Thankful for Questions

I’ve read that on average we have somewhere around 70,000 thoughts each day. I did try to work this out, but it seemed too much like hard work. After all, how long does a thought last? I don’t have a standard thought size. “Chocolate.” That didn’t take even a second. “Chocolate.” Neither did that. “I wonder if there’s any in the kitchen cupboard?”  That took longer, but I could probably still fit a few thousand of those in each hour, no problem.

So anyway, I started thinking about this, as I was walking home from my yoga class last week.  I also remembered that apparently have around 70% of  most people’s thoughts are what could be called negative, particularly thoughts about themselves.

I started paying attention to my thoughts, to see if I could work out how long they lasted. Instead something strange happened. Here’s roughly how a few of my thoughts went: I wonder how many of my thoughts are positive these days? It must be way more than 50% I’d think. I don’t like the colour of that woman’s coat. She shouldn’t be speaking to the kid that way. I’m getting a horrible feeling in my stomach just listening to her. Actually, supposing the horrible feeling in my stomach wasn’t because of how she was speaking to the kid, but because I was judging her? Hmm. Seems more likely. I wonder how often I think a feeling is because of something when really it’s because of something else? 

A few years ago I read a novel in which the main character’s father was a bit fierce. If I remember it correctly he wasn’t always around, but when he was there mealtimes could be silent due to his dislike of the main character and her brother asking questions. Right now I can’t remember the name of the book or author but I remember the name of one chapter: The Extinguishment of the Question. (It’s also possible that’s not exactly it, so if anyone recognises the book from this description and knows its name and  correct name of the chapter – do let me know!) Anyway, the main character and her brother were banned from asking questions.

It’s a good job I didn’t live in their house. I’ve been thinking lately about how beneficial questions have been in my life. It is fair to say they have changed my life completely.

Imagine a life without questions, a life in which you accepted everything you were told, and acted accordingly. Nazi Germany perhaps?

I am thankful for questions.

Children ask questions from the moment they can speak. Parents don’t always want to answer, but the questions keep coming. Children want to learn, to explore, to discover things. Generally children explore what they see on the outside, but they can also look inside and notice their own thoughts and behaviours.  As an adult it surprised me to hear little children calmly observe their own feelings. It surprised me ecause I had forgotten that, forgotten it was possible. I’d grown so used to judging most of my emotions as bad, and myself as bad for having them.

So I am thankful for questions.

I’m not sure at what age we begin to extinguish questions and think we know how it is. Or how it should be. I got to that point, thought I knew how life should be. There was a while when I forgot to ask questions of myself. Life without questions isn’t a happy place to be.

It’s several years now since I began asking questions again. For a while those questions were along the lines of: Why is life so terrible? How can I be happy?

Those weren’t really the right questions for me to ask. Or maybe they were, since they led me onto other questions. Questions that I ask every day; questions that deepen my peace every time I ask them. It was the way these questions changed how I see the world that made me decide to write this blog, and because it has drifted a little from its origins, I thought it would be good to bring the questions to the thankful hop.

I use two processes that are both basically four questions. The first is the Work of Bryon Katie, and these  questions are asked about any stressful thought you may have:

Is it true?

Do you absolutely know it’s true?

How do you react when you think that thought?

Who would you be without that thought?

The second process I use is the Sedona Method, and these questions are asked about any stressful feeling you might have. The following four questions are the Sedona Method at its most basic.

Could I allow or welcome that feeling?

Could I let it go?

Would I let it go?

When?

Since asking these questions, I’ve come to see that mostly I know nothing for sure, and mostly my feelings aren’t what they seem. And since last week, when I began to wonder if it was my judgement of that woman that caused the horrible feeling in my stomach, I have been testing this theory out. What I’ve noticed is that any time I judge someone even just a little it hurts me physically. I feel it in my body. Lester Levenson, who developed the process that eventually became known as the Sedona Method, questioned many, many of his thoughts and assumptions after doctors had estimated he had months to live. One thing he concluded was that it was when he was being loving that he was happy. So he let go of his feelings of anger and resentment towards people and chose to love.

This is simple but not easy, and I slip up almost every day. But I am so thankful for the questions that show me the way.

 

Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more. A loving person is a happier person. Anger and resentment only hurts the angry and resentful person. It is extremely difficult to be loving to some people, but on those days I can muster it, it works.
    Thank you for giving us some great things to think on this week.

    1. Author

      Christine, I agree with you that it can be so difficult be loving towards some people, and I am so glad to have ways to remind me when I feel stuck. It definitely is a lot easier for me than it used to be, but there’s plenty of work still to do!
      As you say, when we are loving it does work, so so, well. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how strange it is that even when it’s blindingly obvious that not loving hurts only ourselves, we still resist love. I guess it’s partly habit and partly pride.
      Thanks for you comment!

  2. I’m so glad you posted the shorthand version of how you figure these things out. Because I’ve read you ‘speak’ about the Sedona method, and I’m afraid I missed the ‘how’ up until now. I like it 🙂 I think I get it.

    And I’m glad you’re thankful for questions, and so beautifully self-aware, and that you share it all so effectively.

    Also…North Korea. There are no questions there.

    1. Author

      Lizzi, I had forgotten about North Korea! It’s a brilliant example of how much we need questions.
      Yes, I realised I’d mentioned the Sedona Method a lot but hadn’t actually explained much about it lately. The questions I’ve posted here are it in its most basic form, and at its core it is just about allowing your feelings and then being willing to let them go. It has developed a bit in recent years, and the emphasis is now more on welcoming your experience (including your resistance to it) which for me makes it even more effective.

      I am planning several more posts about TSM for the coming weeks – they’ve been brewing in my mind for a while, and I hope to get started on them very soon!

      Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for your comment.

  3. This post was a really interesting read. I actually opened it up last night as I was browsing through the Thankful link-ups, got started reading, and got distracted. But I left the page open because I knew I wanted to come back to it.
    I’m not sure I could remember all those questions, and I imagine it’s really tough to stop and analyze your thoughts during the day, but I really like the idea.

    1. Author

      Hello Sarah, nice to meet you, and glad you found this interesting.
      It would be hard to analyse thoughts constantly throughout the day, and neither of the processes I’ve mentioned require us do this – or memorize all those questions! Instead you just take time when you can to question those thoughts that create most stress in your life, or to release the feelings. Gradually it becomes more a part of how you are, though there are times that almost everyone feels as if they are slipping backwards. (I’ve found that those times are often followed by a big leap in understanding.)

  4. I loved your take on the TToT blog hop.

    The way you deal with stressful thoughts and feelings is really intesting. I will try to use the methods you mentioned in the future.

    Have a wonderful week!

    1. Author

      Hi Joy, these are such great ways to deal with stressful thoughts and feelings – it transforms them really. I have written a lot about “The Work” on this blog, and a little about the Sedona Method, so if you would like to read more, you’ll find them both in the tag cloud.

      Thanks very much for your comment.

  5. That’s fascinating. 70k thoughts a day, 70% negative… Goodness! I know what I’ll be doing this Thanksgiving–searching my thoughts and monitoring what percentage are actually negative while trying to turn them the other way. =)

    1. Author

      Hi Crystal – it fascinates me too! I’m fairly certain that years ago way more than 70% of my thoughts were negative. It’s so great that people like Lester Levenson have given us ways to turn these thoughts around.
      Thanks for your comment and hope you are having a great Thanksgiving.

  6. This is a really interesting post. I’ve never given much thought to how many thoughts I have in a day. I think I would be very interested in figuring them out. I’m sure just like you mentioned, I’ll get a little more insight into myself. Thanks so much for sharing what you are thankful for.

  7. Pingback: Thank you, thank you, thank you. - Inquiring Parent

    1. Author

      Denine, yes, sometimes we do need that sip of coffee first (or herbal tea in my case since I can’t cope with caffeine! 🙂 ) Thanks for your comment.

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