Awareness that Heals

The Art of Asking Questions – Episode 32

The Art of Asking Questions - Episode 32Self-inquiry and guiding questions lead us toward our unique and deeper truths. We learn more and more who we truly aspire to be, and not dominated by our conditioning. We can start with questions like, “What do I need to do for my quality of life? What do I need to let go of to open the door to a greater experience of purpose, a priority for me?” Through a pattern of questioning, we can readjust our behavior and thinking to develop our best selves. We can use inquiry in all aspects of our lives. For example, the question “How can we be closer to love in our intimate relationships and friendships?” helps us look at the patterns that could be standing in the way of true connection. If we learn to keep asking questions with sincere intention, we can move forward on a journey to be more connected to our awareness and our heart.

Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides

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Announcer: (00:02)
Awareness That Heals, Episode 32.

Robert Strock: (00:06)
We are taught that if we’re asking a question and we don’t have an answer, we’re a failure and that couldn’t be anything farther from the truth. When we’re talking about sincere questioning.

Announcer: (00:18)
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 life.

Robert Strock: (00:59)
I’d like to give you a warm welcome again, to Awareness That Heals where we address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today and what we look for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support survival on our planet and finding a sense of unity, inspiration, and fulfillment that the world so badly needs. Now today we’re going to continue to go more deeply into one of the most inspiring and flexible underused practices that we can access anywhere. And that is the art of asking, guiding questions that are aimed at how we can create well-being, heart, peace trust, and the qualities that matter most to us, it’s not just random thinking or questioning, it’s questions aiming at our own heart and wisdom. And of course, when I say our own, if we reach our own heart and wisdom, it’s going to be the same for those around us as well. Like to start out by introducing Dave, who is my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and endless friend.

Dave: (02:21)
Great to be here. I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and, uh, and particularly this subject, um, and digging deep.

Robert Strock: (02:35)
So as we’ve been exploring, we’ve been looking at the limitations of just feeling and being fixated in a feeling state and seeing the possibility that we can A be really aware of the specific feeling we’re in, that’s challenging, and that we can discern when we’re feeling some kind of suffering, some kind of difficulty that we also have the capacity to ask questions and questions that really can guide us in a direction that our life will be expanded into a quality of well-being. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the questioning that we’re talking about. Questions from the heart really support our inner seeking, our outer seeking, our witnessing accurately what’s going on and trusting our own innate hunger to find our potential.

Robert Strock: (03:45)
So, it’s probably helpful right now because I’m doing everything I can to have you listen to you rather than me, and have me be a catalyst for you to inquire inside. Do you see this potential activation of your life really happening, yet, where you’re in a anger, or fear, or anxiety, sadness, rejection, insecurity? And then there is that instinct to say, gosh, I want to ask a question. That’s going to help me be with this feeling in a way that’s going to be supportive. And hopefully at the same time, support me beyond this feeling to respond to my environment in a way that’s going to be really helpful to myself and to the environment that I’m in. So just ask yourself, where are you on a 1 to 10 scale? Are you at the very beginning of this? Have you not started yet? Do you think it’s a good idea, but you haven’t really employed it in your life?

Robert Strock: (05:01)
My experience is that most of us spend a good portion of the day where we have challenging feelings, maybe out of our awareness. So, just being aware of it as we’ve covered through most of the episodes is always a starting point. But then to add the capacity, to ask a question that’s designed to help ourselves and others really is truly like a transformational event because it stops the ongoing or more accurately slows down the ongoing stuckness in the feeling that we’re in. So we have generally a reflex to just react, versus reminding ourselves remembering, oh, that’s right. When I feel lousy, I have something else I can do, another way I can be with myself. And it is amazing having practices for close to 50 years that I forget every day. And it’s, it’s a remembrance and there’s a bit of a, a warmth that comes with it when I realize. And more importantly, when you realize that you’re not just a slave to the feeling you’re in that even if you can’t feel better, you know, you can be this question or this inquirer that can ask how can I best take care of myself? And that is just golden. When we remember that, sometimes it might be something like, how can I breathe to support trusting where I am so that we find a rhythm, oftentimes results in slow exhales to help relax ourselves with whatever else we’re experiencing.

Dave: (07:03)
Just want to reflect on, uh, a current circumstance. One that’s been happening the last week for me and, and for my wife. And, um, those of you that have been listening will know that she’s and I, along with her, I’ve been going through a series of health issues. And just to your point, the feelings that were coming up this last week, with a big recheck of a cancer she had in her bladder, on Friday, were weighing really heavily. And our feelings, both jointly and individually, were of a kind that were so uncomfortable. And so oftentimes I found myself just in them, concerned, even if I mentioned it to her, it’s going to bring her down further. Uh, what do I do? Do I communicate, don’t I communicate. And, uh, ultimately I chose to communicate, um, I said to myself, this is a, if I’m feeling it this way, she’s being the patient, feeling it more and where we’re, where it led to, uh, was us asking ourselves, okay, we’re, we’re really asking ourselves and, and really inquiring and saying is what we’re doing going in and checking three months out from a surgery, the right thing to do.

Dave: (08:31)
And of course, of course, it’s the right thing to do. And that in itself, recognizing that we were doing the very best we could do to surveil, monitor, understand the condition. So, it wouldn’t get out of hand, um, along with, and alongside of, of course the uncertainty made a completely different outcome in our feelings. It, it didn’t extinguish the feelings of concern or unknown or unknowable outcomes that could happen, but it was we’re supporting ourselves, we’re supporting the best we can do right now.

Robert Strock: (09:11)
Yeah. And so your emphasis is on being really smart, uh, with following the doctor’s advice, checking it right, nipping it right in the bud, if it was there. And that gives a sense of trust and being in it together, and a deeper sense of even if worse comes to worse, at least we’re doing everything we possibly can do. And another level of it, which I know you did, but just didn’t mention fully, is coming up with statements with each other or questions with each other, where you’re really supporting yourself emotionally, where you’re saying I’m proud of us that we’re really doing everything that we can do. I’m proud of us that we’re really in it together. And is there any way I can be more sensitive to you? Do you want to talk about it? Do you not want to talk about it? No. Do you need, do you need to be touched, held, and those kinds of questions bring not only the maximum practical healing potential on a physical level, but the same on a heart level.

Dave: (10:26)
And just to amplify that exact point. I want to reflect to you the unfortunately 40-minute ride to, it’s not close, to that doctor’s appointment and to a doctor’s office where two prior visits were traumatic. And that was our only experience. And as we reflected on that, which turned out to be really important too, to be able to, if not separate, at least recognize that we were going to a place where only news was bad and that we were going into an unknown, we’re going into exactly what you just said, a taking the very best care of ourself and her, especially of course, and me supporting that with, without the just built-in baggage of what had come before that was influencing the intensity of our feelings. And it’s just so important to, uh, at least make that conscious awareness and connectivity when it’s there and possible. And if that is the case and it was for us, uh, just having that, that conversation mattered.

Robert Strock: (11:36)
Yeah. And again, the emphasis on developing the direct focus on the feeling states and how grateful you are. Cause I know you are that you’ve become more one, more connected, very likely than you’ve ever been. You’re so committed to the joint healing. At some level, you could even say something like in your words, in spite of how horrible it is, isn’t it cool how together we are, you know, isn’t it cool that all I want to ask is, is there any other way I can take care of you that I’m missing? You know, because many times people will want to be more silent. They’ll want more affection, they’ll want more conversation, but there’s no way of predicting it. It’s kind of like, uh, having your first sexual experience, you know, where you’re watching a Hollywood movie and you think, oh, I’ll just be perfect, sexually I’ll know everything.

Robert Strock: (12:41)
I’ll know exactly what kind of woman I’m with. If I’m, you know, if I, if I’m me and I’m just going to know exactly where to touch her, where not to touch her, how hard, what rhythm, how to kiss, you know, et cetera, et cetera. And that’s such a dream that we, we need to be more, more literate on how we can ask those around us, as well as ourselves the question that’s really going to hit the two spots, the one spot is the emotion. And the other one is the situation that we’re in. So, we can become so familiar with and invested in the art of questioning that it actually becomes more central to us, then even finding the answers we can enjoy. How can we take care of ourselves? That’s an experience of love when we ask it in that way. And a word that really just recently came to me was that most of us are, it’s kind of like if you look at a sex object, most of us are answer objects, give me the answer, be pretty, be handsome, or you’re a loser.

Robert Strock: (14:07)
And it’s so important that we realize we don’t want to be an answer object. We want to be really revering the art of questioning in a sensitive way and start to learn that the questioning, the sincere questioning is just as potent and essential as getting the answers. And many times the questioning is going to come up with a not knowing for extended periods of time and that not knowing, especially if you can keep the experience of sincerity and not getting lost in the frustration that may come, or the helplessness that may come, you can get into the feeling of being lost and helpless, of course, but then you see, you know what I want. I see you. It’s understandable why you feel lost and helpless, but I want to come back to sincerely asking that question. That’s just not something that we’ve been taught how to do.

Dave: (15:16)
I just want to say how often what you just said is true for me. And honestly, my own personal experiences, the helplessness is something that I kind of take along for the ride. It’s the, it’s the being lost part that so, uh, for me, at least difficult. And so, inquiring, asking these questions really has an impact on my experience of feeling lost. Often, very often it doesn’t take away from the helplessness because I am helpless. I, I can’t control outcomes.

Robert Strock: (15:58)
Exactly, exactly. And, and our culture, and this is so important to understand, or else it’ll just hit you in the head. And I don’t like hitting people just in the head. We are taught that if we’re asking a question and we don’t have an answer, we’re a failure and that couldn’t be anything farther from the truth when we’re talking about sincere questioning, because just that is a humongous success and not to cave into and be dominated by helplessness and frustration. It’s perfectly natural, as I said earlier, to have the helplessness and frustration, but it’s not perfectly natural to be completely caught up in it or fear or anxiety without remembering, oh, that’s right. I can ask how I can care for myself. And that kicks you into another gear, or it can kick you into another care. A related theme that we’ve touched on intermittently is confusion.

Robert Strock: (17:03)
It’s kind of similar to being lost. We can interpret it as gee, I’m really confused, I don’t know what to do and not realize that’s actually a frustration statement versus, you know, I don’t know, and I’m committed to stay with it. I don’t know how to care, tell you to care for me more, or I don’t know how to do any more to care for my health or care for whatever it is. But I love the fact that I’m seeing myself more and more as the questioner, and I’m not anywhere near as demanding to get an answer because I realize if the answers were simple, they’re probably pretty obvious. And the longer we stay in that, not knowing the deeper we’re going. So, it’s like being underwater and running out of breath now. And, and in a sense, when you get the idea of continuing the question, it’s like you have an oxygen tank around you.

Robert Strock: (18:13)
So, you can just stay under water for a long period of time and become like a deep sea diver and, and be hanging under water and being comfortable that, oh, this is exactly where my highest potential is right now. And so, this kind of inquiry, when it becomes first nature, and when you have a reflex to remember to ask how we can support ourselves or support someone else, or be transformed or healed or expanded, it can become like a Pavlovian response. And that’s hopefully one of the central priorities of this whole series on inquiry, which is you start to fall in love with the idea, I’m actually more the inquirer than I am my feelings. That’s a better way to have a sense of my identity than, oh, I’m depressed again. Oh, I’m anxious again, because then you’re not only depressed and anxious, but you’re rejecting yourself for being depressed or anxious, versus, you know what, I’m going to elevate this to see what my potential might be.

Robert Strock: (19:27)
And even without challenges, even without suffering, it’s also of great benefit to ask a question like, how am I going to guide my day? Who am I meeting today? What tone of voice might I usually use? Where do I want to direct the conversation to going to a party say, well, you know what, I want to make sure to see this person, this person and this person. And I’d like to really remember to be present, to make eye contact. Yeah. And so, the questioning leads to almost like a prayer or it can, where may I remember to really be present with so-and-so, it doesn’t require problems. You know, this is not really traditional therapy by any means, and it’s not really traditional spirituality either. It’s a tweener and hopefully it encompasses both fields. So again, I ask you to check in with yourself, does this seem pretty obvious to you?

Robert Strock: (20:39)
And if the obviousness is there, is the opposite just being just in your head or is it obvious enough that you actually believe as you dive into difficult feelings that you’re going to remember to question, and please remember that this is not a competition. You’re not trying to treat yourself like a performer. Anytime you remember, you snap your fingers and you go never too late. See yourself exactly as you are. My experience is 99% of people haven’t learned how to be a questioner when they’re in a challenging feeling and the people that are on the path to inquire at the time of greatest need, mostly are in the beginning phases. So, feel like you’re in good company, if you’re in the beginning phases and recognize your hypnosis, your subconscious wants you to forget everything we’re talking about right now, or just leave it at your head.

Robert Strock: (21:48)
It doesn’t really want you to dive in because your identity is dominantly owned by your feelings, not by inquiring into your potential. And it doesn’t have to be some grandiose esoteric potential. You just want to be helpful with yourself, or you just want to be helpful with someone else. And the reason why the question is so important, and again, the positive kind of question where you’re seeking your potential or how to help yourself is because it can lead you to guidance eventually. And then it becomes incumbent upon all of us to listen to the guidance and do our best to implement it. And as we’ll be getting into it in the next series of podcasts, that will lead us into our wisdom or our wisdom guidance, because inquiry really is asking you for that. And wisdom guidance is the fulfillment of that. And of course, even if we know what we need to do, we still need to implement it. It’s like being an athlete. We know, we know what to do, but that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to be able to really implement It.

Dave: (23:08)
Just want to reflect on the past patterns. Uh, somebody I know very well that’s very dear to me really had a standing pattern, which even though I knew him, well, I wasn’t aware of for a long time. And the pattern was to have really like almost a double life., A life where, uh, in a relationship he wouldn’t share his true feelings as he would be completely separated in the relationship from what he really felt. And each time of course that doomed the relationship, but then it was a repetitive thing. And because questions weren’t being asked and because the inquiries of, is this really how I want to live my life, moving from relationship to relationship, because I have those hidden part of myself, uh, wasn’t being asked and it seemed to be working for him. It just, this quote, and I want to really put quotes around it, working for him was, uh, not seen and recognized as a suffering to the point where he said, I gotta, I gotta really look at this because this is not intimate. This is not deep. This is not getting me to a place where I can sustain something and feel like I have my whole self and I can reveal my real self to the person I’m caring about. And, you know, obviously potentially loving, deeply mutually. And so, asking these questions is just, uh, it’s, it’s a, it’s a hard thing to break patterns. That’s what I saw.

Robert Strock: (24:51)
Yeah. And what you’re pointing out is particularly crucial because in order to ask these questions sincerely, you have to be honest with yourself. So, the question is first, am I being honest with myself? You know, because if we’re being dishonest with ourselves and we’re living a double life and we’re telling ourselves, you know what, I’m getting X here and I’m getting Y there and that’s cool, they don’t have to know about it on taking care of each of them by not letting them know about each other. And you’ve got that rationalization going, as I’ve seen many times in my career, uh, right before I put it on the line that I’m either firing them or telling them they have to, they have to be really committing one way or the other, and really, really be straight. If it’s, sometimes it’s not being completely straight, if it’s going to create more unnecessary injury, but at least committing.

Robert Strock: (25:46)
But the point being that if someone is really doing something that’s hurting other people and they ask these heartfelt questions, the best they can afford to do is have a fleeting awareness of it because they can’t afford to stay aware of it. They’ll pay too much. So, it’s so important that we’re also committing ourselves to be our best self. And to have that be one of the questions, am I being my best self? Now, there are many people, most people that haven’t really made that commitment. So, in a sense, that’s a pre-requirement of being able to ask inquiry from the heart. Other than you can ask an inquiry from the heart, am I being my best self, which I think is a very good beginning, medium, medium, and long-term question to ask. And then you can get into more deep, granular detail. So, if he doesn’t get straight there, it doesn’t matter whether he asks great questions.

Robert Strock: (26:59)
So, some of the questions that we might ask ourselves is how can we be closer to love with our intimate relationship? Now that’s a profound question. And in my experience, it’s one that I could ask any day of any relationship I’ve ever been in and still find it rich because I have never approached, nor I’ve ever really seen anybody that’s approached anything close to perfection. How do I support being in a state of greater trust and trust worthiness is another question that we can ask our self. And as you’re listening to this, see if this is an upper or a downer for you, if it’s a downer for you, it means your subconscious knows, or maybe your semi-conscious knows that you haven’t started to commit to your best self. So, then you really need to start at that very core question and see honestly, where you’re not going for your best life.

Robert Strock: (28:09)
And the goal isn’t to be critical. The goal is to be supportive and congratulate yourself for seeing that. And then to try to develop a stable awareness of, you know, what I’m actually wasting a lot of time in the ways that I’m spending my life, I’m living in a dream. That’s one of the greatest epiphany’s and could be a turning point, but it’s gotta be deep and it’s gotta be stabilized. And it’s like, requires endless practice. It’s like practice, practice practice, which reminds me of real estate location, location, location, you know, it’s like practice is to practicing these various approaches, like friendly mind or inquiry, or bringing heart to your awareness of your feelings. All of them require immense practice. Or we can’t really, really have a hope of flowering. You know, which, which makes me think of putting a seed in the ground that has, it’s a flower and then going off and living a different life.

Robert Strock: (29:26)
And we forgot to see we didn’t water it. We didn’t put sunshine on it. So, the seed doesn’t grow. It doesn’t flower. So, we have to be, we want to be, we need to be very motivated to practice because we recognize it’s an issue of our quality of life. And again, one of the beginning questions could be, what do I need to do for my quality of life? Do I really make quality of life, a priority for me? And if any of these questions resonate for you really, write them down because the key is your question, finding your question, that’s going to guide you. And then you start to identify with being, I’m the one that asks the question that matters most to me, nobody can do it for me, and I’m really dedicated to doing it. So that is really my sincere wish and hope. That is your takeaway as you really deepen your relationship to inquiry. And I thank you for your time and your presence and your attention and your sincerity.

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