One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything – and one’s last is to come to terms with everything. ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
What can this one word or day evoke? For most of us, it marks the beginning of yet another hectic work week. It triggers the mind to jot endless to-do lists while already counting down the days to Friday. It make our shoulders tense. We sigh and slowly drag ourselves out of bed.
What else? Are you more inclined to notice what goes wrong on Mondays? Oh, great. She got my latte wrong and is making me late for work. The gas tank is almost empty but I don’t have time to stop at the gas station.
Let’s contemplate, reflect and meditate on Mondays as they contain a certain energy for self-inspection.
Begin by simply sitting for just a few minutes wherever you are: at the edge of the bed before going to the bathroom to brush your teeth, in your car while at a red light or in your office before opening email or heading to a meeting.
Your eyes can be closed or open. Just listen. Be completely observant and open. Practice on not changing anything: your breath, your thoughts, your posture, etc. You probably have enough prescribed activity this Monday, when you sit, just be in an unscripted manner with yourself.
Meet yourself on this Monday. Just take a moment and listen to the outer and inner make-up of this day. Really be open to objectively examining it.
Then ask yourself this question: what’s not wrong?
Let this sink in. Repeat this question to yourself before getting up to resume your Monday activities. Use it as an anchor as you go about your day. Come back to it several times: at 10am, at noon, at 5pm, at dinner and at bedtime.
Then, before ending your day, sit again for a few minutes. Simply listen. Don’t apply any meditation method. Just be open to the bare moment, letting the breath be the way it is and the mind doing whatever it wants. Sit for a bit with just what is.
Now, return to the question: what’s not wrong?
Are the answers or observations that surface at the end of the day the same as ones that you made earlier in the day? Are they completely different? Are you having a hard time answering this question? Did it make a difference in the day? What shifts occurred within you, mentally and physically, by asking this question?
Questioning is an important tool for self-study. Simple, soft questioning. The type of natural questioning that occurs in solitude when you are truly seeking to understand the moment.
Toni Packer says that “real questioning has no methods, no knowing – just wondering freely, vulnerably, what it is that is actually happening inside and out… What matters profoundly is that a human being discover directly, clearly, the enormous depth and weight of psychological conditioning…not just to discover this conditioning, to become aware of it from moment to moment – as it functions automatically, habitually, mechanically – but to wonder whether it can slow down and come to a stop in silent understanding.”
Think about all of the Mondays in your life. What previous conditioning or habits have been formed from past Mondays? What happens when you decide to explore this day in a fresh way, with a question that you’ve never posed before on this day?
Questioning can be a powerful way to find new perspectives into your life.
Krishnamurti, philosopher and writer, says that “for the total development of the human being, solitude as a means of cultivating sensitivity becomes a necessity….To experience what is solitude and what is meditation, one must be in in a state of inquiry; only a mind that is in a state of inquiry is capable of learning. But when inquiry is suppressed by previous knowledge, or by the authority and experience of another, then learning becomes mere imitation, and imitation causes a human being to repeat what is learnt without experiencing it.”
Experience this Monday, anew, with open inquiry. Let an unlearning occur, where you pay attention to hasty habits that have created stress or strain for you historically on this day – or perhaps every day. But start with today.
Thich Nhat Hahn, a zen monk, teaches that “we often ask, ‘what’s wrong?’ Doing so, we invite painful seeds of sorrow to come up and manifest. We feel suffering, anger, and depression, and produce more such seeds. We would be much happier if we tried to stay in touch with the healthy, joyful seeds inside of us and around us. We should learn to ask, ‘what’s not wrong?’ and be in touch with that.”
Instead of saying to yourself: there’s lots to do today. Say, instead, there’s lots to undo today.
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