It’s always a great idea to ask how to help. Whether the person you’re asking is yourself or a loved one, asking shows your awareness that there’s a need. The art of asking questions can improve and expand our quality of life — inquiry is one of the best and clearest ways to find and shape your best self.
Today, as you listen to this episode, take a moment to ask yourself — “What is the challenging emotion that’s most frequent in my life?”
Inquiry only works when the questions aren’t veiled judgment toward yourself or self-rejection. If you’re worried about taking the first step, know that almost everyone who is motivated is also just learning how to be an active questioner. Those who have developed this capability more are still evolving. It takes practice, repetition, and commitment to ask questions aimed at taking care of both the mind and the heart.
In this episode, Robert and Dave also explore how sincere questioning can help you deal with conflict with others. Pausing to ask questions makes you less reflexive and reactive. Instead, you remember to prioritize well-being. Being aware of your feelings helps you take a moment to check your tone, to increase the chances of you articulating your needs in a non-judgemental way.
But when everyone at the table doesn’t share the same interest in taking care of others, what can you do? How can you continue to care for yourself and others when you realize that? Here, Robert takes a moment to express the importance of setting boundaries — something you can do when you’re aware of how you feel and what you need to do to support yourself and those you care about.
Sincere, honest, and open questioning will guide you to embrace the least-developed essential qualities of your life. This will help you to expand your quality of life and keep you from repeatedly dealing with the same issues or difficulties over and over again in the same way.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. For an exact quote or comment, please contact us.
Awareness That Heals, Episode 39.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
And it’s one of the reasons why we are where we are in relationships and in the world situation, because we haven’t steered our curiosity toward our heart and our wisdom.
The awareness that heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity, to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book, “Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges,” to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings. And at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring.
Robert Strock: (01:00)
I’d like to welcome you again to Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges. And this sounds like maybe I could do this pretty easily, but as you’ve been seeing, I hope that to actually bring awareness to your most challenging emotions and then bringing your heart and wisdom at the same time to where you are is truly an evolutionary step in anyone’s life. And even after we make it it’s not permanent, it’s so important that we continue to remember that we need to remember, and that, that no matter how many years or decades you’ve done it, feelings are contagious and make us believe they’re the center of the universe. And when we bring the heart and wisdom to these challenges, and when we make our best efforts to do that, that’s truly individuating our life from our culture, from our society and thinking for ourselves today, we’re going to put the finishing touches on inquiry and really see how inquiry has the potential of being one of the best ways and clearest ways.
Robert Strock: (02:31)
We can identify who we are. I am an Inquirer, and that doesn’t mean I’m an a perfect Inquirer, but it means I realize if I don’t ask myself questions, or for that matter ask other people questions, that really are going to be aimed at my heart, their heart, purpose, then I’m very likely to be living in a dream world that all of us– unfortunately it wasn’t part of our education, for many of us– all of us really need to be individualistic in finding ways to ask these questions that are going to guide us toward what we uniquely will find fulfilling, inspiring, and connecting in our world. So, I’d like to introduce Dave, who’s my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and long, long-term friend.
Robert, I’m very grateful to be here, uh, to participate in these conversations, uh, to, to go deeper and deeper and progressively get to the things that really help us address the, the, the existential challenges and in our relationships to ourselves and others.
Robert Strock: (03:54)
So sincere inquiry guides us toward the place that is most healing. I want to make special note of the fact that I’m using the word toward, because it’s so important that we don’t think we’re, especially in the deepest issues, moving toward an arrival of peace or love or trust in some kind of black and white extreme way that we’re on a continuum and attempting to move in a direction. And we’re not having any illusion of being perfect or trying to be perfect because that’s a guaranteed way to be living in a pretzel, in your body. Most of the realizations that come through inquiry and through silence, while we’re asking, are going to lead to not knowing, we’re going to not get an instant answer. And so, the key is, is that a catalyst to keep going, or is that a breakdown? Now I know I’ve repeated this before, but when you enter the practice of asking yourself a question and 9 out of 10 times, you say, I don’t know, it’s so often the end place in my practice with clients these days, I usually preempt it.
Robert Strock: (05:32)
I say, I’m going to ask you a question and I know you’re going to be wanting to tell me you don’t know, so don’t bother. Just know we both know, you don’t know, and then just go silent and let’s keep looking. I think it’s a good idea to kind of view it that way. And the beauty of inquiry, as we’ve touched on, is you can do it in the car, you can do it when you’re on the John, you do it when you’re out taking a walk, you can do it everywhere. So, it doesn’t take time out of your day, it gives quality to your day. When you sincerely do it, you don’t need a cushion to sit on, like in meditation. And it will naturally lead us to greater safety and courage, trust and gratitude. Maybe slowly, but with that intention, it has to move in that direction. Now it’s very important to go back and remind ourselves to one of the things that we talked about, right at the very beginning of inquiry, that we have to be careful that when we’re inquiring that it’s not really a veiled judgement and that we might be saying, what the hell is wrong with you?
Robert Strock: (06:59)
Well, why can’t you figure this out? Or why do you keep checking out when you get I don’t know, even though you’ve been warned and warned yourself 300 times. And the answer is because you’re human, because we’re all human and that we all need to encourage ourselves in each other to keep asking these kinds of questions that frankly, in general, in civilization, this very civilized practice is not practiced very often. And it’s one of the reasons why we are where we are in relationships and in the roles situation, because we haven’t steered our curiosity toward our heart and our wisdom. Instead, we’ve been conditioned to move toward a dominating tendency toward making money, towards success, toward being sexual, toward being young, toward being pretty or handsome, powerful. And so, we need to recognize and not be naive that this is kind of like a lobotomy where we’re redirecting ourselves. We’re reconditioning ourselves to be de-hypnotized and not have these primitive goals when we should get married, when we should have kids, what kind of family we should have. And not that those aren’t important, but they aren’t dominant because they aren’t dealing with the quality of all of those things. So, inquiry is always dealing with quality of life. And when you get that, it starts to feel like a kin, like a family member, a good family member.
Wanting to reflect for a second, and when thing, you’ve mentioned several episodes, and you mentioned it in the last one about the, the approach-avoidance to asking the question for me, the challenge of the question itself. If I’m really looking, and I’m really honest, having such a disruptive impact on my life that I want to turn away. And in a, in a current circumstance for me, I have a family member who is not vaccinated, and it is a really potentially disruptive circumstance because I have a one-year-old grandchild, who by extension is exposed to the same extent. And so, this is taking a lot of work on my part to, uh, because in normal circumstances, I’m just, yeah, and everybody’s individual in this case, but I’m just blowing off. Uh, whatever friend is unvaccinated, it is no longer a part of my, let’s say life in, you know, being together, in proximity, just not going to happen, but this is a relationship that’s really tough to, to cut off in that way. And so, I have to ask a lot of questions before I get to that conversation about where, where am I headed? What, what consequence am I ready to, number one risk wise, except, uh, risk wise lose in the relationship and things of that nature. And I, and I, and I know there’s a lot of people listening that have their own version of that and other things that are just as challenging.
Robert Strock: (10:48)
Yeah. And I think the, the question there is what’s the wisest way to approach this, where I have the best chance of having connection and the least chance of disruption. I think that’s a fair question. The other thing I want to add that, uh, might not be obvious is you were tested and you were very low on the antibody and you don’t feel secure, so you have even more legitimate reason to feel afraid, which ups the ante.
It, it does. And it’s worse, uh, because, and when I say worse, as the science is being developed here and now, turns out I am even potentially a danger to people that are unvaccinated. I potentially, as a vaccinated person with high or low antibodies, I can be a, with a, with a simple sneeze blowing out a thousand times, the particles of the virus that used to be there in the old version of this, uh, you know, this particular variant produces so much more so it’s even worse, really.
Robert Strock: (11:57)
Yeah. And one of the most important things that is there is feeling the beauty of your question, feeling the caring for everyone involved, which I know you are, you may not be gracing yourself, while you’re seriously looking at the question, which is why I’m commenting on it. But it is really a statement of heart and integrity and genuine caring that I, Dave am asking these questions of myself and I’m, I’m sure glad that I’m not just reacting and just emotional and it’s worthwhile for all of us to pause. And while we’re asking these questions, to give ourselves appropriate acknowledgement, which further reinforces our inspiration to want to ask those questions.
Now I have to cop to something. As you say that I’m having all those feelings, I’m outraged, I’m angry, I want to just say, are you fucking kidding me? Now you can bleep that out if you have to, but it’s all there. It’s just a question of, it’s not, as I said at the start constructive, uh, it is not my goal to just create alienation.
Robert Strock: (13:30)
Yeah. Well, what you’re saying actually validates it even more because it’s when there’s a contrast. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but because you are outraged and being able to witness that and still ask the question that makes it even more worthy of saying good for you. And I don’t mean like I’m stroking you. There’s a big difference between affirming the truth and he’d go ugly trying to pump you up. Uh, I’m certainly not trying to pump you up. I am saying that when any of us are asking a question, especially like you’re saying, when you’re really off, you’re really angry, you’re really terrified, you’re really feeling protective of someone else. So, you’re going to hammer somebody else or any derivative of that. And then you remember the question that’s the time where, not only be the questioner, but be the one that loves the questioner, be the one that appreciates the questioner, or if you can’t feel that be the friendly mind that can say, even though I can’t feel it, I know I like what’s happening, too bad I can’t feel it, but at least my wisdom knows, or at least my friendly mind knows that I like that I’m pausing and not being reflexive and reactive.
Thank you for that.
Robert Strock: (14:55)
Yeah. I mean, I know you well enough to know Dave, even though you’re not saying it out loud, that you wouldn’t have a multitude of questions, you know, they would go from how in the hell am I going to convey my need to be protected? When I know that she is coming from very strong beliefs that come from another culture and not create injury and create a sense of well-being, how can I have a tone of voice that’s going to be sincere and vulnerable rather than judgemental and critical and incredulous? How can I also involve her husband and also have that be something that’s going to work for him too? How can I do it in a way where it’s going to work for my wife? How can I take care of everyone is part of the question you’re asking all the time. So, it is good to articulate. So, the groundswell of a multitude of questions that go into one interaction and how much contemplation you give before you speak.
And just to, and I, I’m not going to dwell on the, ah, the many, many strands and complexity of this issue, but you mentioned, how do I take care of the various people involved in this? And I recognize that my wife is, is, is a person of free will, she can make a choice, but her choice and my choice directly impact each other. So, it’s not as simple as a relationship to a daughter-in-law, uh, to a proximity, to a grandchild. It’s also related to, if we choose different paths, my wife and I do this differently, really it’s the same decision being made for the other. So, it’s also a conversation between us to get on the same page and that’s is not always the case, but it is in this case.
Robert Strock: (17:22)
Right. And that brings up the realism, especially when you’re involving more than one person of two people, hopefully asking that question of how do I take care of all of us? Maybe there’s five people and somebody comes up with another point and you went, oh, I didn’t think of that. Okay. I can accept that. And then somebody comes up with something else and you go, can’t accept that. We’re going to have to keep talking here because that doesn’t feel like it really takes care of me or my wife. And so, this is not as simplistic, you know, choose a yes or no. It’s, it’s an interactive series of questions of how do we take care of all of us. And to me, how do we take care of all of us is one of the most poetic and heartfelt potentials that we all have because when we’re stretching beyond primarily taking care of just ourselves, that’s an expansion. Now why say that? I also want to say for people who have trouble taking care of themselves that may not be as true. That isn’t as true, because there are many people who are pleasers who really need to include themselves. So, this is not a one size fits all, we all need to look at, is my tendency one to take care of everybody else, as you’ve acknowledged in your past,
I do want to mention, uh, and I appreciate it because I am processing this as we’re, as we’re having this conversation, this is a present situation for me, literally. And I think it’s really valid to ask the question as, as, uh, we get into a conversation of is everybody at the table here looking to take care of everybody else, or is one or another of this group looking just to take care of part of the group. And I think that sets the table very well, and I think that’s a very, very important point and thank you.
Robert Strock: (19:34)
Yeah, yeah, yeah and I thank you for reiterating it. And, and hopefully as you hear this, you’re looking at the situation and realizing how complex it can get and how often you’ll have one or more people who absolutely are not at all interested in taking care of all the whole group. So that becomes a great complexity as to given. I know you’re not going to take care of, and you’re not saying this, but you’re thinking this. Given I know that there’s no way in the world you’re interested in me, you’re only interested in taking care of yourself and you’re not worried if you might pass on the virus to me. How do I take care of myself knowing sometimes it’s going to have to be, being more autonomous, more individuated, more finding inner peace and not relying on communication. So, it gets, it can get very complicated, a lot.
Robert Strock: (20:34)
Oftentimes it’s more complicated than not. So even though we might be in that stage of how do we take care of all of us, somebody might very well say, well, I still strongly believe this way about the virus that it’s going to hurt kids in five years or whatever the, the, the particular position is. And you still need to go back and do your best to take care of all of us, knowing that you’re vulnerable. And in your situation, if you get the wrong answer, it just means you’re going to have to be more independent. It just means you’re going to need to set more boundaries. And that’s true for a lot of situations we find ourselves in. So, as we’re winding down this series of podcasts on inquiry, I like to keep checking in because different flashes happen along the way. And so, I would ask you again to ask yourself, what is the repeating challenging emotion that’s most frequent in my life.
Robert Strock: (21:41)
And am I kick-started by listening to what’s happening to ask a very specific question? Or am I just saying to myself, oh yeah, I have to ask a question and am I really ready to integrate the question and to really look at that right now. Do you have a question with your most challenging emotion as we’re speaking? Are you really looking because if not, this is not going to be very helpful. If so, it’s going to be immensely helpful, especially if you’re not only asking the question, but you’re listening to the guidance and then really doing your best to implement the guidance as well.
Robert Strock: (22:30)
And one of the things that’s important that it sounds a little bit like kindergarten, but putting up reminders in your car, on the refrigerator, you don’t have to put a gold star on it, but maybe it’s just the word question or a question mark, or in your way reminding yourself that you want to not be a slave to your conditioning and just be a reactor to your environment, because that’s inevitably going to lead you to being into fight or flight because the other person isn’t considering you, end of story. Now we’re separating, maybe not separating, separating that. Now we’re just going to accept the fact that you know what, we’re never going to connect on this issue. So, I’m writing it off rather than staying engaged in that question, which as we just discussed, sometimes it’s going to result in needing to set boundaries.
Robert Strock: (23:38)
And sometimes it’s going to result in being able to melt and merge and be flexible and find something that’s going to work for everybody. And again, as we’ve talked about, and we’re trying to summarize to keep this really crystallized at the end, if you look at the qualities that you feel like you need to most embrace in your life that are least developed. So, for example, most people have a tendency to either be really kind or self-centered or strong or creative or vulnerable, detached, and they might need the qualities of the exact opposite of where their normal tendencies are. So, ask yourself, which qualities specifically, is it tenderness, is it empathy, is it strength? Is it setting boundaries with your heart? Is it being more receptive? Is it being more communicative, maybe, especially when you feel XYZ, what quality do you need to guide yourself toward, so that your quality of life is improved?
Robert Strock: (25:06)
And if there’s nothing really crystal, leave it with a question of, I want to ask myself, because I don’t know the answer, that question over and over and over again, because if we’re not pretty close to always looking to expand our quality of life, it’s like, we’re, we’re a repeating movie and our life is going to be more empty, less fulfilling. Because if we recognize that these questions lead us into an endless evolutionary expansion, life is inspiring. It’s actually great to be old because then you get to keep doing it. You get to have all, whatever you’ve part you started before. I mean, it’s wonderful if you could start young, but even if you find yourself old, which a few of us here on the podcast here would say that we find ourselves a bit old, maybe upper middle aged. If we’re trying to exaggerate that we get to really have quality of life be our priority.
Robert Strock: (26:22)
Now, of course, when I say that, I really want to give a heads up to those that are struggling with survival. And the survival is what your primary challenges, the dignity, and the intelligence, and the courage, and the humility it takes to stay focused on what do I need to do to not be food insecure? What do I need to do to take care of my family? So, we’re going to have shelter and how do I not lose my energy by being off or more accurately stay fixated and being off at the insensitivity of the wealthy and stay focused on my survival. That question has at least the dignity of all the other ones that we’re asking for those that are in more fortunate circumstances. So, it’s probably helpful as we finish this episode to ask yourself the question, where are you in relationship to this whole inquiry and questioning?
Robert Strock: (27:35)
Are you taking it to heart? Can you identify with being the active questioner, especially when you’re least inclined when you feel the worst. If you’re a beginner, which almost all of us are, then really appreciate the fact that that’s one of the harder states to begin. So, you deserve the most acknowledgement for being a beginner and you’re breaking up the fixation and the monopoly and the dominance of being caught in challenging feelings without having a response of inquiry. We haven’t been educated to do this. So, it may be that you have to listen to this series again and again and again, or something like this, again, and again and again, as a form of repetition to deepen the possibility that this is really integrated in your subconscious, as well as your conscious mind, because if your subconscious doesn’t really want to ask these questions, it’s going to win. And the only way you can affect your subconscious is to have about 2 or 3,000 commercials that are, that are going to your subconscious, saying, I do want to be a questioner, I don’t want to just be a follower of my old conditioning. I see the limitations of just living the old traditional world. I see where we are in 2021.
Robert Strock: (29:07)
And you might want to ask, who are my best resources to really help me in the spirit. I want to develop, be the kind of inquirer that really will improve my quality of life. And when we look at it deeply, hopefully you can see that this is very akin to being like a prayer, in a sense you could be, or maybe you are already asking God for this guidance. And I want to reiterate that inquiry is not a Robert thing. It’s the art of humbly asking. Jesus said ask and you shall receive, traditions have forever encouraged us to look at our intentions. And so, my prayer for you is that this is something that’s penetrating beyond the mind into your heart. And that doesn’t mean beyond your mind. Like it doesn’t stay in your mind too, it just means it’s not just in the mind and that it really starts to become a little bit, maybe even exciting, or if it’s not your inner knowing knows it’s the right thing for you to be able to have a flexibility of not just being stuck when you’re suffering that you have a place inside you that wants to care for you, and you want to activate that.
Robert Strock: (30:53)
So I, I leave you with that prayer and wish that this becomes a central part of who you see yourself as becoming, thank you very much.
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