Try asking different questions
For the last several years I have been on a quest to set myself free. First it was freedom from my controlling x-spouse. Then it was freedom from my rigidly unadaptive government job. With those two major life pillars rearranged, I turned toward finding freedom from all the fears and insecurities I collected over the years. It's been a challenging and rewarding process, with much community support along the way. One of the most helpful avenues of self-reflection has been (and continues to be) my martial arts practice.
On my way to brown belt, I discovered I was worth protecting. I divorced my x-spouse and shifted away from that specific (and very damaging) dynamic in other relationships. I could not have achieved my brown belt without ending that marriage, and I could not have gotten divorced without working toward my brown belt. Because martial arts is about building a complete human being (mind, body, and spirit), I had to confront the social and emotional reasons I wasn't willing to protect myself from people I loved.
And before I could do that, I had to notice what was happening. Situational awareness is a martial skill we practice in a variety of ways on the training floor. It's also a life skill that requires a different kind of practice. No matter the application, expanding my consciousness further and further beyond myself without just being overwhelmed requires a good deal of grounding. It's easier to reach out when I am more aware of my internal landscape.
Growing that awareness often starts with exploration. And exploration often starts with a question. My journey from brown to black belt included an even greater degree of introspection. I needed my internal arts practice of Taiji and Qigong to fill-in the gaps of my external martial expression. I also needed to do all that same work to free myself from the unhealthy or outdated narratives woven throughout my life and relationships tethering me to behaviors and patterns that no longer served my health and well-being.
In my solo practice, I ask myself questions. When I train with my teacher, she asks me questions. When I train with my fellow students, we ask each other questions. Until recently, I thought I had to ask the right question in order to be helpful. Since I have been exploring more ways I can let go of perfectionism, I decided to practice by asking the first question that came to my mind during a workshop instead of waiting until I had the prefect question. And you know what? It worked. I was helpful.
Even though the question I asked was not exactly right about what was happening for my training partner in their body, it was the gateway they needed to a deeper consideration. The value wasn't in my seeing exactly the correct piece that would perfectly "fix" their issue, it was in offering my perspective. I could see something from my vantage and I simply offered what I saw without attachment to being right about it. I asked a question they didn't think to ask themself and that was what they needed.
I'm incredibly grateful to share this practice with people who can ask me questions when I get stuck. We would all benefit if this was a more common practice in broader society. It isn't now because most of us are too caught-up in trying to be right, just like I was. The art of sincere inquiry is necessary for self-exploration as well as for relating to each other. The fastest way to deescalate an argument is by responding with curiosity instead of confrontation. And the only way to grow that skill is to practice it.
I would love to see more examples in popular media. I would also love to see a greater (and more honest) variety of outcomes from the practice of personal growth. Take for example the classic love story where two unlikely lovers meet, one person ruins the romance by hurting the other person, then learns a lesson and apologizes, and they get back together and live happily ever after. That's one possible outcome, but it's the least realistic and most uninteresting.
I want to see the story line where the guy is a dumbass and the girl leaves him, then the guy learns a lesson and apologizes and that's the end of it. He doesn't "get the girl back,” he just owns his bad behavior and apologizes, and they both move on with their lives like autonomous adult humans. I’m tired of the assumption that aggrieved parties are all just waiting dutifully by until The Jerk learns their lesson and apologizes. It's not all our life’s mission to be an object for a slightly-more-well-adjusted-former-asshole.
I think more examples of that kind of interpersonal development would do society a lot of good. The unhealthy dynamic currently played-out all over the place is exactly the same as excusing lying, cheating, lecherous politicians for their bad behavior while continuing to reelect them cycle after cycle. Take the very present example of that one guy who got indicted and arraigned a couple weeks ago. The charges were fairly mundane given all the unhinged illegal shit he has done (and admitted to on camera) over even just the last few years. But somehow a whole lot of people continue to want to excuse his wretched behavior.
Doing the same thing over and over isn't getting us anywhere new. It's just getting us exactly where we are. Just like the current president choosing to run for another term in office. I don't have a problem with old people doing important jobs. But I do have a problem with a politician who has been in Washington for the last half century continuing to occupy a leadership role. Like all of the Old Guard, Biden continues to play the old game the same old way. It's a problem because the world is not the same as it was when they established their protocols and honed their methods.
No matter his party affiliation, Biden is a capitalist through and through. And that’s not what we need to solve the current problems and bring us forward together into a future where everyone is taken care of. Biden can say he’s pro-labor and pro-union all he wants, but I'm sure I'm not alone in remembering what he and Congress did just a few months ago when the rail workers were planning to strike. He’s not evil, but he's not actually progressive either. Endorsing him right away is basically like giving up before the election even begins.
Politicians from my parents (and grandparents) era shouldn't still be in-charge today. They should have retired and passed the baton to the next generation of leaders decades ago. And they should have focused more on succession planning while they were in office rather than clinging to their post in perpetuity. Because these folks struggle to let go of being in-charge, we are all in the position of the present with too few viable contenders.
At this point it seems like the great political mission of GenX and Millenials will not be to take charge next, but to usher out the old guard and usher in Gen Z. The youngest generations are fired-up and full of energy. They see the world falling to pieces around them and want something done about it. What's more, they want to do something about it. We should harness that juicy change energy and get out of their way. Let the young folks loose on the problems of the world. They won't solve things like everyone has done before them, they will ask different questions. And I think that's exactly what we need.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.