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Question Orchard

Around my House is an Orchard in which grow Plants of many sizes and varieties, smells and colours. Each Plant is a Question.

The small Plants are Questions that are easily answered. Such Plants ask: “What shall I wear today?” “What’s on TV?” “Where did I leave my keys?” Of course, once the Question is answered the Plant stops growing.

There are Perennials that ask Questions that take longer to answer: “What will I do for a living?” “How do moths communicate?” “How many undiscovered planets orbit our sun?”

My favourites are the Trees for they pose questions that have no absolute answer. There is a big Oak that constantly inquires , “What is God? What is Spirit?” The Acorns that fall around the Oak germinate and ask related Questions, “How does Spirit move in my life? What does ‘Thy will be done’ mean?” Nearby is a towering Redwood that wonders, “What is Love?” An elegant Elm repeats, “Who am I? Who am I?” The Trees are constantly growing and bearing fruit.

Many years ago when I was taking counseling training I would frequently ask questions. My supervisior’s constistent reply was, “That’s a good question.” At first I was irritated by his standard response because I wanted him to give me the answer. Later, it dawned on me that the question is more important than the answer. Many of us are uncomfortable with unanswered questions for we believe that the answers will provide security and comfort. That way of acting in life means we miss the pregnant uncertainties and mysteries of life. It is the question that nurtures life, always seeking to expand and embrace more of life. To live in the question is to let go of control, and by letting go of control we open up to new perspectives and greater depths in our connections.. The soul seeks life, the personality seeks comfort.

One of the most important of these life-giving, open-ended questions is “Who am I?” Ramana Maharshi considered this question “the only method of putting an end to all misery and ushering in supreme Beatitude.” [The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, 1997, p29]. Mark Epstein states that “The core question of Buddhist practice, after all, is the psychological one of ‘Who am I?.’ ” [Thoughts Without a Thinker by Mark Epstein, 1995, p17] The question is important as we tend to identify with limited aspects of ourselves such as our profession or job (I am a teacher), a relationship (I am Julie’s husband), an addiction (I am an alcoholic), a judgment (I am stupid), weight (I am fat), height (I am tall), a name (I am Jonathan), a feeling (I am angry). race (I am causcasion) and even gender (I am male).

This is a question we each need to investigate for ourselves. I will continue with this theme in a future article.