10 Life-Changing Questions

10 Life-Changing Questions

on Jun 14, 2011 in Spirit | 7 comments

Photo by Ethan Lofton: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eleaf/

Photo by Ethan Lofton: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eleaf/

 

I have always been fascinated by questions and their power to transform our lives. The next few Liberated Life Project posts will focus on the art of asking questions that can help to liberate potential and possibility.

To start this series, I got in touch with a number of people whom I respect and admire and asked them:

  • What’s the most important question you’ve ever asked yourself?
  • How did (does) that question change your life?

This is a wonderfully diverse group of folks: spiritual teachers, healers, writers, entrepreneurs, artists. The common thread? They’re all powerful change agents, both in their own lives and in the world.

It’s been a joy to receive their responses — and now to share them with you:

_________________________________

Roshi Joan Halifax holds a special place on this list because she was my first meditation teacher, and continues to be my colleague and good friend. Roshi is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and writer. She is also the founder, Abbot, and head teacher of Upaya Zen Center.

The Question:
What is the most important thing in your life?

The answer: Right now.

_________________________________

Katie Tallo is a mother, wife, writer, film director, artist, athlete, and author of the blog Momentum Gathering.

 

The Question:
How does this serve me?

The Impact:
I’ve asked this of alcohol, smoking, busy work, exercise, money, food. In all cases, if something doesn’t serve me or make me feel better, stronger or expand my life, then it might be time to let it go or change it in some way.

Sometimes we do things to fit in or because they’re habits and we’ve never really looked closely at them. But if we ask ourselves how something serves us in our lives, even relationships (especially those toxic ones), then we are really asking ourselves to choose to do things that are good for us and us alone. This is not selfish because much of what serves me is serving others.

Asking this question has changed my life by giving me an awareness that sometimes this question needs asking and answering and acting upon. In acting upon it I have made some amazing positive changes to the way I live and the joy I feel daily.

_________________________________

Jeff Klein is an activator, author, producer, process facilitator, and CEO of Working for Good, a conscious marketing and business development company.

The Question:
What am I doing here?

The Impact:
The first time I remember really asking myself this question was near the end of my freshman year in college. I was in a dorm room with a half a dozen other guys watching a football game – something I had been doing since I was a young child (watching sporting events on TV on the weekends). I remembered a moment when I looked around and asked myself “What am I doing here? Is this why I came to college, to do the same thing I’ve been doing my whole life?”

I got up, excused myself, left the room and essentially never turned back. My life as a sports spectator was over, and my journey into a whole new world had begun. The question has facilitated countless transitions and adventures and, I suspect, will continue to do so for many years to come.

_________________________________

Lisa Wilson is an Awareness Artist, mother, yoga teacher, and author of the blog Life Unity.

 

The Question:
When is it better to be kind than to be right?

 

The Impact:
Many years ago I heard the phrase, “Sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right.” To some this may seem obvious, but I was raised in a world where success was praised. I debated with my father for hours just for the sake of debate – strengthening those logic muscles. In school I quickly learned that if I could find a way to be right, I “won.”

I had no choice but to pay attention to the tremors that this phrase of kindness vs. correctness sent through me. The question that arose made the difference in my life practice: “When is it better to be kind than to be right?” Like a gentle constant breeze, this question continues to blow against the forms of my beliefs and shapes my life experiences and practices.

_________________________________

George Kao is a marketing and productivity coach whose mission is to dramatically raise the effectiveness of people who deeply value integrity, service, and sustainability.

The Question:
How can I best use my time and talents to contribute to rapid, positive, sustainable transformation in myself and in others I touch?

The Impact:
This question has become more like a continual meditation or embodiment, and as a result of asking that question, on a daily basis the subconscious mind (or you might call it Spirit) produces inspiring ideas, and energy to engage those ideas! I’m grateful to God for the gift of this question and the life to contribute to it.

_________________________________

Lynette Monteiro is a psychologist as well as a longtime meditation practitioner. She is the author of the blog 108ZenBooks.

The Question:
Is this who you want to continue to be?

The Impact:
I recall the moment when this question arose. The incident seemed ordinary enough. A number of grad students and I were teasing each other about who worked the hardest. The teasing became a bit harsh, and my response to the person who poked at me caused a reaction from the group. Usually we would call a time-out, agree we were all just tired and cranky, and move on. But on that day I felt a deep distress about who I had been in that moment and the impact of what I had said. It felt harsh and cruel. My usual defence that this was just joking didn’t work. What arose instead was this question.

Over the years, this question has surfaced as a mindful bell that calls me to stop and investigate the trajectory my words set for me. It’s challenging, especially in those times when the momentary pleasure of meanness is seductive. To turn away for a second and ask this of myself means I know that a choice has to be made to be different.

 

_________________________________

Susan Piver is a writer and meditation teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition who believes that the power of kindness can give us the world we dream of living in.”

The Question:
Should I formally become a Buddhist?

The Impact:
It showed me my personal spiritual path and teaches me, day by day, now to continue creating it.

_________________________________

Terra Wise is an educator, healer, and counselor whose work blends intuition with hypnotherapy, transpersonal therapy, and other modalities… as well as the wisdom found in story and myth.

The Question(s):
How do I know you?
What is our connection, our purpose for
meeting or reconnecting?
What is our soul history, our work, our future?

The Impact:
I’ve asked myself these questions at moments in my life when things were about to change, when the questions urged a shift and catapulted me into a new cycle of life.

I have mulled over these questions in connection to a person who caused my inner voice to jump up and take notice. One time I asked, “Can I trust him?” but it was so fast, a question just below the surface, that I was not even aware of it. Until I heard a loud inner voice say to me, YES YOU CAN TRUST HIM! That moment of saying “Yes” changed my life. It opened an entire universe of experiences and knowledge that my soul yearned for. I am more of me because of that question, and answer.

_________________________________

Lissa Bliss is a yoga teacher, dreamer, bookworm, writer, and holistic psychiatric nurse. You can find her online at LissaBliss.com.

The Question(s):
How am I feeling in this moment?
What can I give myself that will make me
feel complete and make this experience complete?

The Impact:
I have found that understanding these two questions has allowed me to completely transform my experience of my life.
Knowing how I am feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually, allows me to connect with myself. It allows me to sense when I am starting to disconnect from the present and starting to become sad or hurt or angry etc.

Before I became mindful and started asking myself these questions, I had no idea how I was feeling or what I needed. I had no idea that I could give myself all that I was seeking. I had a tendency to identify myself with my sadness, my anger, my stress and turn it inward and decorate my whole life with them. I carried those feelings into experiences and people that had nothing to do with them. My load grew heavier and heavier until I bumped right into depression and anxiety.

By always being in contact with the way I am feeling in mind, body, and spirit, I can let go of my need to create a story, my need to attach to an emotion long after it has passed. I can give myself the nourishment that I am seeking. Sometimes, when I feel sad, I need to cry, write, practice yoga, be around loved ones, go to work, take a nap, etc. The key is having the courage to stay present with yourself and knowing that you always have the ability to give yourself all that you are seeking in each moment. Find out what you need and give, give, give to yourself.

_________________________________

Mary Jaksch is an authorized Zen master (in the Diamond Sangha lineage), psychotherapist, and author. She is the creator of the website Goodlife Zen where she offers “practical inspiration for a happier life.”

The Question:
How can I express my natural spirituality
in everyday life?

The Impact:
This question first came up in my early twenties. Soon after, I stumbled upon Zen and started training with my teacher, the late Robert Aitken, Roshi.

This powerful question is like a touch-stone and still shapes my life today. I want my Zen path to guide me – in everything I do, so that my life in all its facets is aligned with my spirituality.

The question: “How can I express my spirituality in everyday life?” has many implications, ranging from saving spiders in the shower, to treating my business partners with utmost integrity.

_________________________________

What’s the best question you’ve ever asked yourself? How did it change your life?

Stay tuned for next week as we continue this exploration of transformative questions!

_____________________

I’d love to stay in touch with you! When you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll receive my monthly newsletter with reflections on life and liberation, as well as my e-book, “9 Keys to a Liberated Life.”

 


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    7 Comments

  1. Excellent post, Maia! As a solopreneur who has often taken on any work that came my way, a life-changing question for me was: “Is this MY work?” Now, I check in with myself and if I don’t feel energized and excited about an offer, I can say “no, thanks” and assume it is someone else’s work. This has been tremendously freeing and allowed me to focus more on what I love and do best… making it a better world for everyone.

    Aysha Griffin

    June 16, 2011

  2. A thought-provoking, important post, Maia… the art of good questioning is one of the doorways to transformation.

    Marike van Breugel

    June 16, 2011

    • Hi Marike,

      Yes, I’m with you on that one… questions are far more important than answers, in my book! I’ve always loved that quote by Rilke:

      “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

      Maia Duerr

      June 16, 2011

  3. Maia,

    What an amazing post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading these thought-provoking questions and “meeting” a whole slew of people I didn’t know as well as some beautiful people I do know.

    I’m not going to answer the question now. It’s worth reflection. I will give it some time.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Sandra,

      Yes, I loved reading their questions and reflections as they sent them to me as well. Would love to hear yours, when you’re ready to share it!

      Maia

      Maia Duerr

      June 16, 2011

  4. I get the clear impression that all the above posters think that they are definately in charge of their own life and behavior…. this is not my own case.

    MARIO RINALDI

    June 15, 2011

    • Mario, I actually do believe that we are in charge of our own lives, at least our internal lives. We may not be able to control what goes on around us, but we always have a choice about how we relate to it. I hope that you are able to find that truth within yourself…

      blessings,
      Maia

      Maia Duerr

      June 16, 2011

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