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Being Challenged by Real Questions

July 26, 2010

Dennis Lewis

Dennis Lewis

It’s very important to be challenged by real questions. I remember my Advaita teacher Jean Klein telling me once that so many people who asked him questions in front of others just nodded their heads “yes” with a contended smile as he responded, a fact that I had frequently observed. He told me that most people didn’t really understand his responses to their questions but nevertheless pretended that they did. He also said that he appreciated it when someone respectfully pushed him “to the wall,” going deeper into the question, so that the real question, the question behind the question, could be revealed.

So many people are so in awe of their teachers or guides or so happy to receive attention from them that they are afraid to dig deeper even though they know they don’t understand what is being said, or imagine that they understand and so explore no deeper, or don’t really care about the question they asked in the first place. In such cases the real question seldom gets exposed.

Many years ago I had a young student in the Gurdjieff Work who, during the group’s lunchtime exchange on Saturdays, never took the first response I made to her questions as final. Though this was at first irritating to me, I quickly realized that her questions were so vital, honest, and spontaneous, and the way in which she pushed me, respectfully, to go deeper into my own understanding (or to see that I didn’t really understand at all), that they helped both me and the entire group come alive in listening.

In genuine spiritual exchanges a real question is the transforming agent, that which helps open us to see and welcome truth, but only if it’s a real question, a question that arises from (and reaches) beneath the mask of our self-image– whether the mask is frowning or smiling or simply neutral.

Copyright 2010, by Dennis Lewis

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ben F. permalink
    July 27, 2010 9:51 am

    Thanks for the reminder again, Dennis. Real questions, for me, often come when something in life really impacts me (a shock in G’s vocabulary?) and causes a process of Ben having to step back from his usual reactions. Often there are many emotions circulating around this and a feeling of unease, discomfort and unknowing.

    Yet, paired with that is what I can only call “Wish” to understand, to really see what this situation that questioning has emerged from is. Often, there is no “answer” or at least not immediately. Sometimes the questions “re-emerge” even years later and with them, on occasion, an unexpected “answer”.

    This has also happened on a shorter time span, when working within the context of groups and themes, or when I choose an idea or question to ponder for a specific period of time…

    Thanks again for the reminder :^)

  2. Tina permalink
    July 27, 2010 12:12 pm

    I find that sometimes when I ask a question, the initial question is only the surface of what I really want to ask. After the teacher answers, then I need a moment to reflect before I can make a deeper inquiry, but due to the limited amount of time… my questions remain rather superficial, hence leaving without getting to the depth of the underlying question.

  3. walt permalink
    July 30, 2010 5:20 pm

    An aside to Dennis:
    More than a year ago you mentioned in one of your posts a Qigong set that you liked, called Liangong. Following up on your post and poking around on the Web for awhile, I was able to locate DVD instructions for the set (now 54 Forms, btw) and set about learning it. I learned it very slowly – on purpose – and it took me several months to pick up the whole sequence; it is almost exactly a year now since I began. It is a fine set, and has been a great experience.

    Another ripple sent out from your Blog that was real help! Thanks!

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