess. I was not prepared. My instructor told me, "The way you live your life is the way you fly."
I realized he was right.
Over the next three weeks, you'll need to create some space—both figuratively and literally, to be able to notice subtle sensations within yourself. You'll need to be able to hear the faint whispers of creative insights.
Your outer environment is an expression of your inner world. When you look around your living space, what does it say about you? Is your mind clean, or disorganized? Growth mindsets need a space to thrive. Is there some clutter you could do away with?
As you sit and read this, I want you to notice the place where your left foot is making contact with the floor. Notice everything you can about the sensations in your left foot, if you are wearing socks, notice how the fabric feels on your skin. What do you notice? Why am I asking you to notice?
Our entire life experience happens through our nervous system. Our nervous system consists of:
By choosing to notice your left foot, you just practiced a key element of Somatic Experiencing®. As we choose which sensations to put our attention on, we can begin to resolve trauma by bringing conscious awareness to our nervous system. Questions are a way to access the nervous system by shifting the lens of awareness.
Unlike ordinary missiles, questions can seek out and destroy outdated stories and beliefs, and explode with new possibilities. They blow open the door for all of the creativity of the universe to come flooding into your life. Why?
Your brain is constantly being bombarded by data from your senses. If you were aware of the sensations in your left foot, AND your right foot, AND both of your hands, as well as all of the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, internal sensations, and everything else that is coming into your brain, you would be overwhelmed. All of this information gets filtered down to only what your brain deems as most important. The part of the brain that filters out non-essential information is called the reticular activating system. Questions engage the reticular activating system, and direct where your focus goes.
Everything you have ever seen, heard, smelled, felt, tasted, experienced, or known, is filed away somewhere deep in your subconscious mind. As you dive deep into the subconscious, I believe there is also a connection with superconsciousness. In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about glimpses of creativity that come to us with a quiet whisper, softly asking for our attention. Questions evoke Big Magic.
When you ask yourself a great question, and stay with it persistently, your reticular activating system filters out non-essential information and scans the deep subconscious for answers. If the answer can't be found there, a message goes out to the universe. While answers may not always come immediately, they always come eventually—usually as a flicker of an idea upon waking, or in the shower, or during meditation, or other times when the mind is relaxed.
Resolving trauma, opening creativity, and solving day-to-day problems is greatly helped by a special kind of inward-focused curiosity. Somatic Experiencing® is based in part on something called Focusing, which was described in a book by Eugene Gendlin. This is also where the term felt sense comes from.
"Instead of talking at yourself from the outside in, you listen to what comes from you, inside. You ask in a quiet, friendly way, and sympathetic way, 'What's wrong?' You may never before have been quite this friendly to yourself."
In later lessons we'll be talking about the importance of mastering where to point the lens of your focus, and how to use the felt sense to solve problems, access creativity, and create the life you really want.
In ancient times, Zen masters devised a special kind of question known as a koan. A koan is a question which has no logical answer, but can be directly experienced. In Adversity 2 Awakening retreats, we use koans in a structured retreat setting in pursuit of spiritual awakening. Mystics such as Sri Ramana Maharshi have used this simple and powerful question to gain enlightenment;
"Who am I?"
"The thought 'Who am I' will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-Realization."
—Sri Ramana Maharshi
Getting juice out of good questions requires not only asking juicy questions, but also knowing how to squeeze them properly. This is where focusing, felt sense, intention, and a certain structure come into play. Eventually I will make a video training just for this. For now, though, I am only teaching this in person—either on Zoom calls during 21 Days to Solo coaching sessions, or in an Adversity 2 Awakening retreat.