Friday, February 18, 2011
Living The Questions
Copyright Lance Kinseth, How Many Pounds Does Your Mind Weigh?/ Korean Son [Zen] Master Hae Bong, 19”x33, 1997
A SECOND EXCELLENCE of yoga admonishes one to set an intention for the practice session. For someone new to yoga, this may be as simple as exploring what this practice is like. By returns to practice, there might be a very personal intention to experience subtle elements more directly, such as grace, elegance, and flow. Often, a strong reason for setting an intention involves enhancing some aspect that can be taken from the practice into one’s everyday life to enrich the quality of one’s life or that will serve others. The practice might simply be dedicated to someone. Typically, this setting of intention is done near the beginning of the session.
It may be useful at times to not set an intention immediately, but rather, to let it arise from the practice, from one’s intuition. And when that time comes, we might ask, what it is that we need from this practice at this time. Perhaps such an intention might be one of aspiring to open or to listen. Especially in the calmness and quiet of restorative-yin practice, our language changes and our thoughts might deepen.
Setting an intention can feel good, as if setting a goal and then making progress. But this may also be an impediment. Progress and answers are what we try to do in everyday life. Coming to a practice of calmness and quiet is, itself, an intention. And it can open new information. The calmness and quietness and a return to silence enter a deeper landscape in and of itself, without further intention. We come to any practice with some sort of a quest, perhaps seeking some favor or change. But what may occur is that the questions that we bring will change as our calmness deepens. And touching this deeper life does not always consummate in an explicit meaning or “answer.” We are likely to receive another question that takes us beyond the smallness of our original question. And this question becomes a strong answer, because of the sense of emotional and intellectual quality that it offers. It opens into a larger landscape that we expect. And this question may open another question, so that the “answer” is more a process of opening and searching and being receptive. The flow of questions may awaken us.
Our rock-firm answers might feel good for the moment, but they can pale against the questions. The questions become gates that we pass through; they become cairns or marking stones that we pass along the pathway, with the next turn of the path ahead opening another bright nuance. We glance back and see how far we have come, and we gaze ahead and see how far we have to go. In so doing, we arrive more graciously where we are. We begin to live the questions rather than seek answers. We open like a blossom and our life pathway becomes a living answer.
In a body-mind practice, we are likely never fully answered. But the practice becomes more subtle, and this subtly, more rewarding and implicitly meaningful without ever coming down to an explicit meaning.
When that time comes in the calmness and quietness, we intuitively receive an intention that we can live out to better understand ourselves, to better understand our immanent and global experience, and to evoke kindness. We can smile both to our joy and our anger, approaching them as questions that offer and open us and cease being walls.