In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, “Which direction do I go from here?” He responded with another question, “It depends, where do you want to be?” Alice, thinking for a moment said, “I guess it really doesn’t matter.” To which the Cheshire Cat replied with a grin, “Then it doesn’t really matter which way you go.”
Much like trying to “get there” without knowing where it is that we want to go, we spend our entire lives searching for answers, but seldom do we really stop to consider that perhaps we haven’t been asking the right questions.
As the author of Intellectual Foreplay: Questions for Lovers and Lovers-to-Be, you can imagine that I am an extreme advocate of asking questions of the people you are dating (or considering dating) as a means of determining whether you have anything in common and establishing a firm foundation for a relationship. The unfortunate reality is that many of us tend to ask more questions about a car we are buying or a house than we typically do about a guy or gal we are going to be intimate with—one whom we may become parents with, or vow our entire lives to.
One of the challenges reported to me is the concern that the questions go both ways, “If I ask them questions, they will ask me questions. I don’t know what to say.” Sometimes we don’t want to answer questions or reveal aspects of ourselves due to unresolved shame or embarrassment over things that have happened or choices that we have made, but often it is just a lack of self-awareness that causes us to be unsure of what to say.
Consequently, I am also an extreme advocate of self-inquiry and self-awareness. Asking questions of yourself and seeking the answers through meditation, contemplation, journal work, dream work or conversations will all guide you to a deeper understanding of yourself. Intimacy, in-to-me-see, is enhanced with deeper communication. A deeper look into yourself is required in order to share yourself more deeply with another.
The art of questioning actually seems to be a theme throughout the ages, and throughout the sages. Benjamin Disraeli, a British Prime Minister said, "The fool wonders, the wise man asks." Businessman Claude Levi-Strauss said, "The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions." Voltaire said, “Judge people not by their answers, but by their questions.” And Decouvertes said, “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” Albert Einstein urged us with his thoughts, “The important thing is to never stop questioning.”
Some of the sages were kind enough to help us pose the questions; Ramna Maharshi urged society to ask, “Who am I?” James Twyman, author of Troubadour of Peace, suggested, “"How would you act and what would you do if you knew you were the Emissary of love?" and one of my favorites was from Martin Luther King Jr., ““Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” And from yours truly, “The question isn’t whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, rather do you know how to fill it back up?”
I invite you to begin (or continue) a personal practice of self-inquiry. Feel free to start simple rather than tackling the big questions that have haunted humankind since the beginning of time. Just start with tackling the moment and simply noticing, What am I doing, saying and thinking right now? Then, move on to: What do I love? What do I stand for? What are my non-negotiable issues in a relationship—(the things I must have, or must not have)? Do my thoughts serve me or hinder me? Do I know my beliefs are true? The more you know yourself, the more authentic you will be. The more authentic you are, the more loved.
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: What are the key questions that, if we asked them, would lead us to peace, love, and happiness?
Love Tip of the Week: Ask others questions not to find out if their answers are right or wrong; ask just to find out who they are. Their answers are right for them. Your job is to determine if they are right for you.