Live the questions

Path into the fog

Live the questions


“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.” – Rilke


What does living the questions mean for a sabbatical?

There is a sense of unmooring during times of not knowing and often when people take a sabbatical or pause, they will enter into a time of the unknown. Stopping or resting seems easy at first glance but often our resistance to it is because deep down we will need to commune with the questions that have no answers or at least no satisfactory answers. When we are working with clients and planning their sabbatical, we often start with “What questions are you holding?” More often than not, there is some question that is spurring their choice to take a pause. It is the exploration of the question(s) that helps to curate the path ahead for them.

We live in a society that wants (or needs) to know answers and to be certain of everything. We plan, we google, we set goals, and we pretend to know it all. Perhaps what we need most is to release the expectations of arrival or the answers we seek. This feels uncomfortable as it goes against our ingrained narrative of achievement, confidence, and knowing. Why is it so hard for us to be in uncertainty?

On our blog and resources, we often bring in poetry and quotes as a way of expressing ideas and questions we are holding. For centuries, poets and artists have wonderfully held and lived the questions of life and humanity. It is why we are sometimes inexplicably moved by art. As April is National Poetry Month, it only makes sense that we share a poem that demonstrates this paradox of questions without answers.

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

– Kahlil Gibran

You can find the full poem here.

What is your question?

During the winter solstice, I joined thousands virtually through the On Being initiative for a webinar that held space for the grief and feelings we were holding going into winter after nearly two years of a pandemic. It was a very moving hour of collective pause. At the end of the session, Krista Tippett asked us what questions we will be living into the new year. As people shared their questions in the chat, I could see my own question reflected back by others around the world. We are not alone in the questions we hold.

So what questions are you holding or living these days? If we just ask them instead of pretending to know the answers, maybe they are the very thing that will connect us.




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