Willing to live the question?
“About Patience” by Rainer Maria Rilke is one of my all-time favourite poems. He writes incredibly eloquently in German, and the best English translation I’ve found is, “I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart… try to love the questions themselves as if they were… books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
2018 has been a year of big changes for me. I transitioned from living in Germany to being a nomad for several months, and then renting an apartment in Rishikesh in northern India. I let go of a long term relationship to honour my commitment to support both my partner’s and my well-being. I chose to move my work to India and start building a practice of nature-immersion workshops and retreats. And I started a permaculture-based project for empowering tribal women in rural India.
As I transition from 2018 into the new year, I’m faced with many big questions: How will living in Rishikesh turn out? Will my income in India be enough to sustain me? What will my new world of relationships look like? Where will the resources for our permaculture project come from? Who will attend my nature-based workshops?
A few years ago, I would’ve been mortified by these questions, craving immediate answers and being unable to live with the uncertainty. In fact, I’d even be unable to be in this situation, as it would’ve scared me too much. But today, not only am I able to live with the questions, I love them! I revel in the process of discovering the answers, as they gently reveal themselves like the tender petals of a blooming flower. And I adore the day-to-day, moment-for-moment mysteries that life and love present me with. I still have my moments of panic, but when they arrive, they pass by without touching the depths of my being.
The transformation in my mindset happened when I started to shift my relationship with life, from one of doubt and mistrust, to one of unconditional faith*. Another transition happened when I simply got tired of my own mind seeking answers, and inspired by Rilke, said out loud to myself, “I’m willing to live the question!”. And I repeated this sentence each time another twist in the road came my way. “I’m willing to live the question”.
Willing is different from wanting, as Maria Nemeth so beautifully describes in her book Mastering Life’s Energies. Willingness implies saying yes even when it’s not easy. It’s saying yes to something we believe in, despite moans and protests from our monkey minds, which would rather have it differently. When we’re willing to live our questions, we surrender to what is, accepting the discomfort of the unknown and resisting the tendency to latch on to a secure solution that may not be right for us.
So my question to you today is, are you willing to live your questions? Are you willing to set aside, even for a moment, the striving for answers, and instead revel in the beauty of the questions?
*In case you’d like to try out a daily practice that helps you make this shift, you could access it here.