When you first start engaging with sincere questioning, it can be challenging to remember what it’s all for and find the motivation to keep going. After all, as Robert and Dave discuss in this episode, being aware of your feelings, thoughts, and emotions and actively engaging with them to become better is not something we’re taught. In fact, it’s almost counter-cultural. So then, why is it vital that we cultivate the art of asking questions?
Integrating inquiry into our daily lives helps us access our wisdom guidance. This happens when we take the time and energy to ask questions from our hearts and make an honest attempt to respond to the guidance we receive. Awareness about our challenging feelings and emotions coupled with an intention to heal propels us towards wisdom guidance, and the questions we ask to support ourselves aid us in this quest.
The root of sincere questioning lies in self-compassion. It isn’t easy to care for yourself if the questions are intertwined with self-rejection or moralistic judgments. One of the ways to truly tap into your wisdom guidance and move forward with clarity and honesty is to start to really enjoy asking questions. This makes asking questions natural, and you are motivated to work towards being your best self. Once again, you may not get all the answers when you ask questions, and that is okay. It’s asking questions with the clear intention to support yourself that’s most important. When you are sincere about asking questions, you will become more capable of listening and responding to your wisdom guidance.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 40.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
So, the question to start off with, how do you really most support ourselves to access wisdom inside ourselves? And if I was going to give a simplistic answer, I would say it’s developing the art of inquiry.
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: (01:05)
I’d like to give you all very warm. Welcome again, to be talking about something that is so central to living a fulfilling life and breaking free from our conditioning that all of us have. And we’re going to be focusing on parlaying, the last episodes of sincere questioning or inquiry, which is a golden key to giving us greater access to our wisdom. And I sometimes say individual wisdom because each of us is capable of developing this inside ourselves and not relying on a book or teachings to discover our own capacities. And this is particularly important because we’re all unique as individuals. So, what’s going to fulfill one or inspire. One is not going to do the same for another. And this is not something that almost any of us, in fact I don’t know anyone who’s been taught how to access this, whether it was at home at school, our religion, or our spiritual practice, when we were a child, it does require individual contemplation and inquiry as a lifestyle to deepen its potential.
Robert Strock: (02:46)
And one of the key things is when we really get this with inquiry, this is not a should, this is not because mommy told me to do it. And my mom told me to do this, this something that we intuitively recognize that if we don’t really seek a unique life that we craft, we’re going to just be essentially a, a carbon copy of what’s come before us. Our uniqueness is not really going to have a chance to blossom. We each need to thank and be guided by our own intelligence, sensitivity, and caring and our inquisitive nature in my experience and the experience of an awful lot of people around me guides us to our best life and our best self. So, I’d like to start off by thanking and introducing Dave, who’s been my long-term partner through life and through the foundation and closest friend for too long to mention.
And likewise, I would like to thank you, um, moving to this next subject and, and getting an opportunity to explore the, the fruits really of the whole flow of these podcasts from friendly mind and supporting ourselves at that level to, to inquiry, uh, and, and moving into wisdom. Guidance is something I’m really, really looking forward to.
Robert Strock: (04:35)
And, you know, my tendency has been as we go from episode to episode to think, gee, should I be repeating each time for those of you that have been really listening to every episode about Dave and I, but I realize that the uniqueness of having a 50 year plus friend, who’s gone through every aspect from health to joy, to inspiration to incredible disappointment and loss, and a certain kind of parallel path all the way through is something that I, that I just wish for all of you that are listening. And not that it has to be that many years, but to be able to have somebody that you can really share everything with. And there’s no debate, it’s just automatic is a gift that most of us haven’t really been taught is natural. So, whoever is your best candidate in your life to keep expanding that maybe to look at where, you know what I can talk to them about everything, but, and then maybe you look at something and say, you know what?
Robert Strock: (05:54)
Maybe I could trust them. So, you give little feeler out to see whether you got the response that you would hope that you would get, and you can see why you haven’t shared everything, because there’s something in life that changes when you can even have one person who you can share everything with and, you know, they’ve got your back and you also know they’re not going to BS you, it’s not about praise, it’s not about blind support, it’s about support with honesty. So, the question to start off with, how do you really most support ourselves to access wisdom inside ourselves? And if I was going to give a simplistic answer, I would say it’s developing the art of inquiry and asking the questions from our heart to try to guide us to the actions, thoughts, and qualities that we need to live the very best life we can imagine.
Robert Strock: (07:07)
However, I also want to give a very deep honorable mention to the importance of being aware of our deepest challenges, and then bringing our intention to heal to those challenges as being a foundation that starts us on our way toward wisdom-guidance, and then friendly mind, when we’re really in the very worst state that we’ve ever been in, which can be 10 times or one time, and having a part of ourselves that can still guide us when we’re really screwed up, when we’re really down and out. And for some of you, you may not have experienced that yet, but unless we die young, we’re all gonna experience it sooner or later with illness and death and dying and loss. So friendly mind is also an invaluable resource to be able to guide ourselves to the statements and the questions that are just through our mind, because we can’t feel good, but at least we can find that that part of our mind that can steer us, but it just might not have any energy.
Robert Strock: (08:31)
And we sometimes mistake that for our head. That actually is a tremendous source of parallel tracking with our life and learning how to follow the track of the friendly mind, rather than the emotional disruption that we’re experiencing. And then another place along the way is really seeing that when we either judge ourselves or we withdraw our heart from ourselves, when we feel our challenging emotions, like I can’t believe I’m still caught in anger. I can’t believe I’m still anxious. I can’t believe I’m still depressed. And we see the self-rejection as being one of the most insidious and truly painful double types of suffering, because we have our challenge and we’re judging ourselves for our challenge and learning how to move toward self-compassion is really very key to moving toward wisdom guidance. And so, all of these really are building us to this place where we can really learn how to be more motivated, to be our best self, where we’re asking for suggestions or options in our inquiries and realizing that we’re not going to confuse these askings, with demandings that inquiry or the fruits of wisdom don’t come from a pressuring mind or a competitive mind.
Robert Strock: (10:31)
They come from a sincere mind and heart that really works best for us. That really is like a phenomenal parent or friend or family member or therapist or guide most often with wisdom-guidance. It starts with something that comes to our intellectual awareness. After we ask the questions and we need to be content that it’s not something that we deeply feel because we haven’t been taught how to even ask the questions or receive the answers or implement the answers or to really feel good about it. And that’s why in the last episode, I really emphasize to Dave that giving ourselves a real deep acknowledgement when we’re really going counter-cultural and listening to ourselves, especially when we’re most challenged is a really honorable way of living and not to short shrift when we’re doing this process and being able to say something equivalent to I’m really, really glad that you’re on this or in this direction of moving toward what your highest potential is, because that, that was not taught.
Robert Strock: (12:13)
That wasn’t, that wasn’t assignment number 101 from my parents, it was probably more often, let’s survive or let’s go for success, you know, dress right. Have good manners, do well in school, go to the best schools. Or if we were born in a less fortunate environment, work hard and, and the emphasis would be on work, but not on wow, the grace and the courage and the humility it takes. If you’re born into difficult circumstances to really develop your best motivations that is so worthy of a deep hug on multiple levels. So, our inquisitive nature, which for many people, nature might not be the right word because it may not be familiar to us, but as a child, I’m sure all of us can remember that we actually were inquisitive at the beginning. It may have been shut down, but all these amazing questions, what is death and what is a universe?
Robert Strock: (13:26)
What does it mean? We can’t go all the, all the way out to the end. What’s on the other side of the end, you know, where did grandma go? Where did my dog go? All those curious questions that we typically receive pat answers to were a way of discouraging us from continuing to not only keep those questions, then expand them, and keep recognizing, oh, this is natural to me. It may not feel natural now, but my experience is that it’s easier to talk to young people about these ways of being than it is to people that are already well-formed in their motivations. And so, in a certain way, you deserve a lot more credit. If the older you are in a way, the more credit you deserve, because the harder it is to break the patterns. So, my experience is that making requests or asking questions, isn’t quite enough, it really requires us to be sincere.
Robert Strock: (14:49)
And so, looking at that level of yourself, do I sincerely want to know how I can love better? Do I sincerely want to know how I can be healthy or would I rather just stay in my habits? Because wisdom is not cheap. It requires us to be our best self. It requires us to have discipline. We don’t have to be perfect, but we can’t just do again. Another trait of being a child, doing what we want when we want it, just because we want it crying. When we don’t get candy, crying we don’t want, when we don’t get our toys, crying when our brother or sister was mean to us. We can’t just stay in that impulsive world. It does require us to see that when we keep going for what we want at others’ expenses, we’re actually setting ourselves up for a life of quite a bit of suffering.
Robert Strock: (15:59)
So, sincerity is a key element to be able to have a better chance of getting a depth answer of, of our questions and our, and our guidance that will lead us tangibly to the direction that we want. One of the confusions that happened at the beginning when wisdom-guidance came to me was, well, is this just a voice in my head, or is this something more than that? And at the beginning it’s probably a very good question because it’s debatable because it starts off with a voice in your head until you bring sincerity to it until you bring practice to it.
Robert Strock: (16:53)
And that’s until an if, and, and so it really elevates itself from being a voice in your head, to being the central guidance of your life. It’s like your teacher, your parents, your therapist, all rolled into one. Maybe you have a minister or, or somebody else, a best friend, and this kind of wisdom needs to be separated out from moralistic judgments. And what do I mean by moralistic judgments? I more or less do judgments. I was raised that the most important things were getting good grades, which I rebelled against, being polite, which I rebelled against, having a tone of voice where you’re going, hi, nice to see you again.
Robert Strock: (17:54)
And that didn’t feel natural to me. If I like the person, I was going to have some enthusiasm. If I didn’t, I wasn’t going to be an ass, but I wasn’t particularly wanting to be enthusiastic. So, wisdom is something that comes from the inside. That’s natural to you. That isn’t forced from the outside. It isn’t somebody else’s beliefs about how you should be. So, we get to develop our own wisdom from our own questions. And if you think you might be doing this because I’m telling you to do that, definitely shoot me. I, I tell my clients all the time, if I’m laying a trip on you, if I’m moralizing to you, I’m telling you how you should be. And if I’m not reading accurately what your best self is telling you to do, point it out. And if I really repeat that mistake, I’m not the right person for you because this has to come from freedom. It can’t come from an imposition.
Can you clarify? Cause you’ve mentioned sincere questioning sincerity, sincerity, being a, uh, an important part of really getting to your wisdom-guidance. But how do you distinguish when you’re, when you’re doing that inquiry, when you’re doing that, what you think is that work and sincerity is not prominent enough to get to where you want to go. How do you, how can you know that?
Robert Strock: (19:32)
Well, I think most of the time when we doubt ourselves, whether we’re sincere, it’s because we can sense that there’s not a deep attentiveness, our heart doesn’t feel as warm. We, we might feel it more as an obligation than a gift and sincerity is its own reward. So, so by sincerity, my experience is both with myself and with others, there is a sense of being very attentive and there’s, uh, a softness in the heart. There’s a softness in the eyes. There’s, there’s a feeling that would be something akin to prayer. There’s a humility, that’s there, there’s a deep yearning or longing. And when that’s there, it’s like being sincere to a friend. It’s a free response. It’s not a condition that you think you should do. And so, sincerity is something that I believe everyone intuitively knows. And especially if the knowing includes a warmth, a presence, a longing grabbing your attention, you feel at home.
Robert Strock: (21:20)
So, it’s, it’s a great feeling. Whereas if you’re sincere, where you think you’re sincere and you’re just asking from your head, it will feel fickle. It’ll feel thin, it’ll feel like, well, I could go here for a minute and then I can just veer off to something else. Sincerity is sort of like, it clears out the whole neighborhood. And all there is, is this is what I really want. You know, there’s a, a sense of focus and warmth and earnestness, and you have a sense of feeling, a need. It’s not a want, and it’s not a demand. It’s like, oh, I really need this for my own well-being. So, one of the biggest dangers with both inquiry and trying to move into wisdom guidance is in a way the exact opposite of what I was just talking about, where you’re forcing yourself and pressuring yourself to find answers.
Robert Strock: (22:37)
And it’s much more accurate to see it as a strong preference for answers and questions. So, there’s, you’re very clear that you need it. You want it from a, from an earnest place, but if it’s pressure, then you know, you’re into moralism. And so, you want to really say what really matters to me. That’s kind of a guidepost. So, you’re recognizing everyone that’s ever pressured you in your life. You’re telling to get lost. You know, if you have people in your life that are pressuring you, as a parent or a sibling or teacher or a boss, you’re saying that’s not what I want to respond to here. This is for me, when you recognize it’s really for you to be your best self, then it’s never an imposition. It’s never a pressure. And really when you really get to it, you realize that that sincere questioning is one of the most fulfilling states in life. Now, I’m going to repeat that again, because it’s so counterintuitive because we’re such an answering culture that sincere questioning is one of the most fulfilling states in life. So, it’s something like, please help me to find the courage. Please help me to find warmth.
Robert Strock: (24:24)
Please help me to find discernment or, or discrimination as to how I, how I would be best to treat this family member. So, it doesn’t create an injury for me or for them. So, the best way to access wisdom guidance is to have it be very present. So, you’re aware of a present or near future anticipated challenge. And then you access that intention to heal and you inquire as to what is needed. So, for example, if you’re really agitated and you keep that momentum going, it’s so obvious you’re going in the opposite direction. But if you’re agitated and a light shines on, or you look in that refrigerator and you see the reminder and you ask yourself, how can I speak? What do I say? How do I say it? What do I do to most help with the situation? Then you know that you’re on the path to really developing the capacity, to gain your, your own wisdom. So, do a check-in now and ask yourself, where do you stand when you’re in your most challenged stays. And again, don’t leave it vague as your most challenged state, look at what that is. Is it depression? Is it anxiety? Is it withdrawal? Is it anger when you’re in your most challenged state?
Robert Strock: (26:18)
Where are you with your ability to both inquire and to find the wisdom and to follow the wisdom? So, if you’re in a withdrawn state, it’s going to say eventually some form of allow yourself to feel where you are, and that would be withdrawal. And then you might see, am I avoiding any other? Maybe you’ll see some, maybe you won’t, but then it will lead you to be engaged. If you’re anxious, it’s going to lead you to, are you doing anxiety on purpose? Hopefully it’ll bring a little humor to realize that I’m not anxietying myself on purpose. And so, it’ll lead to a question like how can I be my best self, while I care for my anxiety and respond to life in the way I want to, if I’m afraid, how can I find courage and strength? If I find myself, you know, with my love partner and I’m feeling kind of tight, kind of stiff, kind of withdrawn, how can I move toward my more affection itself?
Robert Strock: (27:34)
Now that’s a really hard one, but it is wisdom. And it’s fine. So, look at what your situation is and see where you are with activating this process. And no matter where you are acknowledge yourself for being there and really check in, are you interested in following this series and seeing how you can get greater and greater access to your with [unintelligible], to mine, but to yours? And my hope is my prayer is that you will see that this is really such a key to living a life that has more of your best self activated. And none of us, none of us can do any better than that.
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