Living the Questions - Part I / by Ariel Carson

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

This series is about change, and not knowing, and living the questions rather than desperately seeking and overvaluing the answers. But it turns out that writing on this topic is antithetical for palatable blog post formatting, because it cannot easily be condensed into bullet points or numbered lists. This subject matter cannot be tied up with a bow, or have a cute little button attached to the end, because all of these things: change, not knowing, and living the questions, address the continually unfolding nature of the present; the non-linear infinite flow we, consciously or otherwise, know of as life.

So I’ve decided to divide this massive topic into smaller more manageable posts, and I hope you’ll follow along. As always I love hearing from you, so feel free to share your questions, comments, ideas, and personal experiences below.

PART I – Real Change

Students and teachers of the Alexander Technique are all after one thing: CHANGE. Some want to change their posture. Some want to relieve pain. Some want to better manage stress and anxiety. Some want to improve their skills as performers, public speakers, athletes, or otherwise. In every case, wanting change means wanting things to be different than they are now.

But what does real change entail?

The Nervous-Nelly-Know-It-All in me wants immediate change along with 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed. I want a detailed outline of how to get from point A to point B, to keep me contained in the illusion that I control my life.

But in order to change and learn and grow we must inevitably go towards what we do not know. Otherwise we will repeat our past in various iterations over and over again, individually and collectively. In this way, change is risky. Embracing the unknown requires bravery and vulnerability.

Today the vulnerability of not knowing is often associated with weakness and fear. “Living the questions” as Rilke so eloquently puts, is not respected in our society. We live in an age of self-professed “experts”: people trying to tell us the answers and lead the way. And we’ve become so overwhelmed by choice, and by our responsibility to choose our reactions and direction, that it can feel like a relief to follow someone who says they’ve got it all figured out. 

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So if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place. I don’t know the answers. I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t have a neat and tidy solution for you to fix your life and make it better. I can only offer you my humble opinion that if change is what we want, we must necessarily morph our cultural narrative, so that living the questions, and going towards the unknown is associated with freedom, strength, and bravery rather than weakness and fear. 

The next post in this series will begin to touch on how Alexander Technique has given me an embodied framework to live the questions in such a way that feels safe, free, and strong. That’s my way though; your path may include the Alexander Technique or not. Either way I hope you’ll share your thoughts below.  

How do you feel about the unknown in relation to change?
What do you think about our Age of Experts?
Do you have a way to find strength and freedom as you live the questions of your own life?