Mindful Questions

by Alan McAllister, CCHt PhD-phys

Intersecting Ripples

Lately I have very clearly noticed myself about to ask a question of my beloved which is not really in alignment with what I need to know. Somewhere I have picked up habits of being a little indirect or circuitous. When I was younger I probably thought I was being clever, but I now realize that it doesn’t serve me very well. Asking indirect questions can lead to misunderstandings, or other forms of confusion. If I am saying one thing, but thinking about a different question in my head, then my beloved’s answer will almost certainly mean something different to me than it does to her.

When I caught this happening I paused to ask myself, what is it that I really want to know? Why am I asking this question anyway? This simple act of mindfulness pulled me out of unconscious habit pattern interaction, into the present moment. Often it is something that seems small or unimportant. But small steps can start an important new habit.

“Are you hungry?” is a simple caring inquiry. But perhaps the question I really have is: ”Would you like me to start cooking” or “Are you ready to cook a meal together?” These questions are related, but not the same. My beloved may be hungry, but busy creating something and not ready to shift gears. Or she may not be hungry yet; but will be by the time a meal is ready. The more precise questions gain me answers that are closer to what I really need to know.

“Is that the last of the spinach?” is related to, but not the same as “Is it time to buy more spinach?”, which is what I really need to know so I can put it on the grocery list. Often there is an action that I am contemplating, or may need to take. The question’s true purpose is then to determine if the action is necessary, or the time is right. Rather than asking about the condition that would give rise to it, I can focus on the way to move forward.

I wonder how often I miss the mark on other things I say? How about asking for something I want? “Are you done with that?” is more ambiguous than “Can I use that for a while?” Even deeper I might ask “Are you tired?” hoping my beloved will say yes so we can go cuddle in bed. It seems harder to say “I’m feeling like I could use a little cuddle time; can you join me for a bit?” Perhaps because this reaches a level where there are old pictures about rejection, or about bothering someone. When the stakes are higher, shouldn’t my communication be clearer, rather than hoping she will read my mind?

It is easier to ask a question when I am not emotionally attached to the answer. Or I don’t expect the person I’m asking to have a charge on the topic themselves. Being afraid, I avoid the clear truth of a matter. I may think in terms of the other person, but I am really being untruthful with myself. I am not serving my own interests and giving my power away by being indirect.

Inviting mindfulness about questions, is part of being mindful about speech in general. Being mindful about speech leads to the ability to be aware of my choices around actions. Starting a small mindfulness practice anywhere in my life begins to build a new muscle. This muscle will grow organically. This is not some difficult practice. It is an intention; an invitation to my self to align with my true Self. Along the way it will highlight habits and fears that no longer serve me. It helps me to speak and act in the way I want to speak and act, in alignment with Self and Spirit.

I am grateful that I have been noticing my questions more; grateful to spirit, to my Self, and to my beloved, who sets me a wonderful example of paying attention to meaning in how we speak with each other. Mindfulness of questions is about becoming aware and honest with myself. Honoring myself and my beloved, I focus on the truth of a communication, question, or need. It is a small piece on the spiritual path of aligning thoughts, words, and actions with spiritual intention and flow. A seed that can grow into a mighty tree.

The Practice for this is simple: just be curious about how you say things the way you do? Set an intention to begin to notice when your words are not in alignment with your intention. Over time occasionally water the seed with your continuing intention and attention. The awareness will come.

(© 02/18)

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