The only way to change the answers is to change the question. Without a new level of thinking, a new way of seeing, we stay fixed in the standard solutions.
When new questions arise, causing us great doubt about the answers we hold today, we can either turn away from the challenge or turn inward to seek more light and more understanding.
All cultures have their own history of questioning, of a dialogue that pushes beyond the currently known conventional wisdom to seek a better answer, a more clear path.
In Buddhist tradition, a story, dialogue, question or statement which is offered to prompt reflection & consideration is called kōan.
Even before I knew this name for them, I knew that kōans were the key to gaining a deeper and more effective understanding of what baffled and frustrated me. My own discipline, trying to find my own stability in the face of two Aspergers parents, lead me to questioning everything.
In no time, I found that I had the ability to ask just the wrong question at just the right time. By offering my kōans, I could help open up the challenges, looking at them from new and surprising angles, putting them in context and illuminating how the challenges were connected to the wider network.
It is easy in this fast, high pressure life to just fall back on assumptions and conventions, to just do what we did the last time. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, though, is one definition of insanity. Until we know better, we can’t do better.
While religion is often about belief, about accepting received scripture as fundamentally true, spiritual paths are more often about doubt, about using the wisdom available to us to personally become more actualized and enlightened. The spirit is moved to question what isn’t working which leads the spiritual into seeking to perfect their own responses to the world.
For example, “A Course In Miracles” asks us to consider the question “What if everything we experience is a lesson that can help us own the miracle of moving beyond fear and moving closer to love?” For those who only associate miracles with getting what they already know they want, this is a very hard question indeed. How can frustration and pain lead us to become better?
Kōans help us break the bounds of the rational, shattering rationalizations to reveal something deeper, something far more potent than binary expectations. A great kōan is a thought that shatters thoughts to break frustrating mental spins, opening the eyes, the mind and the heart to a new way of experiencing the connections that often become invisible in a culture that prefers right answers to right questions. Living in the question, in the kōan, is living in the moment, always ready for the divine surprise of enlightenment.
The hardest thing about becoming new is almost always the pain of letting go of the old, releasing cherished old beliefs that have ceased to serve our growth. By peeling away the layers of wishful confusion, kōans are often the key to finding the peace and confidence to move forward, unlocking the crocks in our awareness and revealing more powerful ways to choose again and choose better.
Every journey starts with one step and every transformation starts with one question. Questions open up to reveal other questions, leading us far beyond the limits we believed constrained us in the past. Our possibilities open up before us and the kōans we have help us navigate a path which leads us to the ultimate privilege, the ability to be powerfully ourselves.
Changing the questions changes everything. For me, the kōan, the fragment which makes us think, demands our awareness, opens us beyond expectation & convention is a powerful tool to unlock a new future.
Consider the kōan. It may be the tool you need to get beyond where you are stuck, offering new visions and new delights.